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How to Practice Yoga for Herniated Disc Pain

by Patty Weasler, RN October 16, 2019 0 Comments

Woman performing a pose on a yoga mat

Treating a herniated disc with yoga can reduce back pain and improve your overall health. Yoga stretches and strengthens your body while developing body awareness. A herniated disc is a serious injury, therefore it is important to perform each pose with the direction of a trained yoga instructor and with permission from your doctor. Learn more about yoga for a herniated disc, how it can reduce pain, and which poses are best for herniated discs.

Can Yoga Help a Herniated Disc?

Yoga uses slow, controlled movements that involve gentle stretching and strengthening poses that encourage good posture and core strength. This is good treatment for lower back pain caused by a herniated disc and can help to prevent further injury.

Back pain caused by a herniated disc can be reduced with yoga poses that work the lower back. This will increase blood flow to the area, which can reduce healing time. During yoga practice, you become more aware of your body and how it feels during various yoga poses.

Check out the benefits of yoga for the treatment of a herniated disc:

  • Increases core strength
  • Improves posture and body alignment
  • Promotes body awareness
  • Reduces muscle tension

Click Here for More Ways to Treat Herniated Disc Pain

Recommended Yoga Poses

It is important to listen to your body during yoga practice if you suffer from back pain caused by a herniated disc. One way to center yourself is to start off in Mountain pose, also known as Tadasana. In this pose, you stand up with your feet flat on a yoga mat, with feet barely touching. Keep your hands down at your side and fixate your gaze on an object in front of you. Focus on your posture and engage your core muscles. This pose will get you ready for our other suggestions for yoga poses for slipped discs.

These recommended poses should be done slowly and at your own pace. If you are unfamiliar with any of these sequences ask a certified yoga teacher to demonstrate them for you.

Cat and Cow

The Cat and Cow yoga pose opens up the spine and encourages spinal fluid to move freely around the spinal cord. Here’s how to perform this yoga pose:

  1. Start by coming onto all fours on your yoga mat.

  2. Keep your shoulders over your wrists and knees under your hips.

  3. Move into Cow pose by inhaling and dropping your stomach to the ground and raising your tailbone up towards the ceiling while looking upward.

  4. Exhale and bring your stomach in and bring your navel to your spine. 

Slowly build up your strength to perform this sequence multiple times for the greatest benefit.


In the Locust pose, you are strengthening your lower back and opening up your chest. The back extension should be done slowly and well controlled to get the most out of this movement.

  1. While laying down on your stomach, place your hands down at your sides, palms facing the ceiling.

  2. Exhale and lift your head off of the mat. Raise your arms, chest, and legs off of the ground.

  3. Keep your legs straight, feet together, and your hands only a couple of inches lifted off of the ground.

  4. If this pose is too difficult, raise one leg off of the mat while keeping the other leg resting on the mat. Switch legs, repeating the movement. 

Hold this yoga pose for several breaths.


Bhujangasana, or Cobra pose, is similar to the Locust pose. But in this pose, you keep your feet and hands on the ground.

  1. Lay on your stomach with your hands flat on the mat on either side of your chest.

  2. Press the tops of your feet into the mat. Hug your elbows into your body and squeeze your shoulder blades together.

  3. As you inhale push off on your hands and lift your chest off of the ground.

  4. Keep your shoulders relaxed, allowing plenty of room between your ears and shoulders.

Don’t lift your chest too far off the mat as you learn to perform Cobra. Gradually increase the distance as you gain strength and flexibility.  

Downward Dog

This popular yoga pose is good for decompressing your spine. It assists to develop upper body strength and stretches the hamstrings. Here’s how to perform downward facing dog:

  1. While laying face down on your mat, place your hands on either side of you with your palms flat on the mat, halfway down your chest.

  2. Push up onto all fours, without moving your hands and feet.

  3. Transition into a downward dog by tucking your toes under your feet and pushing your hips up to the ceiling.

  4. Straighten your knees and gently let your heels fall to the mat. Note, most yogis cannot get the back of their heels flat onto their mat.

  5. Adjust your fingers so that they are spread apart and elbows are straight.

  6. To release the pose, lower your knees to the mat.

Breathe deep and slowly during this pose. Let your hips rise to the ceiling to get a deeper stretch. 

Check out this video to learn how to incorporate a resistance band to increase the strengthening aspects of this pose. Place the resistance band around both legs, about mid-calf level. Raise one leg back and gently pulse it up and down while maintaining tension in the band. Repeat with the other leg.

Triangle Pose

Trikonasana, more commonly called Triangle pose, stretches the back and strengthens the legs. Read on to learn more about it:

  1. Stand on a yoga mat with feet spaced wider than your hips.

  2. Raise your arms straight out from your sides with elbows straight.

  3. Turn your forward foot 90 degrees to face the front of your mat. Slightly turn in your back foot.

  4. Lean over your front leg, touching your hand down to your front foot. Use a yoga block if you cannot reach your foot.

  5. Keeping arms straight, gently look upwards towards the ceiling.

  6. After a couple of gentle breaths, slowly raise your body to the starting position.

To increase the strengthening aspect of this yoga movement incorporate wrist weights.

Camel Pose

In this pose, you’ll work on gaining flexibility in your upper back and lumbar spine.

  1. Kneel on a mat with the top of your feet flat on the mat, keeping knees hip width apart.

  2. Place your hands on your lower back with your palms flat against your back and fingers facing down.

  3. Exhale and slowly push your hips forward while looking up.

  4. Inhale and return to the starting position. Repeat this movement until you are comfortable with a deeper backbend.

    If you are comfortable with this stretch then you can move onto a full Camel pose.

  5. Once you are in the original position, push your hips forward with your hands.

  6. Drop your hands to your ankles, extending your back.

  7. To release this position, inhale and slowly come back up.

Yoga Poses to Avoid

Many yoga poses can be a beneficial treatment for back pain and sciatica caused by a bulging disc. However, there are some poses that need to be avoided. Do not perform poses or movements that round the back, involve a forward bend, cause pain, numbness, or tingling.

Here is a list of common poses that should be avoided with back pain caused by a disc herniation.

  • Child’s pose
  • Sage’s pose
  • Standing forward bend
  • Head to knee pose
  • Wide angle forward bend
  • Big toe pose

Other Types of Exercises You Should Avoid with a Herniated Disc

Tips to Try Yoga Safely

Yoga therapy with a back injury should be done carefully. Move from each sequence slowly and intentionally. See your doctor before you start, ask him or her about specific movements that you should be avoided. Read on to learn more tips on yoga safety.

  • Start your yoga practice slowly.
  • Stop if you experience pain or numbness.
  • Avoid poses that involve bending forward. This movement can pinch nerves and cause more damage.
  • Find a yoga teacher that is knowledgeable about back injuries.
  • Don’t bend forward with straight legs.
  • Practice yoga regularly for the greatest benefit.

Practicing Yoga Mindfully

Yoga can be a beneficial addition to treating a herniated disc. It is low cost, medication-free, and can improve your overall health. However, talk to your doctor about all your symptoms to ensure that you are practicing safely and not adversely affecting your health. A herniated disc can cause serious damage if not taken seriously and treated appropriately.


Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.

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