10 Best Yoga Exercises For Lower Back Pain
Even the best of intentions are no match for back pain. Whether you’re nursing a pulled muscle, recovering from a fracture or suffering from a chronic condition like osteoarthritis, the symptoms can make it a struggle to do something as simple as tying your shoes or driving a car- not to mention hitting the gym or hiking your favorite trail.
If back pain is limiting your daily activities, you’re not alone. According to the American Chiropractic Association, 31 million Americans are likely experiencing it at any given time. Studies have also found that lower back pain is the second most common cause of disability.
What’s Causing All of the Back Pain?
The better question might be, what’s not causing it? There are virtually countless triggers for discomfort and stiffness in the back and spine, including:
Medical conditions: Back pain is often a side effect of a chronic condition, such as arthritis, osteoarthritis, scoliosis, fibromyalgia, spondylolisthesis or back tumors.
Mechanical problems: Spine-related issues – such as a slipped or bulging disc, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis or a pinched nerve – can result in debilitating back pain.
Accident-related injuries: These are the cases when you can pinpoint a specific incident that caused your back pain, such as a fall, car accident, gym mishap or sports injury. Accidents may result in muscle sprains, torn tendons, injured ligaments, spinal fractures and/or muscle spasms.
Unhealthy lifestyles: Back pain can sometimes be a byproduct of poor lifestyle choices, including lack of exercise, a smoking habit, bad posture or obesity. Stress can also trigger or exacerbate back pain.
Staying Active with Back Pain
Have you ever noticed that after sitting for an extended period of time, an ailment hurts even more when you start moving again? While it may seem like the best prescription for back pain is rest, too much inactivity can actually worsen the condition. Careful and controlled exercise is one of the best ways to repair spinal damage and reduce inflammation.
It’s tough enough to muster the motivation to move even when you’re pain-free – but when you’re wracked with back pain, how are you supposed to keep up with your workouts? If your regular fitness routine involves lifting heavy weights, pounding the pavement or swinging kettlebells or battle ropes, some modifications may be in order.
When strenuous exercise isn’t an option, yoga provides a safe, low-impact way to soothe, stretch and strengthen your muscles while also promoting improved circulation to your spine. Of course, you should always see a doctor to diagnose and treat severe back injuries, but for more mild cases, try hitting the mat for some pain-relieving poses.
Yoga Poses to Banish Back Pain
#1 – Cat-to-Cow Pose
Starting from tabletop pose with your hands and knees hip distance apart, arch your back as you press your hands and feet into the mat while letting your head hang down. To move into cow pose, push your stomach toward the floor as your head and chest lift toward the sky. Both poses help to keep back muscles loose and limber, while also promoting spine health.
#2 – Standing Forward Bend
It may look simple, but this basic pose is a great way to relieve pain and loosen up stiff muscles. Starting from a standing position, slowly bend down along the length of your legs, letting your head hang. To deepen the stretch, reach around the back of your calves and pull your torso closer to your thighs.
#3 – Child’s Pose
There’s a reason this is one of the most popular poses. It’s not only extremely relaxing, but it’s also an amazing way to stretch out the entire back while aligning the spine. Starting from tabletop pose, reach forward with your arms, press your forehead to the mat and bring the hips back so your glutes are resting on your heels.
#4 – Locust Pose
Start by lying on your belly with your forehead resting on the mat and your arms stretched straight at your sides. Raise your head, torso, arms and legs off the mat, while clasping your hands together behind your back. Focus on lengthening the body while holding the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds. This pose helps to stretch and strengthen the muscles along the sides of the back.
#5 – Downward Dog
This classic yoga pose is effective in stretching both the upper back, lower back and spine. Starting from tabletop pose, lift your hips toward the sky to form an upside-down V. Press your weight back onto your heels and spread out your shoulder blades while letting your head dangle downward.
#6 – Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose
Although this is primarily a hamstring stretch, it also helps to loosen and release the back muscles. Lying on your back with arms at your sides and legs straight, bend your right knee and hug your leg into your chest. Using a yoga strap, towel or belt, wrap it around your right foot and slowly straighten your knee, pushing your heel toward the sky.
Point your right big toe while gently pulling downward on the strap. Concentrate on pressing your lower back into the mat. Hold for one to three minutes for each leg.
#7 – Plow Pose
Lying on your back with your arms at your sides, raise your legs—while keeping them straight—and then slowly bring them up and over your head, assisting with your hands as necessary. Hold this spine-stretching pose for a few beats before gently lowering the legs back to the starting position and rolling onto your back.
#8 – Supine Twist
This relaxing pose is great for releasing the lower back, stretching out the spine and keeping spinal discs hydrated. Start by lying on your back with knees bent and arms resting at your sides.
Hug both knees to your chest and then straighten your left leg. Stretch out your right arm out to the side at shoulder height. Slowly let your right knee fall over to the left side of your body, while gently pressing the outside of your right knee with your left hand. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
#9 – Legs up the Wall
This pose relaxes the lower back muscles. Scoot in close to a wall, lie on your back and rest your feet up against the wall. Your distance to the wall will depend on your height and the desired intensity of the stretch. For added support, you can place a folded towel or blanket beneath your lower back. Hold the pose for five minutes or more.
#10 – Cobra Pose
Stretch and strengthen the spine with this classic feel-good pose. Lying face down on your mat, place your hands beneath your shoulders and gently raise your chest and torso.
Concentrate on pressing your pelvis into the mat and tucking your elbows into your sides. Avoid scrunching your shoulders; draw them down away from your neck. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute before releasing back down onto the mat.
Back pain doesn’t have to confine you to the couch. By incorporating some of these gentle yet effective poses, you can nourish your aching back and accelerate the healing process. It’s always a good idea to get the green light from your doctor before starting a yoga practice for back health.