Yoga stretches for lower back pain loosen tight muscles and increases blood flow to damaged tissues in the back. It also works the core muscles — the muscles in the trunk and pelvis — which helps to support the back. A strong core will also encourage better posture and further reduce stress on the lumbar region. Yoga blends physical movement, meditation, and controlled breathing. It fosters strength, flexibility, and a calm state of mind.
Beginners Poses for Lower Back Pain
Whether you’re new to yoga, or a seasoned veteran,these poses are a great place to start when dealing with lower back pain.
Position yourself on your hands and knees on a mat. Keep your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Your back should be flat and parallel to the floor. This is the Table Pose.
Breathe out and slowly lower your hips to your heels.
Place your forehead on the floor. If it is more comfortable, you can spread your knees slightly apart. Hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds.
Cat and Cow Pose
Move into the table pose, as described in the previous exercise.
Breathe in, roll your shoulders back, and let your stomach drop toward the floor. Look upward. This is the cow pose.
Breathe out, pull in your stomach and arch your back upward. Look down toward your bellybutton. This is the cat pose.
Repeat steps 2 and 3 several times before returning to the starting pose.
Lie face down on a mat. Come up onto your forearms, keeping them shoulder-width apart, and ensuring your shoulders are over your elbows.
Press your palms into the mat. Keep your feet hip-width apart.
Breathe in and lift your head and chest off the floor and look straight ahead.
Relax your back and continue to breathe. Hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds.
Knees to Chest
Lie on the floor with your knees bent and your hands resting gently on your thighs.
Breathe out and, keeping your knees together, lift your legs toward your chest. Use your arms to pull them in closer.
Gently rock from side to side.
Once your back muscles have loosened, lift your forehead to your knees.
Breathe in and gently lower your head back to the mat.
Now wrap your arms more fully around your knees and hold this position for 3 to 10 breaths.
Sit on a mat and bring the soles of the feet together, allowing your knees to drop downward and out to the sides.
Gently pull your heels in toward the pelvic area. Using your hands, press the outer sides of the feet together, allowing them to open up like a book.
Sit up tall with your shoulders back and down. If necessary, support the knees with yoga blocks. Hold this pose for 60 seconds.
Reclined Supine Twist
Lie on your back on a mat, with your legs flat and your arms out to the sides, perpendicular to your body.
Bend your right knee, and cross your right foot over your left leg, keeping it next to the left knee.
Use your left hand to press your right knee toward the floor on your left side. Move your head to look toward your right side. Keep your shoulders in alignment and against the floor. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds.
Repeat on the other side.
Intermediate & Advanced Poses for Lower Back Pain
Once you have mastered the beginning postures, you can move on to the following:
Begin in the Table position.
Tuck your toes under your feet and spread your fingers.
Pull in your bellybutton, shift your weight back onto your feet, and lift your hips toward the ceiling.
Drop your head and look between your legs. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
To come out of the pose, drop back down to a table position.
Begin by kneeling, then move your right buttock onto your right heel. Place your left leg out straight in front of you.
Bend your left leg at the knee and rotate the hip. Lift your left heel into your right hip flexor.
Place your left hand on the floor behind you and gently twist your body. Rest your right hand on the outside of your left knee for support.
Sit up tall and breathe in. Then breathe out and twist some more, looking over your left shoulder. Breathe in, then breathe out and twist some more.
Breathe in and return to the center.
Then, move your left buttock onto your left heel. Place your right leg out straight in front of you.
Repeat steps 2 to 6 for the other side of the body.
Stand up straight on a mat. Place your hands on your hips and spread your legs as far apart as you can.
Reach your arms out to your sides and gently twist toward your left side. Turn your left foot 90 degrees to the left and your right foot 45 to 60 degrees to the left.
Reach down and place your left hand on your left foot. Your right arm should be pointing toward the ceiling.
Turn your head and look up to the ceiling.
Lift your hand from your foot and slowly return to an upright position, turning your feet forward and placing your hands on your hips. Stay in this pose for 30 to 60 seconds.
Lie face down, with your forehead touching the mat and your arms straight by your sides.
Breathe out and raise your head, arms, chest, and legs off the mat. Your legs should be straight and together and your arms should be straight and alongside your body. Hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds.
Double Seated Pigeon
Sit on a mat with your legs straight out in front of you. Keep your back extended and your shoulders back.
Bend your right knee to a 90-degree angle. Place the right shin forward and parallel to the mat. Flex the right foot.
Bend your left knee and grab your left leg. Place it on top of your right. The shins should be on top of one another. Flex the left foot. Your pelvis should be slightly tilted forward.
Sit tall and lengthen your spine. Press through your heels and press your shoulder blades back and down. Hold this pose for 30 to 60 seconds.
What Type of Yoga is Best for Lower Back Pain?
There are several yoga disciplines, ranging from easy and meditative to intense and physically demanding. When it comes to back pain, the best types include:
Viniyoga. This is easy to adapt to an individual’s needs, so you can practice it for a wide variety of back and neck pains. It is also a great option for beginners.
Iyengar yoga. Another good choice, iyengar yoga emphasizes correct alignment and controlled movements, which can help to reduce or prevent back pain.
Ashtanga yoga. Also known as power yoga, this type is best for people who have fully recovered from a back injury as it can build strength and flexibility.
Tips for Getting Started
Practice a Variety of Postures
Different exercises target different elements of the back, so it is a good idea to vary your yoga routine. The above exercises are a great place to start but if you want even more variety, check out your local area for yoga classes.
Modify Stretches to Your Needs
You can make some poses easier or harder, depending on your abilities and general health.
For example, if you want to achieve a deeper stretch on some poses, you can use a stretch strap. For extra resistance, add ankle or wrist weights. And for extra support, invest in some yoga blocks.
If you need more guidance when working out, join a yoga class or work with a physical therapist who is also trained in yoga practice.
Remember your Core Strength
Yoga works many areas of the body at once, including the back, legs, and arms. Some poses also work the core muscles to improve flexibility and mobility.
If, however, you are struggling to achieve some yoga postures, it may be because you have a weak core. Try adding some exercises that specifically target your core into your daily routine. You may soon see a big improvement!
While many yoga postures are beneficial for those with lower back pain, some can cause more harm than good. Even helpful exercises can cause issues if your posture is wrong. When practicing yoga, always follow the directions carefully and stop holding a pose if you feel pain.
Overall, you can safely practice yoga to alleviate lower back pain as long as you know your limits and modify exercises to your abilities. Of course, it’s always a good idea to speak to your doctor before attempting any new fitness program.
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.