7 Yoga Poses for Low Back Pain
By: Steph Ball-Mitchell, E-RYT-500, RPYT, RCYT, YACEP
With all the time that we spend sitting in modern times, lower back pain has become one of the most common physical health complaints. Thankfully, with targeted yoga for lower back pain relief, you can find ease in your body and improve your physical functioning in no time. In this article, we will explore some of the best yoga poses to relieve lower back pain in addition to other yoga practices for pain relief.
Lower back pain is pretty much what it sounds like – it is the experience of tension or pain in the region of your lumbar spine. But lower back pain can have many different causes. It can be the result of an acute injury, or it can build up over time from chronic bad posture or a sedentary lifestyle. It can be muscular or structural or simply the result of the way we move our bodies.
Lower back pain can cause a range of issues throughout your body, including pelvic floor dysfunction, shoulder or upper back pain, and other muscular issues. Some of the common causes of low back pain are herniated discs, joint damage, compression fractures, arthritis, spinal stenosis, or an acute injury from lifting or moving the body in a contraindicated way.
The most common low back issues are osteoarthritis, which is a variation of arthritis or joint inflammation, and degenerative disc disease, which is a result of the natural wearing down of the discs between your vertebrae. Spinal health is essential for the functioning of your entire body, but thankfully with a regular yoga practice, you can improve your spinal health, prevent low back issues, and find relief from low back pain in no time!
1. Cat and Cow Pose (Majariasana and Bitilasana)
This flowing yoga pose is excellent for relieving low back pain. A few rounds of cat and cow pose can awaken your entire spine, removing any tension you may be holding. Make sure to move slowly and in line with your breath to deepen into rest and relax your nervous system.
2. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
This restorative yoga pose is excellent for relaxing the muscles in the lower back and restoring your entire body, mind, and soul. Try opting to do this pose with a bolster or a rolled-up blanket under your abdomen to support your body and lengthen your spine.
3. Standing Forward Fold Pose (Uttanasana)
This standing yoga pose helps lengthen the entire spine and release any tension in your lower back. Try a relaxing variation of this yoga pose by wrapping your hands around the outside of your elbows for a ragdoll variation of this forward fold.
4. Garland Pose (Malasana)
Garland pose is a grounding yoga pose that lengthens the spine and stretches the hips and pelvis to relieve any tension that may be extending down into your pelvic floor. If you have limited mobility in your hips or ankles, try this pose in a chair or place a block underneath your hips for a restorative variation.
5. Sphinx Pose (Bhujangasana)
This gentle back-bending posture is targeted directly at the lower back to relieve tension in the spine and improve flexibility. If your back pain is mild, you might consider lifting up into complete seal pose or cobra pose, but if you are in acute pain, then it is best to stay in sphinx pose or even drop down to crocodile pose instead.
6. Wind-Releasing Pose (Apanasana)
The wind-releasing pose is a profoundly grounding yoga pose that releases the tension in the lower back and relaxes the entire spine. In yoga philosophy, this yoga pose is targeted at the apana vayu or the downward flowing wind, which helps to balance the energies in your body and mind to ground from within.
7. Reclined Spinal Twist Pose (Supta Matsyendrasana)
One of the best ways to relieve spinal tension is through a spinal twisting pose. This reclined variation helps your body to relax so that you can fully deepen into a spinal twist and let go of any tension in your lower back. Make sure to use any props you need to support your body in this pose and move slowly to prevent adding additional stress or strain to your spine.
When practicing yoga to relieve lower back pain, it is essential to move slowly and with an awareness of the alignment of your joints. During the experience of acute pain, it is best to avoid very fast-paced or intensive yoga styles as these may potentially aggravate the low back pain or even cause further issues. Taking a slow, restorative, or meditative approach can help you relieve lower back pain with yoga and prevent further injuries.
You may also consider getting personalized support from a trained yoga teacher or yoga therapist to support you in finding relief from low back pain with yoga. Remember to take your practice slowly and try the above yoga poses on your own to see for yourself. To help get you started, use this 15-minute yoga for low back pain sequence below!
· Child’s Pose (Sukhasana)
· Cat and Cow Pose (Marjariasana and Bitilasana)
· Standing Forward Fold Pose (Uttanasana)
· Garland Pose (Malasana)
· Crocodile Pose (Makarasana)
· Sphinx Pose (Bhujangasana)
· Reclined Spinal Twist Pose (Supta Matsyendrasana)
· Wind-Releasing Pose (Apanasana)
· Corpse Pose (Savasana)
In addition to yoga poses and a nourishing yoga flow, yoga can also improve back pain through breathwork or pranayama and meditation practices. In yoga philosophy, pain isn’t just on the physical level; it also extends deeper into the breath, mind, and soul. By addressing pain relief and low back pain on all levels of the body, mind, and spirit, you can truly get to the root of the issue and find relief from low back pain with yoga in no time!
Pain isn’t just felt in the body – it is ultimately perceived and interpreted by the mind. Through pranayama and meditation practices, we can intercept the pain signals in the mind and rewire the brain. Even in moments where the pain feels unbearable, you can utilize the power of the breath and the mind to calm down your nervous system and find relaxation within.
When you are in an acute state of pain, it is common for your breathing to begin to shorten or even hyperventilate. Becoming aware of your breath is an excellent tool to notice the state of your mind and your nervous system. By consciously slowing down your breathing rate, particularly your exhalation, you can begin to calm your nervous system and shift out of fight-or-flight mode and into rest-and-digest mode.
Some of the best pranayama practices for pain relief are the 3-part breath, diaphragmatic breathing, humming bee breath or bhramari pranayama, and alternate nostril breathing or nadi shodhana. These breathing practices are targeted at calming down your mind and releasing tension. For lower back pain, try practicing these breathing techniques lying down on your back with your knees bent or seated in a chair with your back fully supported.
Meditation can take the power of the breath one step further by moving deeper into the subconscious to find relief from pain from within. Of course, pain often has its roots on a physical level and still needs to be addressed through physical means, but the pain is ultimately experienced in the mind. So, by learning to calm down your mind during the experience of pain, you can learn to release the hold that it has over you and find relaxation even amidst the tension.
To target pain relief with meditation, the most commonly used techniques are mindfulness meditation, breath awareness meditation, or body scan meditation. There are also many excellent visualization meditations targeted for pain relief that can help you find deep relaxation from within. Yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, is also an excellent practice for when your chronic pain prevents you from sleeping. Make sure to do these meditation techniques for lower back pain with your spine fully supported while lying down or in a chair.
Lower back pain is a common occurrence, but there is a simple solution! Regular yoga for low back pain can help you find relief in your body so that you can do all the things you need to do without any strain. By improving your flexibility, range of motion, and strength, yoga poses for the low back can give you holistic relief while using pranayama and meditation techniques for general pain relief and inner resiliency.
As a yoga teacher, it is common to have people coming into classes with a range of physical and mental health complaints. While it is certainly not your job to treat specific issues, it can be helpful to have some understanding of these issues and practical tools to provide your students with low back pain relief. In our online yoga teacher training courses, we go step by step through yoga for low back pain relief to give you all the tools you need to help your students as well. Reach out to us for more information on how you can join our online yoga teacher training courses to begin!