Relieve Back Pain With These 6 Yoga Poses
If you haven’t been affected by back pain, you’re one of the lucky few. In our modern world, most people have suffered from back pain at some point in their lives. It’s estimated that up to an astounding 80 percent of adults will experience at least one episode of back pain at some point in their lives. (1) And globally, back pain is the number one cause of disability, causing many to miss work or miss out on engaging in other daily activities. (2)
Needless to say, back pain is widespread and far-reaching, and it’s just plain terrible. If you’ve ever experienced a bout of back pain, then you know just how debilitating it can be.
But luckily, back pain doesn’t have to send you into a downward spiral of bed rest. In fact, in many cases, movement is the best medicine to help alleviate tight, sore, underutilized, or overused muscles. Of course, this isn’t always the case, so be sure to check with your healthcare provider.
Try These 6 Yoga Poses to Help Relieve Your Back Pain:
If you’ve been given the all-clear by your physician to move your spine, then the following yoga poses may be helpful to relieve your back pain.
1. Bow Tie Pose
Back pain doesn’t always stem directly from the spine. Sometimes, the surrounding muscles (such as those of the shoulders) are really the culprits of the pain. This posture helps to stretch some of the tissues of the shoulders, therefore creating a bit more space and mobility around the back.
- Lie down on your belly. Lift up onto your forearms and place your elbows underneath your shoulders (or slightly forward of them).
- Cross your right hand behind your left elbow and cross your left hand in front of your right elbow.
- Slowly slide your hands apart from each other as far as you comfortably can as you gently release the weight of your chest toward the floor.
- Rest your head onto the “pillow” that your arms are creating or onto a prop (like a block or a blanket) in front of you.
- Soften the space between your shoulder blades and melt the weight of your torso toward the floor.
- Hold for a few long, deep breaths before slowly unwinding your cross and then switching sides.
2. Side-Reaching Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Because the muscles of the back body hold us up against the force of gravity almost all day, every day, they can sometimes get a bit cranky from all the hard work. Gentle stretches like this one can help to ease their wrath.
- Start in Tabletop Pose (Bharmanasana) on all fours with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your hips stacked over your knees.
- Release the weight of your hips back toward your heels and either release your seat onto your heels or onto a prop (like a bolster, pillow, or blanket).
- Stretch your arms forward in front of you to lengthen both sides of your waistline equally.
- Keep your hips grounded and slowly walk your hands over toward the right side of your mat (or even off your mat to the right).
- Let your left hip become heavy and lengthen from your left hip all the way up to your left fingertips.
- Breathe into the release through your side body for a few long, deep breaths, and then slowly walk your hands to the opposite side.
3. Revolved Belly Pose (Jathara Parivrttanasana)
In general, our bodies love movement, and the spine is no exception. Twists are great for the spine because they affect each joint along the whole spinal column. And by practicing a twist supine, you can more gently ease into the twist with a bit less load.
- Lie down on your back and draw your knees into your chest.
- Stretch your arms out by your sides into a “T” shape in line with your shoulders.
- Roll your knees toward the left side of your mat and release them either to the floor or onto a prop (like a block or bolster). You may also wish to place a prop between your knees for added comfort.
- Soften the weight of both your shoulders to the floor.
- Hold for a few deep breaths before switching sides.
4. Reclined Big Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)
Sometimes the hamstrings can be the culprit of back pain because they attach to the pelvis, and if they’re tight, they can pull down on the pelvis and affect the neutral curvature of the spine. Often, gently lengthening the hamstrings in poses like this can drastically affect lower back pain.
- Lie down on your back with a yoga strap or towel nearby.
- Stretch your legs forward in front of you and activate them by squeezing your legs toward each other, flexing your ankles, reaching out through the balls of your feet, and spreading your toes.
- Keep this activation in your left leg and draw your right knee toward your chest.
- Loop your strap or your towel around the ball of your right foot and stretch your right leg toward the sky. Straighten your leg as much as you comfortably can.
- Reach up through the ball of your right foot and reach out through the ball of your left foot.
- Soften both of your shoulders down toward the floor.
- Energetically reach up through your right foot and use the same amount of energy to hug your right thigh bone down and in toward your right hip socket.
- Hold for a few long, deep breaths before switching sides.
5. Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)
Sometimes tightness in the hips can pull against the pelvis and affect the curvature of the spine, leading to pain and discomfort. Gentle hip stretches like this may help to reduce this.
- Lie on your back and hug your knees toward your chest.
- Take hold behind your thighs and draw your knees apart from each other.
- Open the bend of your knees to about 90 degrees, so that your shins are vertical, flex your ankles, and reach the soles of your feet toward the sky.
- Either continue holding the backs of your thighs, or walk your hands up to hold your calves, ankles, or the soles of your feet.
- Gently draw down on your legs with your hands and release your sacrum toward the floor. Lower the weight of your shoulders toward the mat as well.
- If it feels nice, you can gently rock your hips from side to side.
6. Forearm Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana)
With back pain, sometimes tight muscles aren’t the problem at all. Sometimes, instead, it’s a weakness in the musculature that causes pain as other muscles are forced to compensate. Simple strengthening exercises like this may help to build the necessary strength to alleviate your back pain.
- Start in Tabletop Pose on your yoga mat, with your shoulders aligned over your wrists and your hips aligned over your knees.
- Lower your forearms to the floor so your shoulders are aligned over your elbows.
- Root down firmly against your forearms to round your upper back ever so slightly.
- Activate your core strongly by cinching in around your whole waistline and hugging your navel to your spine.
- Tuck your toes under and walk your feet toward the back of your mat until you make a long plumb line from your head to your heels.
- Turn your right hand to reach toward your left elbow so it’s roughly parallel to the top edge of your mat.
- Roll to the pinky toe side of your right foot and the big toe side of your left foot with your feet staggered, the left foot in front of the right.
- Press down firmly against your right forearm and both of your feet to lift your hips up away from the floor.
- Stretch your left arm up toward the sky and hold here for a few long, deep breaths before switching sides.
Yoga, Movement, and the Takeaway on Back Pain
Typically, the real trick to relieving back pain is constant movement. We’ve all heard that sitting is the new smoking, and there is real value in this statement.
Sedentary lifestyles are definitely contributing to the rise of back pain in our modern world and movement is the perfect antidote. (3) So whether you’re practicing gentle stretches or working with simple strength training postures, the movement will likely be your best friend in alleviating back pain.
Give these poses a try and add movements into your daily routine for (hopefully!) long-term relief from your back pain.