Yoga for Back Pain: 8 Effective (and Easy) Poses

Medically reviewed by Michael Soares,
2020-04-15

If you are among the millions of Americans who struggle with back pain on a daily basis, you may find relief practicing yoga

Yoga is a mind-body therapy that has been practiced in complementary medicine for centuries, with origins dating over 5,000 years ago in Northern India.  

Yoga helps to increase flexibility and strengthens the muscles. The practice can also help relieve tension and stress. Yoga poses can always be modified, making them safe for most age groups or those with disabilities. 

Yoga as a Back Pain Treatment

An article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2017 studied 320 patients who had chronic back pain over three months.

One group attended physical therapy, the second group attended yoga, and the third group received educational materials on low back pain. 

Although they all saw improvements in their condition after 12 weeks, those who attended physical therapy or yoga were less likely to take pain medication after three months. These findings suggest that yoga is a good alternative treatment for back pain.  

Try these 8 poses below (some with videos) to see if yoga might be a fit for you.

1. Cat-Cow

One of the first poses in most yoga sequences, cat-cow awakens your spine and the muscles in your back. 

Try it: 

  1. Start on your hands and knees.

  2. Place wrists underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips.

  3. Press into the floor with your knees and palms.

  4. Keep your neck and back in a neutral position.

  5. You are now in what’s known as a tabletop position in yoga.

  6. Next, inhale as you lift your head up and let your abdomen (belly) drop down toward the floor.

  7. Exhale as you tuck your chin into your chest, draw your navel toward your spine, and move your tailbone toward the ceiling.

  8. Maintain focus on your body as you go through the motions.

  9. Notice if you are holding any tension.

  10. Continue this fluid movement for at least one minute. 

2. Child's Pose (Balasana)

It may look like you're resting, but child's pose is beneficial in other ways. It stretches your upper body while helping you to relax and clear your mind. The first part of the video shows the child's pose.

Try it:

  1. Start on all fours and reach your arms out in front of you.

  2. Sit back on your glutes or buttocks.

  3. Rest above, but not touching, your heels.

  4. Breathe and hold the position for 10-30 seconds.

3. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

This traditional, restorative pose lengthens your spine while strengthening your arms, legs, and core muscles.

Try it: 

  1. Start in a tabletop position (see Cat-Cow pose). 

  2. Press into your hands and feet firmly into the ground.

  3. Raise your hips and glutes towards the ceiling.

  4. Make sure your feet are hip-width apart.

  5. Keep your body weight evenly distributed between your arms and legs.

  6. Hold the position for 20-30 seconds, remaining mindful of your breath.

4. Locust Pose (Salabhasana)

Locust pose is great for beginners who want to improve overall back flexibility.

Try it:

  1. Lay on your belly (abdomen) and place your hands alongside your body, palms faced down.

  2. Turn your big toes towards one another and keep your glutes engaged.

  3. Exhale and lift your head, upper body, and legs away from the floor.

  4. Reach strongly through your legs.

  5. Raise your arms parallel to the floor. Keep your upper arms (triceps muscles) engaged and close to your body. 

  6. Lower and repeat two to three times. 

 

5. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

Bridge pose helps improve spine mobility while working your legs, glutes, and low back. 

Try it: 

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.

  2. Place your arms on the floor, angled away from your body.

  3. Press your feet and hands firmly into the ground.

  4. Inhale and lift your spine off the floor. Take your time.

  5. Slowly lower back down.

  6. Repeat 5-10 times.

6. Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)

The extended triangle pose helps open your chest, shoulders, and abdomen region. It helps you gain flexibility in your lower back, which may help in easing tense muscles. 

Try it:

  1. Come into Warrior II, left leg in front.

  2. Straighten the left leg. Keep a soft bend in the knee to prevent hyperextension.

  3. Lower the left hand to touch your left thigh, shin, or the floor if you are able.

  4. Reach the right fingertips up towards the sky, and turn your head in the same direction. If that is too uncomfortable, keep your head in a more neutral position.

  5. Hold for at least five breaths, and switch sides. 

7. Crescent Moon Pose

Crescent moon pose stretches your side (oblique) muscles, hips, and lower back.  

Try it: 

  1. Stand with your feet together.

  2. Interlace your fingers.

  3. With the palms facing outward, reach your arms up to the sky.

  4. Slowly start to bend to one side.

  5. Make sure to not push your chest outward and keep your core muscles engaged.

  6. Keep your opposite foot grounded while you hold for up to one minute.

  7. You should feel a huge stretch on the opposite side from which you are bending.

 

8. Upward facing dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

Upward facing dog is a backbend position. It engages the lower body and stretches the back.

Try it: 

  1. Lie down on your belly (abdomen).

  2. Place your hands near your shoulders

  3. Place your toes on the ground with your heels raised.

  4. Engage your triceps and straighten your arms in front of you.

  5. Using the strength of your back, lift your chest, head, and neck.

  6. Keep your head and neck in a neutral position.

  7. Press the top of both feet into the ground.

  8. Breathe and hold the position for 5-10 seconds.

When you have back pain, the right treatment, like yoga and over-the-counter medicines, can help you feel better. 

At Goodpath, we’re here to help. Our team of medical experts can build a plan that is right for you.

Take our back pain quiz to get started today.