For most of our lives, we take our backs for granted. But at some point in just about everyone’s life, our backs revolt and remind us that they need love and attention too. Thankfully, for many of us, the pain is only temporary. But for others, it can be much more debilitating—and much more frustrating.
In severe cases, medical attention may be necessary, but if your pain is less severe, yoga may be able to help by strengthening the back, stretching it and improving circulation to the spine and nerves. Here are some yoga postures for back pain.
Starting in tabletop position on your hands and knees, alternate between arching your back and rounding it as you push down on the floor with your hands and tops of your feet. These postures help to massage the spine, while also stretching the back and the torso. These postures are a great way to keep the back limber—and happy.
2. Spinal Twist
You have many options when it comes to twisting postures. One of the basic and effective ones is Marichyasana C. Keep your left leg straight and bend your right leg so your foot is flat. Place your right hand on the floor behind you for support, like a tripod, and twist so you can hook your left elbow over the right thigh.
If this is too much, you can also grab hold of your right knee and twist to look over your right shoulder. Other options are to bend the left leg under you or bend both legs and let them fall to the side then twist in whichever way your knees are facing.
3. Downward Dog
There’s a reason Down Dog is one of the most iconic postures in yoga. It can rejuvenate your entire body. Start in tabletop and raise your hips so your body is in an upside down V position. Relax your head and neck and draw your inner thighs toward the back of the room. Spreading your shoulder blades apart will stretch your upper back even more, and reaching your hips up and back will help to open your lower back.
Breathe for five to seven breaths.
4. Plow Pose
From Shoulder Stand, bend at your hips to bring your toes or top of your feet to the floor. Your hands can remain against your back for support, or you can clasp them together, keeping your forearms on the floor. Hold this as long as is comfortable to get a powerful stretch in your shoulders and spine. If this is too much, you can place a chair behind and you rest your feet on the chair.
5. Seated Forward Fold
It’s easy to do a Seated Forward Fold in a way that won’t benefit you, but doing it right can open the lower back and offer relief from stiffness and pain. From a seated position with your legs extended forward, reach for your shins, ankles, or feet, bending at the hips.
Instead of rounding your back, continue to reach your sternum forward, lengthening the torso. If this hurts your back, bend your knees as needed.
6. Child’s Pose
Not only is Child’s Pose an amazing way to relax, it can also stretch your entire back and your hips. Start on all fours, keep your arms forward and sit back so your butt is resting just above your heels. Hold and breathe deeply, feeling the breath reach all the way into your hips. The more you extend in either direction, the more you’ll feel relief.
7. Eagle Pose
This more advanced posture requires balance and strength, but it can help to stretch and open your entire back. From Mountain Pose, with your knees slightly bent, lift your right leg and reach your right thigh over your left. Point your foot toward the floor, and either stop here and balance with your toes on the floor, or hook your right foot behind your left calf.
For the arms, bring the right arm under the left and, with elbows bent, bring your palms together. You’ll get a powerful stretch by drawing your elbows up and hands away from your face.
8. Locust Pose
Locust is a great way to strengthen your back and buttocks. Lie on your stomach with your arms beside you, palms up, you and your forehead flat on the floor. Slowly lift your head, torso, arms, and legs away from the floor. As you do this, your thighs should be rotated in slightly and you want to feel your body elongate from head to toe. Hold this for 30 seconds to a minute.
If you’re up for it, relax and repeat two to three times.
9. Bow Pose
Lying face down, reach your hands toward your ankles and grab hold one at a time. Slowly lift your chest and thighs away from the floor by drawing your chest forward and the back of your thighs toward the sky. This posture is a wonderful way to strengthen the back muscles, but if you have a back injury, take this easy as it can be intense.
Back pain can be helped, and in some cases prevented, with stretching and strengthening—and Triangle Pose can do both.
Stand with your feet about three feet apart and parallel to each other. Rotate your right foot so the right heel is in line with the arch of the left foot. With your arms extended to the side, tilt at the hip to reach your right hand toward the ground, on either side of your foot. Rotate your body to the side and reach the fingers of your left hand toward the sky.
Gaze at your left hand (as long as it doesn’t hurt your neck!) and hold for five to seven breaths before switching sides.
When it comes to back pain, prevention is key to a long and pain-free life, but listening to your body is also extremely important. Don’t force any posture that could cause injury. If your pain is extreme, you may want to seek medical attention.