If you struggle with back pain, you know how it can make even the most basic tasks seen daunting. Something as simple as leaning over can set off those poor, aching muscles. The yoga poses below are aimed at stretching and strengthening your back muscles to give you some natural relief.
Is your back pain constant or severe? I’d highly recommend seeing a doctor before trying yoga for back pain. Yoga poses can certainly help in many situations, but there are back problems that yoga can’t fix. Get an all-clear from your doctor before doing these poses, if you have any concerns.
One of my favorite yoga instructors here in Atlanta – Frani Green – gave me some great advice once that really stuck with me. Her words feel particularly relevant when it comes to using yoga as an alternative therapy, especially yoga for back pain. Her advice? If it hurts, don’t do it. Many fitness regimens ascribe to the “no pain, no gain” mantra, but yoga goes against that grain.
Frani explained that pain is your body telling you something is wrong. Listen to your body, and if one of these postures causes you pain, stop! You may have gone too far into the posture, so simply backing off might help. You may even need to skip this posture for now, and that’s okay! Yoga isn’t about stretching the farthest or holding a pose for the longest. It’s not a competition, and you reap the most benefits by tuning into your body’s signals.
10 Yoga Poses for Back Pain
1. Cat/Cow Pose
Cat/cow is actually two poses, and normally you flow between them, like in the video at the top of the page. This is a great pair of poses for warming up your back muscles. You can practice cat/cow as part of a series or sneak in a few rounds any time during the day. It’s very gentle on your body.
2. Spinal Twist
A simple twist simultaneously stretches and strengthens your back. It’s easy to go too far in a twist, so take things slowly. The more you practice, the further you’ll be able to go into these beneficial postures. The video above demonstrates a few different twists. You can pick and choose your favorite or practice them all.
Now that your back muscles are warmed up, it’s time to do a little bit of strengthening work. Locust (above) and bow pose (below) engage those back muscles to help strengthen and protect from injury. Like with a spinal twist, just do what you can. You will be able to go deeper into the postures as you practice more.
4. Bow Pose
Like locust, bow pose is aimed at strengthening your back. You can practice just one of these poses at first, if you need to, and add the second pose in as your back gets stronger.
5. Extended Side Angle
This is one of my favorite standing postures, because the stretch along the side of your body feels so good. You’re also sneakily strengthening your spine and your core muscles. Working your core might not seem like it has much to do with back pain, but strong abdominal muscles help take some of the strain off of your back.
6. Warrior II
Like extended side angle, Warrior II sneakily strengthens your back and abdominal muscles. Warrior II engages the muscles that contribute to good posture, which can help alleviate back pain.
7. Shoulder Stand
Shoulder stand is another one of my favorite yoga poses. It stretches and strengthens and is just plain fun! In the video above, she shows you a beginner and more advanced version. She also goes into fish pose, described below. What I like about the video above is that she emphasizes areas where you can make things easier, if you don’t have the strength or flexibility to do the full posture yet.
8. Fish Pose
Shoulder stand and fish pose often go hand-in-hand, like in the video above. Fish is what’s called a “counter pose” to shoulder stand. A counter pose works the opposing muscles, so where shoulder stand bends your back and neck one way, fish works you muscles in the opposite directions. Yoga is all about balance, so doing these poses as a pair magnifies the benefits of each.
Tadasana – mountain pose – looks simple on its face, but when done properly it takes concentration. You’re basically practicing good posture, strengthening the muscles that help you stand up straight and take pressure off of your spine as you go throughout your day.
No yoga practice is complete without savasana. Savasana is a relaxation pose, and practicing this soothing meditative posture helps your body process and reap the benefits of the poses that you just went through. There are many savasana variations, and the video above combines both my favorite variation with a guided meditation that relaxes your muscles from the top of the head down to the feet.