Your Trusty Guide to Yoga for Back Pain

2 years ago / by KT Hall
yoga for back pain
Image credits: Shutterstock

Would you like to learn about yoga for back pain? Maybe you’re asking what is the best yoga for back pain because you don’t want to take medications or have surgery. If you suffer from back pain, while stretching and bending might be the furthest thing from your mind, they’re likely just what you need.

Yoga is a type of mind and body therapy that offers several benefits. Not only can it reduce back pain but it can help to strengthen your muscle groups, reduce stressful thoughts and improve your posture and outlook.

Certain types of yoga asanas are recommended especially if you’re interested in yoga for back pain relief. Asanas like Lotus Pose and Sphinx Pose can help with reducing back pain and removing tension. By practicing them a few minutes each day, you can release tightness and stiffness in the muscles and joints.

As you work to improve your balance and concentration with various yoga poses, you’ll also find that yoga increases your awareness and can help you maintain your daily activities.

Yoga For Back Pain

Do you want to try yoga for back pain? A few different types of yoga poses can help you to reduce your back pain and stiffness. Read through this list to identify which asanas are best for you. Then, look at the videos as tutorial examples. However, always consult a physician beforehand if you have any preexisting conditions, injuries or pain, or if you’ve had recent surgery.

Some poses are not recommended and may exacerbate your pain which you want to avoid. Always work with an experienced yogi or yogini who can ensure you use the correct posture and breathing.

Cat-Cow Pose

Are you in Cat or Cow? See an example of Cat-Cow Pose here.

As a simple stretch, Cat-Cow Pose gently rejuvenates the muscles and helps to mobilize the spine. This particular asana can stretch the back, neck, shoulders and abs. Muscle groups that are affected by this pose include the triceps, abs, glutes, erector spinae, and serratus anterior.

When doing Cat-Cow Pose, get onto your knees with your hands on the ground. Ensure your weight is even and your wrists lined up directly under your shoulders. Your knees should also be in line with your hips. Breathe in and look up as you let your stomach out toward the ground like a cow.

When you let out your breath, bring your chin down to your chest and pull your stomach muscles in. Then, arch your back up to the sky. As you hold this pose, focus on releasing tension. Try to complete this same movement fluidly for up to a minute. Stop if you experience any pain.

Downward Facing Dog

Want to do Downward Dog? Watch an example of Downward Dog Pose here.

If you’re interested in yoga for back pain, Downward Facing Dog is a refreshing pose that can alleviate back pain and open the muscles and joints. Because it’s considered a forward bend, it works the quadriceps, triceps, deltoids, hamstrings, and glutes. Do this asana to increase your strength and reduce imbalances in the spine.

To get into Downward Facing Dog, get on your hands and knees and ensure your hips line up with your knees while your hands line up with your shoulders. Next, press your weight onto your hands and start pushing off the ground at the knees. At the same time, let your hips come up to the air but keep your head down and your feet and hands firmly planted.

Maintain a slight bend in your knees but work on keeping your spine long. Ensure your weight is evenly distributed so stay centered. Keep your chin tucked down near your chest and try to hold this asana for 1-minute. Then repeat or continue with your yoga routine.

Extended Triangle

Not sure about hand placement? See an example of Extended Triangle here.

Want yoga for back pain poses? Extended Triangle Pose can help to reduce back and neck pain and relieve sciatica. It may also help to reduce stress and anxiety. Because it’s a slight twist as well as a deep stretch to the legs, chest and shoulders, you’ll find that it stretches several muscle groups. The targeted muscle groups include the quadriceps, hamstrings, internal obliques, latissimus dorsi, gluteus maximus and gluteus medius.

Extended Triangle Yoga Stretches for the Lower Back

To get into this particular asana, separate your feet by 4-feet. Let the toes of your right foot face front while the left foot turns at a slight angle. Raise your hands and make them parallel to the ground with your palms face down. Then bend forward and let your right hip line up with your right arm and abs.

Next, let your hand touch the ground or a block and stretch your left hand up to the sky. Stare up at the sky or you can look forward and hold this asana for up to 1-minute. Then, repeat on the other side.

Sphinx Pose

Sphinx Pose resembles a push-up without coming up! See a sphinx pose example here.

Looking for upper back yoga? A simple backbend that works the glutes and erector spinae, Sphinx Pose can strengthen your butt and low back. It also uses the pectoralis major, traps and latissimus dorsi to stretch your shoulders, chest and stomach. Use this stress-reliever as a warm-up to other poses in your routine.

Sphinx Pose for the Upper Back

To get into Sphinx Pose, lie on the ground on your stomach as if you’re about to do a pushup with your legs stretched out behind you. Next, lift your upper body up on your elbows and ensure your elbows are right under your shoulders and your palms face down.

As you lift your upper body, let your stomach muscles support your spine. Don’t let your neck drop but keep it tall and look straight ahead. Hold this pose for up to 5-minutes. You’ll find that yoga for upper back pain can reduce stiffness and tight back muscles.

Cobra Pose

Similar to Sphinx Pose, Cobra only brings your head and hands up. Here’s a Cobra Pose example.

With Cobra Pose, you’re giving your upper body a good stretch. While this is a backbend pose, it specifically targets the shoulders, stomach and chest. Use this deep stretch pose to alleviate sciatica and back pain and to increase spinal strength.

Targeted muscle groups include the triceps, deltoids, hamstrings, gluteus maximus and serratus anterior.

Cobra Pose for Back Pain

To get into Cobra Pose, like flat on your stomach with your legs stretched out behind you. Place your hands directly under your shoulders and keep your elbows tight. Inhale and press into the ground with your hands as you lift your chest, shoulders and head up.

