Let’s talk about one of the most common reasons people visit the doctor’s office: lower back pain. Did you know that about 80% of adults have struggled with lower back pain at some point in their life whether it be from an injury or just simply sitting too long? Crazy, I know.
A few months ago, while I was taking a yoga class, I received a hands-on assist from another teacher that did not settle well with my body. Shortly after I left the class I knew something went wrong as pain radiated in my low back. Eventually the pain began to spread into my hips and radiate down my legs and let me tell ya Shakira wasn’t kidding when she said, “HIPS DON’T LIE!”
The healing journey has not been an easy or a quick one. I’ve tried it all from chiropractic adjustments, massages, cupping and acupuncture to all-natural medicines and yoga. The one thing that I have found to be most effective with managing my low back pain is being consistent in my yoga practice. The more I get on my mat and do mindful and restorative stretching the more relief I feel from the tightness and aches that radiate from my lumbar spine all the way down into my legs and hips.
As a yoga instructor and someone who suffers from chronic back pain, I want to help you to heal your low back injury and better manage pain. Below I am sharing and breaking down step-by-step 6 yoga poses to help relieve your lower back pain. Whether you are a newbie to yoga or a seasoned practitioner, these 6 yoga poses are gentle and accessible to all! And remember, consistency is key so I recommend doing these poses or at least 4-5 days a week!
6 Yoga Poses to Help Relieve
Your Lower Back Pain
- Child’s Pose -
One of my favorite all-time yoga poses! Child’s pose not only lengthens your spine giving your low back a nice stretch, it can also help to open your shoulders and hips. This pose is very well-known for being a “resting” pose in the yoga practice which is very telling to why it’s great for low back pain. To be honest, sometimes when I just need a break in my day I sit in child’s pose and take a few moments to relax and regroup. Try it sometime!
1. Begin on your hands and knees then bring your big toes together to touch and spread your knees wide. **Note – those with tighter hips keep your knees together
2. Rest your buttocks onto your heels and sit up tall lengthening your spine through the crown of your head.
3. Gently start to crawl your fingertips forward to drape your torso between your thighs (or on top depending your leg position).
4. Allow your forehead to come down to the mat and extend your arms long and front of you.
5. Spread your fingers wide and press slightly back with your hands to keep your buttocks in contact with your heels.
6. Continue to lengthen from your hips to your armpits and out through your fingertips.
7. Begin to soften and relax your lower back and shoulders as you tune into your breath.
Hold for 25 breaths.
- Cat + Cow Pose -
The simple movement of cat-cowing your spine is a great way to increase flexibility and range of motion in your spine. Whether you’re sitting for an extended period or feeling achy in your back for other reasons a few rounds of these poses can really help.
1. Start in a table top position and check in with your alignment making sure that your hands are directly under your shoulders with fingers spread wide and your knees are aligned directly under your hips.
2. As you inhale drop your belly, pull your shoulder blades together, and turn your gaze up towards the sky for cow pose.
3. Then as you exhale, press into your hands to round your spine, puff up your upper back, and tuck your chin into your chest for cat pose.
**Inhale – Cow // Exhale – Cat
- Downward Facing Dog Pose -
I am sure you’ve heard of the pose Downward Facing Dog mentioned a time or two. This pose is great for both flexibility and strength. While Downward Facing Dog lengthens your spine, it also works to strengthen your shoulder girdle and lower back. But this pose isn’t just beneficial for the lower back, its also known to decrease tension and headaches by elongating the cervical spine and releasing the head. Not to mention how it also stretches your hammies!
1. Begin in a table top position with your hands directly under your shoulders and fingers spread wide with your middle finger pointing forward.
2. Pull your belly into your spine engaging your core then start to tuck your toes and with bent knees begin to lift your hips toward the sky.
3. Keeping your arms straight but not locked begin to press your chest towards your thighs as you reach you hips higher extending your legs. Continue to lift through your tailbone to create more length in your spine.
