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Yoga for back pain

For many, back pain can be debilitating. Back pain can happen from sitting for too long, overdoing it in your favourite active hobbies or previous injuries. Many physios or chiropractors advise their patients to take up yoga or Pilates to improve core strength, for pain relief and injury prevention.

If you need to sit all day, you can do yoga stretches at your desk. Even taking a few minutes break can benefit your back and relieve pain in the back. We will be offering a series of desk yoga stretches that are no longer than 3 minutes soon. It’s a beneficial habit to get into.

Yoga Poses For Back Pain

There are many poses that will improve muscular strength and stretch out your back. Not all yoga poses are good if you have back pain. This is just a guideline and may not be suitable for everyone. It is important to really tune in and listen to your body.

There are many yoga back stretches you can do to improve flexibility and keep the back supple. Here are some simple stretches: 

  • Full body stretch: Lift arms over head and reach upward
yoga class doing full body stretch
  • Sitting twist: Sitting anywhere, engage back muscles by lifting head upward, inhale and twist by looking over one shoulder, holding and breathing a few times, and then the other side. A similar option to this lie on your back for a supine twist – lying on your back and dropping knees over to one side, as you look in the oppside direction.
yoga class doing sitting twist exercise
  • Ball pose: Lie down on the floor, bring your knees into your chest and gently roll side to side, forward and back. This gently pushes on pressure points like you would a massage.
woman doing ball yoga pose
  • Cat/cow pose: Place hands and knees on floor like a table. Cat: Round/arch the back upwards, dropping head and tailbone as you exhale. Cow: Dip the back downwards with head and tailbone lifted as you inhale. 
man doing cat/cow pose

Yoga Poses For Lower Back Pain

The lower back connects to the core muscle group, glutes, hips and hamstrings. If any of those muscles are weak, it can affect your lower back health. Poses that directly strengthen the lower back are:

  • Cobra pose: Lie on your stomach, place hands by shoulders and hug the arms into the side of your body. Slowly lift the chest forward and upwards, keeping the hips on the floor. You want your lower back to feel like it’s working. Sphinx pose and locust pose are more intense yoga stretches as and when you feel comfortable in Cobra pose,
man doing cobra yoga pose
  • Bridge pose: Lie on back, keeping shoulders on ground and hands by side of the body. Feet are on the floor close to bottom, knees bent. Lift hips upwards. This works the hamstrings and glutes which are very important to keep strong for the back.
man doing bridge yoga pose
  • Bird dog pose: On hands and knees, lift up right arm and left leg. Reach each limb in strong, opposing directions. Keep abdomen tight. Switch sides, lifting left arm and right leg.
man doing bird dog yoga pose
  • Any one legged balancing poses: Tree and Warrior 3 are great balancing poses.
man doing one legged balance yoga pose

Yoga Poses For Upper Back Pain

The muscles in the upper back mainly support the shoulders, arms and chest.

There are many exercises to improve shoulder strength including:

  • Warrior 2: Imagine an imaginary line in the middle of the mat. Step one foot behind so legs align on that line so the hips open out to the side. Lift both arms up, parallel to the floor. Stand tall. Bend the front knee, ensuring the knee is over ankle at all times.
women yoga class doing warrior 2 pose
  • Chair pose: Stand with feet together. Bend knees and lift arms upwards, towards ears. Keep reaching to engage the muscles.
man doing chair yoga pose

What Poses To Avoid For Back Issues

This is very subjective as your back pain may be different to someone else’s. Again, listen to your body and don’t push.

Lower back issues:

  • Wheel pose: This is the more advanced version of Bridge pose. Though Bridge is great, Wheel pose can put excess pressure on the lower back. Alternative pose:
    • Bridge pose
  • Standing forward fold: If you try to strongly touch your toes with straight legs, that could cause further issues. Also, if you have your head down and twist upwards, that could cause issues as well. Alternative pose:
    • If you gently hang forward with your head down, with knees bent, it will take some of the pressure off the lower back

Upper back and shoulders issues:

  • Avoid holding downward dog, plank or arm balances for too long. These poses do help strengthen the upper back area but if you have shoulder issues, longer holds can be detrimental. Alternative poses:
    • Downward dog can be done on knees with arms reaching forward
    • Plank can be done on knees
    • Arm balances can be supported by using blocks, ask your teacher if you are unsure

Online Yoga Classes For a Healthy Back

Our one-off course packages, on-demand memberships and class bookings are now on our new parent site:

My Life Tonic. 

Book on demand videos and courses here