Best Yoga Poses for Back Pain

May 27 | The Practice | The Science |


Back pain is one of the leading causes of physical complaints in this country and around the world. Whether caused by overly assertive exercise, lifting something that's too heavy or the most common cause – years of a sedentary lifestyle sitting in cars, in front of computers and on the couch – back pain affects almost 80% of the general population.

While some types of back pain originate in the back/spine itself, back pain is often a result of imbalance or weakness in another area of the body. A weakened core, tight hips and hamstrings and poor posture can all lead to back pain. For this reason doctors and physical therapists often recommend yoga for the treatment of back pain. The practice addresses weaknesses and imbalance throughout the entire body. It is also great for building strength, increasing flexibility, reducing stress and elevating mood – all of which contribute to a happy, healthy back.

So what are the best postures for back pain? Here are SIX simple yet effective poses that relieve low back pain:


    • Cat / Cow: Fluid posture performed on the hands and knees that moves the spine in a wave-like motion from flexion (rounded or dome shaped) to extended (gentle arch). Cat / Cow warms the body, releases spinal tension and prepares the body for movement.


    • Seated Spinal Twist: Gentle spinal rotation performed in a seated position. Twisting is a safe way to re-align the vertebrae while “wringing out” (like a wet towel) internal organs and releasing toxins.


    • Triangle Pose: A spinal “triple threat” that opens the hamstrings and outer hip while lengthening and strengthening the back muscles and sides of your body. In this standing posture the triangle shape is created by the legs (slightly split) and floor.


    • Dolphin Pose: A more advanced pose that lengthens and strengthens upper back, core and shoulder muscles. In this posture the body takes on an upside down V shape, similar to downward dog, and is supported by the forearms and feet.


    • Runners Lunge (Lizard): A low, wide stance lunge that opens and elongates the hip flexors (psoas) and inner thighs muscles to relieve tension in the low back. This posture can be performed on the palms with the back knee down or, for more intensity, on the forearms with a lifted back knee.


    • Bridge Pose: A supine pose performed by floating the hips off the ground (knees bent, feet hips width apart). A precursor to backbends, this pose builds core and lower body strength while lengthening and strengthening the spine.


Regardless of whether or not you have back pain, yoga is a great way to align, strengthen and restore your spine to optimal health. All of our classes begin with gentle warm-up movements that focus on the 6 movements of the spine: forward flexion, extension, right and left rotation, and right and left side bending. These warm-up exercise open and prepare the body for movement.