Keep a slight bend in your elbows and let your head drop back slightly. Then lower back down to the ground as you exhale. Repeat and hold this asana for about 1-minute. Practice it a few times. If you feel any pain, you can lower your arms and move your hips around to reduce any stiffness or tension.

Locust Pose

Another backbend floor pose, Locust Pose looks like you’re going to sleep but then you lift your head, arms and legs. See a Locust Pose example here.

Are you looking for a yoga pose for lower back pain? Locust pose is a subtle stretch that can help reduce back pain and tension. The gentle pull strengthens the legs, arms, core and spine. It works the triceps, trapezius, glutes and erector spinae.

Yoga for lower back pain might help you to avoid surgery and prescription medications. Hence, talk to your doctor about if you can do yoga exercises for back pain.

Locust Pose for the Lower Back

To get into Locust Pose, lie on your stomach with your legs stretched out behind you and your arms at your side palms up. Let your heels face out and bring your toes together as you let your head touch the ground. Next, start to lift your chest, head and arms. Look ahead as you stretch your neck forward. Hold this asana for up to 1-minute and then rest before repeating it in a deeper stretch.

For a deeper or advanced stretch, bring your hands together behind you and lock your arms or let your fingers touch depending on your range of motion. You can also lift the legs for a deeper stretch.

Bridge Pose

Ready to stretch and strengthen your spine, stomach, back and thigh muscles? Here’s a Bridge Pose example.

Restorative and calming, Bridge Pose is an inverted backbend that can stretch and strengthen the spine, muscles and joints. It’s also helpful for relieving headaches and backaches. If you’re looking for yoga for back pain beginners can even try these simple poses. Target muscle groups include the hamstrings, erector spinae, glutes, rectus abdominis and transversus abdominis.

To get into Bridge Pose, lie down on your back with your knees bent and let your arms rest at your side. Push your hands and feet into the floor as you lift your butt up. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the ground. Once there, hold this pose for about 1-minute. You can place your hands under the hip area for support.

If you have increased flexibility, lock your fingers while they’re under your hips. Release the pose slowly as you let your back and butt come back down to the ground before dropping the knees. Repeat the asana or continue with your routine.


Which Yoga is Best for Back Pain?

Yoga routines include various types of asanas that are gentle stretches. These can help you to release tight muscles and alleviate pain in the back. If you have muscle stiffness or pain, you’ll find that various yoga poses like Bow Pose, Bridge Pose, Camel Pose or Bharadvaja’s Twist might help.

Yoga is essential for relieving back pain as you can increase strength in the upper, middle and low back. You can also strengthen the glutes, abs, hamstrings and hip flexors. Increasing your range of motion and flexibility can help build muscle, increase oxygen in the muscles and improve blood circulation.

Studies have also shown that the ancient practice of yoga can reduce back soreness and improve your day-to-day function. If your pain is from slouching or slumping over, when you use yoga to correct your poor posture, you can also release any subluxations or blockages in the spine. 

Can Yoga Cure Back Pain?

Yes, intense stretching when properly done can help to reduce and stop back pain. You can also reduce stress and correct poor posture. You may also find that deep breathing helps you to concentrate more and you’ll even sleep more soundly at night. However, speak to your doctor about the yoga routine that you would like to start especially if you have a preexisting condition or had pain, an injury or recent surgery. While certain asanas are gentle stretches and highly recommended, others may not be recommended as they can worsen your pain or symptoms.

One particular type of yoga that helps to alleviate back pain is Bikram Yoga. Some students perform it twice weekly and have noticed reduced pain levels. That’s because yoga can help to prevent re-injury, help you to heal injured muscles and speed up your recovery time if you have an injury. Yoga is also essential for helping to improve your daily activities.

Is It okay To Do Yoga With Lower Back Pain?

If you suffer from back pain you might think that stretching and bending will increase the pain. However, certain yoga poses include slow movements.

By using these with proper breathing, you can increase the oxygen your muscles need. You’re also decreasing your stress and alleviating any depressive thoughts or anxiety with breathing exercises during your yoga stretches. That’s because yoga, while a physical aspect, is also emotional and mental. Hence opening the chakras can help you improve your body-mind awareness. Another important aspect is that yoga focuses on alignment and posture.

If you suffer from low back pain, for example. There are a few poses that can help. These include Yashtikasana (Stick Pose), Adho Mukho Svanasana (Downward Dog), Salamba Bhujangasana (Sphinx Pose) and Marjayasana which is Cat Pose. Bitilasana (Cow Pose) and Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose) are also recommended.

Is Child’s Pose Good for Lower Back Pain?

Child’s Pose is recommended for low back pain because as you get into a child-like position, you can gently soothe stiff or achy back muscles in the lumbar region of the spine.

To achieve this, try it after Cobra Pose. Get on your hands and knees and push your hips toward your heels. With your arms stretched out in front of you, let your palms rest on the ground. Then, let your forehead rest gently on the ground and work on your breathing. This simple pose increases circulation to your joints, discs and muscles while also reducing stress and improving range of motion. See an example of Child Pose here.

As a way to help stabilize the spine, Child’s Pose can also help open tight or stiff hip muscles. At its core, it’s improving flexibility for those who might sit or slouch for long periods. 

Is Halasana Good for Back Pain?

Halasana is a preferred asana for improving spine health and strengthening and toning the back. As a good spinal stretch, it also pulls the shoulders and hamstrings. It’s recommended for back pain because it can reduce tension in your muscles while also reducing stress, insomnia and headaches. Use this inverted pose to improve your blood flow and have a healthier back.