4. Now, check in with your feet and make sure they are hip with distance apart and heels are pressing towards the ground as you feel the stretch in the backs of your legs. The legs can be straight or if you’re tighter in your hamstrings or rounding in your spine keep a slight bend in your knees.
5. Allow your neck to release and head to be heavy.
Hold for 10 breaths.
If you want to learn more about Downward Facing Dog, check out my video Foundations of Yoga: Downward Facing Dog.
- Bridge + Supported Bridge Pose -
Recently, Bridge Pose has become one of my favorite poses especially supported bridge. I could hang out there all day long. Not only is it my new favorite, I have found this to be one of the most beneficial poses for my low back pain. Bridge pose is known for stretching the spine and eliminating pressure off the lumbar spine all while strengthening the muscles surrounding the area. Aside from being a great pose for the lower back, Bridge pose is known to reduce anxiety and fatigue, improve digestion, strengthen core, and improve blood circulation. It also stretches your neck, spine, thigh and hip flexor muscles! Pretty powerful pose, huh?
1. Begin lying on your back. Bend your knees to bring your feet onto the mat with your heels as close to your sitting bones as possible and feet hip width distance apart. Arms can rest down by your sides with your fingers spread wide.
2. As you inhale, press into your hands and feet to draw your tailbone toward your pubic bone, holding your buttocks off the floor.
3. Roll your shoulders back and underneath your body. You have the option to clasp your hands and extend your arms along the floor beneath your pelvis. Keep your arms as straight as possible while pressing your forearms into the mat. Reach your knuckles toward your heels.
4. Make sure to keep your thighs and feet parallel and do not roll to the outer edges of your feet or let your knees drop together.
5. Press your weight evenly across all four corners of both feet. Lengthen your tailbone toward the backs of your knees.
Hold for 25 breaths.
- Reclined Pigeon Pose -
Most of the time low back pain doesn’t just stop there, like I mentioned above it can radiate down into your legs and hips depending on the injury and severity. In fact, one of the most common symptoms of a lower back injury is sciatic pain. Reclined Pigeon is a great pose to help relieve these symptoms and can be extremely beneficial for low back injuries. This pose works to open the hip joints while lengthening hip flexors and stretching your low back. And fun fact: we hold a lot of emotions and stress in our hips and Reclined Pigeon pose can help to release this physical and emotional tension!
1. Begin on your back with both knees hugged in towards your chest.
2. Cross your right ankle over your left thigh bringing your legs into a figure-4 shape and interlace both hands behind your left thigh.
3. Use your right elbow to coax open your right thigh to get a deeper stretch.
Repeat on both sides.
Hold for 10 breaths.
- Seated Spinal Twist + Reclined Spinal Twist Pose -
Twist can be extremely beneficial for the spine, but they must be done mindfully and properly. Always try to make sure that your pelvis is properly aligned when coming into any twist. Some of the great benefit of twist are that they help to hydrate your cervical disc, it lengthens, relaxes and realigns the spine, and improve digestion by rinsing out your internal organs. HELLO DETOX. There are two variations of spinal twist that I like to do for lower back pain and will explain them below.
Easy Seated Spinal Twist
1. Begin sitting up tall with a straight spine and both legs extended in front of you.
2. Cross your right foot to the outside of your left thigh and then bending your knee bring your left foot back to your right hip.
3. Place your right fingertips behind you (without crushing your fingers!) and hug your left knee into your chest.
4. As you inhale sit up tall and as you exhale twist to the right from the base of your spine.
Reclined Spinal Twist
1. Begin lying on your back and hug your knees tightly into your chest.
2. Gently allow your legs to the right, twisting at the base of your spine.
3. Extend your left arm out to the side and turn your head to look over your left shoulder.
Hold for 8 breaths each side.
I hope these poses are as helpful to you on your healing journey as they have been for me. If you have any yoga poses that you find beneficial for the lower back, I would love to hear them in the comment section!