If you’re coping with lower back pain, you know how debilitating it can be. We’ve rounded up some basic yoga poses to help relieve pain in your low back.
When you’re dealing with low back pain, you really get a sense of how much you use those muscles throughout the day, don’t you? From sitting at your computer to digging in the garden to doing laundry, your back takes a lot of abuse. Many of us spend our day sitting in front of a computer screen, and it’s rough on our backs. The natural position that your body takes sitting at a conventional desk is really hard on your back, especially the lower back, and adding some restorative poses to help counteract all of that sitting can make a big difference.
Related Reading: 10 Exercises for Better Posture
Of course, if your back pain is severe, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor first. Low back pain can be a sign of more serious problems, like a herniated disc, and if that’s the case you’ll want to seek medical help. Depending on what’s going on, your doctor may suggest anything from physical therapy to surgery, and it’s best to get his OK before adding any low back exercises to the mix.
If your back pain is from poor posture, days spent sitting at the desk, or even menstrual cramps, these poses can go a long way in giving you some relief! I chose a series of beginner poses, so that no matter what your fitness level you can add in these low back stretching and strengthening exercises.
1. Cat/Cow Poses
Cat/Cow is actually a pair of yoga poses, but they go so well together, let’s just lump them into one! By cycling between the two postures, you warm up and stretch your back muscles, including the lower back.
To practice these postures, you’ll want to get on your hands and knees with your hands lined up beneath your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips. Take a deep breath in, and as you inhale you want to bend your spine, so you’re drawing your belly toward the floor, your head tilts back, and your bottom lifts toward the sky.
On your exhale, scoop the belly inward, arching the back upward, curling your chin toward your chest, and tucking your tailbone under. Repeat these two poses, gently stretching up on the inhale and curling in on the exhale, as many times as you like.
2. Downward Dog
Downward dog is great for strengthening the lower back and improving posture, which helps support all of your back muscles.
Start out once again on hands and knees, but walk your hands out so they’re just in front of your shoulders. Curl your toes under, and push up, lifting your bottom toward the sky and straightening your legs. You want to engage your abs, so your back is straight, and focus on pulling your shoulderblades together. Let your head hang neutrally, and engage your thigh muscles to further support your back.
You can hold this pose for as long as is comfortable, but I’d recommend staying in for at least 10 deep breaths.
3. Spinal Twist
Talk about a good, deep stretch! Spinal twist feels great on overworked back muscles. If you’re new to twisting, just take this slowly – better to just twist a little than to go too far and injure yourself. You want to just feel a gentle stretch. If you start to feel pain, back off.
Have a seat on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Bend the right leg, so your right foot is by the left buttock, then bend your left leg so the knee is pointing upward, and place your left foot on the outside of your right knee. Raise your arms out to your sides, and gently twist to the left, placing your right elbow on the outside of your left knee and your left arm on the floor behind you. To come fully into the posture. slowly turn your head to the left until you feel a soft stretch in your neck. Hold this for 10 deep breaths, then release and repeat on the opposite side.
4. Chair Pose
Chair pose is great for strengthening the lower back muscles. This pose can be a bit strenuous if you’re new to it, so take it slowly and listen to your body.
Come to a standing position with your feet side by side and touching each other and your arms by your sides. Inhale, and as you exhale bend your knees, as if you’re going to sit back into a chair. Now, raise your arms straight out in front of you until your arms are parallel to the floor.
If this feels like plenty of effort, just stay here and breathe for – you guessed it – 10 deep breaths. If you think that you can go a little bit deeper, you can bend your knees more. You want to try to keep your knees from extending past your toes – think about sitting in a chair and let your bottom release back as you squat more. Once you hit your edge, hold and breathe, then straighten your legs and release your arms to come out of the posture.
5. Standing Forward Bend
Forward bending is such a beneficial exercise, and it’s a great way to use the power of gravity to gently stretch your low back after chair pose.
To begin, stand up straight, with your arms by your sides. On your next inhale, raise your arms over your head, then swan dive forward, bending at your waist. You can place your hands on the floor, if you can reach, or grab on to your thighs, calves, ankles, or feet. You can also use the opposite hands to clasp your elbows, which can help you go deeper into the stretch by allowing gravity to pull your head toward the floor.
Make sure that you keep your thigh muscles engaged during this pose to protect your back, and you can hang out here for as long as you like!
To come out of standing forward bend, slowly roll up your spine, one vertebrae at a time, until you’re back in a standing position. Your head should come up last, and as you lift your head, take a deep breath in. Coming out of the pose this way will help prevent you from getting that dizzy head rush that can come from having your head below your heart.
Have you found other poses that help relieve lower back pain? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments!
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