It’s very common for us to experience some sort of mild back pain during our life. The most common type of back pain is in the lower back (lumbago), but we can also experience reoccurring mid and/or upper back pain.
Research has shown that yoga can be an effective complementary therapy for treating your back pain. Resulting in many health care professionals recommending yoga as a tool to relieve back pain and speed up recovery.
If you or someone that you know is suffering from back pain and have been recommend by your doctor or physiotherapist to try yoga it can be difficult to know which yoga poses will help relieve your back pain and which might make it worse.
In this blog we’ll be exploring seven simple yoga poses that can help relieve back pain. Giving guidance on how you can approach these yoga poses with an injury or recovering from one.
Remember that if you do have intense or sharp pain in your back, it’s always recommended to first seek the advice of your doctor before starting or continuing with a physical yoga practice.
As well as keeping in mind that there are many different types and causes of back pain. For example, if you have lower back pain and sciatica the yoga poses that feel comforting to your back will likely be different to those suffering from upper back and neck pain.
Therefore, make sure you listen to your body and move slowly in and out of these yoga poses to ensure that they don’t aggravate your back pain. If in doubt, its best to seek the advice of a physical therapist or have some private yoga classes where you can get direct feedback on what you’re doing, what causes you pain, and advice on how to relieve this.
Gentle Yoga Sequence for Back Pain
When starting to practice yoga as a way to help your back pain, the best advice is to begin slow and gentle with a big focus on your breathing. Begin with doing a short practice with a few yoga poses and observe how your back pain feels before, during, and after your yoga practice.
If you have no or reduced pain during or after practice, this is a great sign that the yoga practice was helpful. You can then try repeating it again for the same amount of time or build up to a slightly longer practice.
These simple seven yoga poses can be practiced together as a 15-minute gentle yoga practice for back pain or as individual yoga poses. You can find more guidance in my YouTube video tutorial and in the rest of this blog post.
(1) Child’s Pose | Balasana
The Child’s Pose, Balasana allows the spine to gently round and slowly stretch the entire back of your body. It can help reset and discomfort you might have in your back from sitting for long periods of time.
Bring your knees a little apart and big toes to touch. Slowly sink the weight of your hips back towards your heels, while keeping your spine long and arms outstretched. By allowing your forehead to rest on the ground or a support like a cushion, you can find a sense of heaviness and ease in the pose.
Depending on the nature of your back pain you can experiment to see if your back pain feels more relieved when the knees are closer together or when knees are wider apart.
Keep your awareness on breathing slowly in and out through your nose. And see if you can notice how your back feels in the posture. Adjusting or coming out of the pose as needed and building up gradually the amount of time you stay in the posture.
(2) Cat Cow Pose | Marjaryasana
Gently moving your spine in the fluid movements of the Cat Cow Pose, Marjaryasana can help improve flexibility, relieve spinal tension, and build core strength.
Come to your hands and knees, ensuring your knees are under your hips and hands are under your shoulders. On your inhale allow your back to arch, opening your shoulders, lifting up through your chest, and keeping your belly firm. And then on your exhale round your back, draw your belly in and tuck your chin down towards your chest.
You can start with making these movements quite small and slow to get direct feedback on how this feels for your back. Repeat for 3-5 rounds while focusing on linking each movement with your breath.
(3) Revolved Child’s Pose | Parivritta Balasana
The Revolved Child’s Pose, Parivritta Balasana involves a twist through your upper back and shoulders that can feel relieving for back pain. Make sure you move into this twist in a controlled way to avoid aggravating your back.
Begin on your hands and knees, and then reach your right arm under your left. You can start by bringing your right forearm on the ground. If that feels comfortable, drop your right shoulder and ear down and bring your right arm through to the left.
When you’re ready to come out of the pose, press back into your left hand and use the next inhale to come all the way up. Exhale lower your right hand back to the ground, and repeat on the left side.
(4) Bound Angle Pose | Baddha Konasana
Sometimes back pain can be caused by tightness in hips— particularly if you spend a lot of your day sitting, walking, running or cycling. Therefore, the hip opener Bound Angle Pose, Baddha Konasana might be helpful to relieve back pain.
Come to a seated position, bringing your feet together and knees opening out to the side. If your hips feel tight and it’s hard to sit up straight try sitting up on a block or cushion. If this is uncomfortable for your back you could also try sitting with your back resting against a wall.
Start by sitting up tall through your spine and particularly lengthening out of your lower back. After a few breaths you could experiment with leaning a little forward with your upper body. But only leaning forward if that feels ok for your back.
When you’re new to this posture you can stay here for 5 – 10 breaths. And then gradually build up to staying here longer as feels comfortable.
(5) Seated Spinal Twist Pose | Ardha Matsyandrasana
The Seated Spinal Twist Pose, Ardha Matsendrasana allows you to twist your spine while having your sitting bones resting on the ground.
Find a seated position with your legs out in front of you. Bend your right knee and step your right foot over your left leg. Use your inhale to lengthen through your spine and lift your left arm up. And then on your exhale, wrap your left hand or arm around your right knee and place your right fingertips on the floor behind your hips.
Keep using each inhale to lift up through your spine, and using each exhale to gently twist to the right. Staying for around five deep and steady breaths.
(6) Knees-to-Chest Pose | Apanasana
Knees-to-Chest Pose, Apanasana can be used to let all the muscles in your spine stretch and relax.
Lie down on your back, hug your knees into your chest and rest your hands on your knees. To help massage your lower back you can start to make small movements with your knees. Maybe rocking the knees from side-to-side or making slow circles with the knees and hips.
Keep your breath moving slowly in and out of your nose as you continue to make small movements. Staying here for 5 – 10 breaths.
(7) Corpse Pose | Savasana Variation
This Corpse Pose, Savasana Variation with the knees together and feet apart allows the lower back to feel more supported. It’s a particularly useful alternative of Savasana to try when you have back pain that doesn’t allow you to lie comfortably on your back with your legs outstretched.
Lie on your back and bend your knees. Place the soles of the feet on the floor, with your feet a little wider than your hips and allow your knees to drop in towards each other. Your knees want to be able to rest against each other without having to use any effort to hold them in place.
Soften around your belly and feel your lower back dropping down towards the ground.
Close the eyes and focus on relaxing your body and watching your breath. You can stay here anywhere between ten breaths to ten minutes.
Other Tips for Using Yoga to Ease Back Pain
Slow breathing, mindfulness and relaxation can help release stress and tension from your body. Helping you be in a better place in order to deal with the pain and worries that come along with back pain.
As well as looking for ways to relieve symptoms of back pain, it’s also helpful if you know how to prevent back pain coming back in the future. It might sound obvious, but it’s much easier to prevent reoccurring back pain when you understand the cause of your back pain.
If you have weak or tight back muscles due to spending long periods sitting you can try to be more active. Choosing to practice yoga to strengthen your back and core muscles, as well as improving your posture.
While if you feel stressed you can try to take more breaks throughout your work day and use breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques for relaxation.
Another thing to observe is your posture throughout your day. Notice if you are well set up when working behind a laptop, sitting and watching TV, or when you are using your phone. Also take care when doing other activities in your day. Especially those that involve heavy lifting or moving in unusual ways.
If you found these yoga poses therapeutic for relieving your back pain I really encourage you to keep up with a regular yoga practice after your back pain has gone away. So that you can also use yoga as a preventative practice.
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