Yoga for Low Back Pain

Posted on Posted in Asana, Pain Management, Self-Care

Firstly I want to note: I am NOT  a doctor. If you are having extreme pain, you need to consult your physician immediately. If you have done so and don’t like the pills suggestions they have given you, I’d recommend seeing a chiropractor. I’ve seen 2 so far and both were caring, supportive, and did a good job.

These poses should be safe for everyone, but as I said, if you have sharp or shooting pains, please see a doctor before beginning any exercise program. Also, if you have a history of herniated discs, back spasms, or surgery, please consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. (If you are postpartum and having low back pain, please see note at bottom of post.)

With that being said I’d like to list a few yoga poses that can give relief to sore or overworked muscles that may contribute to low back pain 🙂 I’d recommend doing the sequence in order so you warm up the muscles in the back before moving into more static stretching. The video below will explain the more active poses and the resting poses are pictured at the bottom with explanations. 

The sequence is as follows…

  1. Cat – Cow pelvic tilts (I forgot to mention it in the video – do at least 5 sets, up to 10)
  2. Downward Facing Dog
  3. Bridge Pose
  4. Locust Pose
  5. Seated Forward Fold
  6. Child’s Pose*
  7. Reclining Twist*                   *these poses are pictured below with explanations

Now I know there are some of you that are somewhat familiar with yoga and don’t want to take the time to watch the video. I get it, we’ve all got other stuff to do, but I highly recommend you take the 13 minutes to watch the video as I give greater explanations of those first 5 poses.

Seated Forward Fold

And for those of you who only watched through Locust and think you know about Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold), let me type out some specifics.

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The wrong way to forward fold!
  • If you have tight hamstrings, tight or shortened psoas muscles (hip flexors), most likely your SFF will look like the picture. This will in NO WAY help with low back pain. In fact, because of the hinging action happening in your spine, this will cause compression of the vertebral discs and further aggravate your discomfort.
  • Those of you with tight hamstrings or tight/weak hip flexors need to use a folded up blanket or towel under your hips to tilt the pelvis forward so the pelvis initiates the action of the FF instead of rounding the spine. The hip flexors are what brings your pelvis forward in this asana.
  • Tight hamstrings people also need to have a slight bend in the knees. This can be made more easeful by placing a folded/rolled towel or blanket under the knees, just make sure it is not too thick.
  • SFF is not about grabbing your feet, but about extension in the back body. If done correctly this asana creates length in the spine while stretching your hamstrings and perhaps the back of the knees and calves.
  • Relax here in the supported version for 30 seconds-3 minutes, depending on your body. If you feel sharp pain, please come out immediately, but slowly and with control and consult your doctor. If you are simply feeling a mild to strong stretch with mild to strong discomfort, return to the breath and try to stay with it for 5 more seconds. BREATHE. BREATHE. BREATHE.

Child’s Pose

Firstly, if you have sore/injured knees or they just don’t like to be deeply bent, this pose is probably not for you. No worries, the others will work for you just fine. Tight hip flexors might also make this asana pretty uncomfortable.

The first picture shows the unsupported child’s pose. If you have happy knees, give this one a shot. If you find it to be too difficult/straight up inaccessible, give the supported version a go.

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Balasana | Child’s Pose

In the unsupported version you bring the knees together and rest your belly on your thighs. Hands come down by your shins/feet and the shoulders round, giving in to gravity. The head rests on the mat as long as there is no discomfort or pain in the neck. If everything about this pose works for you except you have discomfort in the neck, check out the use of a block (or pillow or books!) in the next picture.

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Supported Childs Pose
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Modified Child’s Pose

These pictures show 2 supported variations of this pose. If you have picky knees, but no injuries, this might be ok for you, but you need to be the judge. With the support of the bolster(s) or pillow(s) there will be less pressure in the knees and hip joints. The block (or pillow/blanket/book[s]) under the head might make this more comfortable on the neck. Hold any version of Child’s Pose for 30 seconds to 3 minutes as long as you are comfortable.

It’s worth noting that discomfort is a part of yoga. Pain is not. The only time I believe discomfort is NOT ok is in the neck. You might find other practitioners saying otherwise, but for me the neck is so fragile and so important, there is no asana worth the risk. 

Reclining Twist 

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Supported Supine Twist | Supported Reclining Twist

This pose can be done with or without the pillow(s), but for the purposes of this post, I’m only showing the supported version, which allows for a more gentle twist. The key points of this pose are as follows…

  • Come to lie down on your back with the soles of your feet on the floor.
  • Engage the belly and lift your shins up so they are parallel with the floor.
  • Slowly and gently, using your core strength, let the legs fall over to one side. Once you reach the floor with the bottom leg, place the pillow(s) in between, under, or with one in between and one under your legs as shown.
  • Move your legs so they create a 90 degree angle with your torso or, if it feels ok in the back, move them in closer than 90 degrees. Work with it until you feel that it’s right in your body.
  • Drop the opposite shoulder down towards the floor, but don’t force it.
  • Relax in the pose for 30 seconds to 3 minutes and switch sides, MOVING SLOWLY.
  • Repeat on the second side. Noticing one side of the body is tighter than the other is totally normal. Don’t stress and don’t force. 

And that’s it! Please comment or shoot me an email (enthusiastic_yogini@yahoo.com) if you have any questions or feedback.

Namaste Friends <3

P.S. – If you are postpartum and having back pain, a lot of that pain can be attributed to weak core muscles from your pregnancy. These asanas will stretch your back and may relieve some pain, but for long term pain relief and support of your spine and organs you must strengthen your core muscles. Please feel free to get in touch if this is your case and I’d be happy to help.

2 thoughts on “Yoga for Low Back Pain

  1. Thank you for this post!! Since my practice is mostly home-based I learned a ton from the post and the video and I just had to share it!

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