Yoga for back pain: 5 poses that can help
Hands up if you suffer from back pain?
You’re not alone, some estimates suggest 577 million people globally are living with a bad back. But that doesn’t mean we should accept back pain as part of our day-to-day life. One simple change could make a huge difference – and that change is yoga!
While pills or creams may offer temporary relief, practicing yoga for back pain can actually treat the causes and strengthen your body to reduce and prevent pain going forward.
So how does doing yoga stretches for lower back pain or other types of back aches help, and what are the best poses for you? I’m sharing 5 of my favourite poses to get you and your back feeling your best.
How effective is yoga for back pain?
My love affair with yoga began during my first pregnancy, when my back was definitely feeling the strain.
Gentle yoga back stretches helped me to reduce discomfort and stay active. But you don’t have to be carrying a load to feel the relief in your back!
When your muscles are tight, your mobility is restricted, which can instigate and aggravate back pain. By doing yoga poses for back relief, you’re stretching out tight muscles to reduce tension, while building strength and flexibility to maintain healthy movement. It’s also great for strengthening all those little supporting muscles that help to keep our backs strong and stable.
Don’t forget the mental benefits, either. Regular, mindful yoga practice can help to ease the anxiety that prolonged pain brings with it.
Think of it as yoga for back strength AND mental strength!
Discover the benefits of yoga for your back with weekly Yoga for Recovery sessions from teacher Michelle Cassidy. Get started today with a free trial on FIT.
How to protect your back during yoga
Doing yoga can offer great pain relief, but it’s important that you always do it safely. As FIT yoga expert Michelle Cassidy says: “Every pose should feel safe for your body.”
Here’s what you should keep in mind to keep your yoga practice safe:
- Listen to your body! If any moves aggravate your back pain, don’t do them, or reduce the intensity. Don’t force yourself into a shape.
- Practice with a pillow or block, which can be used to support your body in certain poses and reduce the strain on your back.
- Breathe deeply. Diaphragmatic or deep belly breathing helps to stabilise the whole spinal area. It’s great for calming your mind when back pain causes worry, too.
- Keep your core switched on. Focus on keeping your core engaged and strong (don’t forget to breathe!), which will support your lower back and stop it from overcompensating.
- Get assessed by a physiotherapist (physical therapist) or doctor before you start any new exercise program. It’s essential that you seek professional advice, especially if you have a physical injury or pain.
Now, are you ready to try yoga to help your back pain? Let’s do it.
5 yoga poses to relieve back pain
I’ve teamed up with yoga teacher Michelle – who shares her expertise through my FIT Post-Pregnancy program and weekly Yoga for Recovery sessions on FIT – to show you how to do some of my favourite yoga exercises for back pain and building strength.
1. Seated side stretch
Many of us don’t realise how tight the sides of our bodies are, which can lead to back problems. This stretch will help to release your neck, shoulders, back and obliques.
How to do a seated side stretch:
Sit with your legs loosely crossed and back straight, then place your left hand on the mat to your side.
Raise your right arm overhead and lean to the left, until you feel a stretch down your right side.
Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, breathing steadily. Then switch to stretch your left side.
2. Lying twist
The twist will help to unwind your back, core and glutes. If you feel any pressure or pain in your lower back while twisting, place a pillow under your knees to reduce the intensity.
How to do a lying twist:
Lay on your back with your feet on the mat and knees bent.
Move your arms out to the side, forming a T.
Slide your butt a little to the left and let your knees tip over to the right – gently twisting through your core.
Hold it, breathing in and out, then bring your knees back up, shift your butt to the other side, and tip your knees to the left side.
3. Cat cow
When you’re looking for yoga moves for lower back pain, you can’t leave out cat cow. It’s amazing for loosening up your back, shoulders and neck. Remember to take it slow and move with your breath to protect your back.
How to do a cat cow:
Position yourself on all fours, back straight and head neutral.
Breathe in, then as you breathe out raise your back up by lowering your head towards the floor and drawing in your stomach.
Hold it for a moment, then curve your back inward by raising your head to look up and dropping your stomach towards the floor.
Keep the move relaxed and steady, moving with your breath.
4. Child’s pose
One of the gentlest yoga positions for back pain is child’s pose. Adding a pillow under your chest can give extra support and help you really relax into the position.
How to do child's pose:
Kneel on your mat, resting your butt against your heels.
Take a deep breath in, then as you breathe out lower your chest down between your thighs and reach your arms out to place your hands on the mat in front of you.
Keeping your head face down to the mat, breathe deeply and sink into the pose, letting your muscles relax.
Hold the pose for as long as you like.
5. Reclining butterfly pose
This pose relieves the lower back by releasing your groin and hips. It also opens up your chest and shoulders, which can get tight if you find yourself hunching due to back pain. You can adjust the intensity by placing a pillow under your back like we’re doing here.
How to do reclining butterfly pose:
Lay on your back and bring the soles of your feet together to create a frog leg (or butterfly) shape with your legs.
Bring your hands together on the mat above your head.
Let your knees relax down to open up your hips as you breathe in and out.
Hold the pose for around 3 minutes.
To find more yoga poses to help back pain, build strength and improve mobility, join me on FIT. Start today with a free trial and find the relief you’ve been searching for.
Personal trainer • Founder
Emily Skye is a strength training expert and the face of FIT, the digital fitness app that helps women worldwide build strength and confidence, stay active through pregnancy and rebuild post-pregnancy. Emily holds a Certificate IV in Fitness and Master Trainer qualification from the Australian Institute of Fitness. She is also co-founder of James Cosmetics and a mother of two.
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