Approximately 540 million people worldwide suffer from low back pain. The cause of many of the cases is our modern-day life. Sitting for long periods either driving or working, lack of consistent physical activity, and even stress all contribute to low back pain.
So, if you have ever asked yourself “can I do yoga if I have back pain?”
The answer is yes. There are certain positions in yoga help that can strengthen your muscles and reduce and eliminate lower back pain, including these 12 lower back pain yoga poses.
1. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s pose is one of the easiest poses for lower back pain. It can be done at any time during a yoga class as a recovery posture. Turning inward during Child’s pose can help to calm your mind and nervous system while it stretches your back and shoulders.
You can enter Child’s Pose from Downward Dog or Table Top position. In Table Top, your wrists are under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
To enter Child’s Pose, take your knees as wide as your mat and put your toes together, then push your hips to your feet. Your upper body will collapse over your thighs and your shoulders will reach towards the top of your mat.
Try to place your forehead on the ground. If it doesn’t quite reach, take your hands and make fists and place them under your forehead. Now simply breathe and release the tension in your lower back.
Keep in mind you don’t have to be super flexible to get a benefit out of the poses. The key is to simply start.
2. Cat (Marjaryasana)
Cat pose can be done with Cow pose (below) or as a stand-alone posture. From Table Top, arch your back up like an angry cat.
Press the tops of your feet into the floor and pull your navel to your spine as you exhale. If your wrists bother you, you can make fists and place your knuckles on the floor.
3. Cow Pose (Bitilasana)
Cow is the opposite posture from Cat. From Cat, inhale as you drop the belly towards the floor. Remember to keep your core engaged and lift your chest and heart towards the sky.
If you do these poses in sequence, follow your breath and move slowly and deliberately.
4. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
In Yoga, Downward Facing Dog is a recovery pose. It stretches the entire back of the body (hamstrings, calves, glutes). It also stretches the shoulders and low back.
Often, to receive the best lower back stretch in this pose, you need to bend your knees. The goal is to have your belly almost rest on your thighs.
From Tabletop, press your hands into the floor as you lift your hips into the air. You want to evenly distribute the weight between your hands and your feet. You may also want to raise one heel and then the other to loosen up tight calves.
Once you find a comfortable position, simply breathe. Aim to take 5 full breaths in this posture. After you have completed this posture, drop to your knees and try one of the best yoga for back pain poses, the Child’s Pose—your body will enjoy the transition.
5. Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) Or Cobra (Bhujangasana)
Upward Dog and Downward Dog are often done together in a typical Vinyasa or Flow Class. However, it can be a difficult posture if your back is tight. You may want to start with Cobra to loosen the back before you move into the full expression of Upward Dog.
Lie on your belly, pressing the tops of your legs and feet into the floor. Tilt your pelvis forward to release the tension in the low back. From here, press your palms into the floor and arch your back up.
Your hands should be placed right by your armpits and most of the work should be done with the muscles of your upper back.
For Upward Dog, again lie on your belly, pressing the tops of the feet and legs into the floor. For this posture you will work to fully extend your arms, lifting the top half of your body off the floor.
Keep your shoulders away from your ears and continue to engage the muscles of your core and back.
6. Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)
For most, Triangle Pose feels great on the back. The power in this pose comes from its strengthening and stretching of the muscles that directly affect low back stability and movement.
For this posture, pretend you are between two panes of glass. If you feel unstable, you can also do this pose against a wall.
With your back to a wall, stand in a Star position, arms out shoulder height and both toes pointing forward. Now, take your front toe and point it along the wall.
Inhale, and as you exhale slide your front arm along the wall until you can’t go any further and drop the hand so it touches your thigh, shin, foot, or floor. Your back, hip, and shoulder should still be in contact with the wall.
If it is comfortable, turn your head to look up. Breathe and remember to repeat the same posture on the other side. It is common to notice differences in tension and flexibility from one side to another.
7. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Chair pose is just as it sounds—you are pretending to sit in a chair. The difference is your hands are raised over your head. If this last part is uncomfortable, consider keeping your hands on your hips.
Stand with your feet even on the ground, core engaged, shoulders back and down and hands to your side. As you inhale, drop your hips back as if you were sitting and bring your hands over your head.
Focus on breathing, keeping your knees even and behind your toes. This pose can be challenging, so hold it as long as you are comfortable, then you can drop into forward fold for a counterpose.
8. Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Stand with your feet about hip-distance apart, weight even in your feet. Raise your hands above your head and reach through your chest, keeping your core engaged and your shoulders away from your ears.
Exhale as you drop your hands towards the ground, folding yourself in half. The power in this pose comes from what you do next.
Keep a slight bend in your knees to prevent tension in your lower back. Your hands can be on the floor, grabbing alternate elbows, or bind your calves. Play with shifting your weight forward and back to find the right release for your back.
9. Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
This can be a challenging pose depending on the flexibility in your hips. From Downward Dog, raise one leg into the air. As you exhale, bring your ankle to your opposite wrist, allowing the knee to work towards the wrist on the same side.
Extend the opposite leg back so that both sit bones are even on the floor. From here you can vary the pose in many different ways. You can lean forward over the front leg or bend the back leg.
If this pose is challenging for you, consider doing yoga poses for flexibility to get into this posture.
10. Simple Twist
Lie on your back and bring both knees to your chest. As you exhale drop both knees to one side, keeping both shoulders on the floor. From here you can take one hand and place it on your knee to encourage the twist.
Remember to twist the other direction as well, pausing for a full breath with your back in a neutral (knees in the chest) position.
11. Knees to Chest
Lie on your back and reach your arms away from your body, with your legs extended in the opposite direction. As you exhale, bring your arms around your knees and pull them into your chest.
Feel free to rock front to back or side to side, breathing easily and giving your back a fabulous massage.
12. Feet Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)
This restorative pose can be great at the end of a long day and has many benefits. Lie flat on your back, with your glutes against a wall, then simply move your feet towards the ceiling. It’s that easy.
If you don’t have an empty wall, you can do the same thing in the middle of the room. Once you get into this posture, simply breathe and allow gravity to do the work.
Try These Yoga Positions for Back Pain Relief
The best pose for your lower back is the one that feels good to you. Play with these poses and find the ones that best relieve your tension. Then practice those poses regularly to gain the most benefit (as is the case with most things).
If you have questions about them, drop by one of our yoga classes. Our qualified instructors would be more than willing to help you experience the relief these yoga back pain poses provide. Keep in mind, the more you attend classes the better you will feel.
We offer classes for beginners and advanced yogis. We are centrally located to make using our studio an easy part of your day. Come give our studio a visit—your back will be glad you did.