Back pain can range from a slight annoyance to debilitating discomfort that can make day-to-day tasks and even sleep challenging. The great news is that if you’re struggling with back pain, some gentle yoga stretches can be a perfect practice to find some much-needed relief while elevating your health on a holistic level as well.
Not only can these poses/stretches provide gentle pain relief, but the calming benefits of yoga can also ease stress-related back pain.
1. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Downward facing dog is one of the most popular restorative yoga poses and is an essential asana in the sun salutation yoga flow sequence.
Not only does it help to promote circulation and relaxation, but it also may help to relieve back pain, especially if it is associated with sciatica or tight hamstrings.
How do you perform the downward facing dog yoga pose?
Start from a standing position and take a forward bend, placing your palms firmly on the ground about shoulder-width apart.
Take a few steps back, adjusting your feet to ensure they are hip-width apart.
Your body should resemble an upside-down “V” shape.
Make sure your upper body and back are straight, not curved, and that your arms are fully extended and not bent.
- Hold for 3-5 breaths and then walk your feet up to your hands and roll yourself up to standing.
2. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
This pose is an incredible back-strengthening exercise, so try not to rely on your arms to hold you up but rather place your focus on engaging your back muscles to reap the most benefits.
Aside from strengthening your back, it also may help to support spinal posture and alignment while opening the lungs, shoulder blades, and collar bones.
How do you perform the cobra pose?
Lie face down on your yoga mat with your feet together and your toes pointed.
Place your hands on either side of your chest, underneath your shoulders, with your palms down and elbows tucked into your body.
Engage the muscles in your legs and glute area.
Inhale and slowly raise your chin, head, neck, shoulders, and chest, contracting your back muscles.
Take note to keep your shoulders down and relaxed (they may naturally want to rise towards your ears).
- Relax your face and elevate your gaze upwards as you take a few deep breaths in this position.
3. Spinal Twist (Supta matsyendrasana)
This yoga sequence is also sometimes known as a supine twist, and you should feel a deep satisfying twist in your spine that may help to release back tension and stress held within the body.
How do you perform a spinal twist?
Lie down on your back on a yoga mat.
Extend your arms outwards from your shoulders, placing your left hand and your right hand onto the floor.
Now bring both your left and right knee up to your chest and drop them to your right side as you turn your head to the left, focusing on keeping both shoulders firmly on the floor.
Allow yourself to relax and hold this pose for 3-5 breaths.
- Now, bring your knees and your head back to the center and repeat this yoga sequence on the other side.
4. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
If you’re looking to relieve back pain while strengthening your spine, neck, thighs, and glutes, then this is the perfect pose for you!
The bridge pose is an inversion pose, which is a type of yoga asana in which the heart is higher than the head. Inversion poses may help to support blood circulation and lymphatic drainage, promoting overall health and well-being.
How do you perform the bridge pose?
Lie on your back on a yoga mat with your knees bent, arms at your sides with palms facing the floor.
Your ankles should be directly under your knees with your feet in a parallel position, hip-width apart.
Now, lift your glutes/tailbone towards the ceiling, arching your back upwards and engaging your glutes.
During this process, be sure to keep your hands, shoulders, neck, and head firmly on the ground.
- Hold this pose for 3 to 5 breaths and release.
5. Cat-cow (Chakravakasana)
The cat-cow yoga pose is a gentle warm-up stretch that helps to mobilize the spine and stretch out your entire back.
How do you practice the cat-cow pose?
Start on all fours on your yoga mat.
Make sure your body is “squared,” i.e., place your hands directly under your shoulders and your right and left knee under your hips.
Inhale as you look up, arching your spine as you drop your stomach towards your yoga mat.
Exhale as you tuck your chin into your chest, drawing your navel towards your spine, arching your spine upwards.
- Continue to move from each of these poses with fluidity for at least 1 minute while focusing on releasing any tension.
In conclusion, practicing yoga can be a great way to find relief from back pain. The five poses we discussed - Downward facing dog, Cobra pose, Spinal twist, Cat-cow and Bridge pose - are all great options to include in your yoga practice. Remember to start slowly and listen to your body, and if you're unsure about any of the poses, seek guidance from a qualified yoga instructor. With regular practice, these poses can help to strengthen your back and release tension, leading to a reduction in pain and discomfort. Happy stretching!
NB: Back pain is a common condition that can have a variety of causes. It is important to consult a healthcare professional if you are experiencing severe or chronic pain, as it may be a sign of an underlying condition.