The Best Yoga Poses for Back Pain

If you are suffering from back pain, you are not alone. Back pain is a common concern for millions of people, especially those with desk jobs and sedentary lifestyles. Prolonged static sitting during working hours often leads to discomfort, prompting us to find a more comfortable position to alleviate back muscle soreness. To increase the endurance of your back muscles and alleviate tightness, incorporating exercises is essential. Gentle and mindful yoga, in particular, can provide relief for many sufferers. But how exactly can yoga be beneficial?

How does yoga help relieve back pain?

Yoga emphasizes precise structural alignment, promoting optimal performance of the body. By cultivating awareness of body movements through consistent practice, one becomes attuned to habitual patterns and identifies opportunities for improvement to mitigate the risk of potential discomfort or pain.

Yoga benefits for back pain

According to Harvard Medical School, yoga can be beneficial to the muscles that support the back and spine. Specifically, it targets:

  • Paraspinal muscles. Which help bend, extend, and rotate your spine.
  • Multifidus muscles. Which stabilize your vertebrae (bones that make up the spine).
  • Transverse abdominis. Which stabilize and support your trunk.

There are yoga poses that specifically target these areas, and performing them regularly can contribute to a reduction in back pain. It’s important to remember that as you begin a journey with yoga for back pain, you must do so under the guided supervision of a trained professional. Always go slow to reduce the risk of further injury or discomfort.

Yoga for mental and emotional health

Although a static sitting position is one of the most common causes of back pain, many other components are tightly related.

For instance, the biopsychosocial component is crucial in spine health, which consists of biological, psychological, and social factors. Emotional and psychological factors — anxiety, depression, pain-related fear behaviors — lead to poor prognosis of back pain.

Research indicates that yoga can help balance sympathetic and parasympathetic systems and create new neuro-tags to reframe past fears and feelings. An overview of systematic reviews has shown that yoga can decrease anxiety and improve self-efficacy and pain acceptance.

What are good beginner yoga poses for back pain?

If you have any existing health conditions, acute back pain, or other pathologies in the spine, before starting yoga stretches for back pain, consult with your doctor and make sure these positions are safe for you.

1. Downward-facing dog

Downward-facing-dog

To get into this posture, begin in a tabletop position on all fours. Tuck your toes under and push yourself up and back, directing your hips to the ceiling. Your body should form the shape of an upside-down ‘V’.

This is a great full-body posture that stretches all the muscles in the back body. It also helps relieve tightness in the back of the hips and lower back.

2. Standing forward fold

Woman doing standing forward fold

To get into this posture, stand with your feet hip distance apart and gradually fold forward, allowing the head to be heavy and pointing toward the ground. Don’t worry if your hands don’t come to the floor; that will happen with enough time and practice. Make sure your knees are soft and not locked.

This pose is particularly good if you spend a long time sitting at a desk. It utilizes gravity to allow the spine to lengthen and the surrounding muscles to stretch. You could even do this pose once every hour or so as a break from sitting down.

Precautions. Try to be gentle while doing this exercise. If you have any acute pathologies in your spine, skip this exercise as it can worsen the situation.

3. Cat/cow pose

woman doing Cat/cow pose

This pose uses movement to explore the range of motion in the spine. Begin on all fours in a tabletop position with a neutral flat spine. Inhale and as your belly fills, move into cow pose, lifting your tailbone to the sky. You can look upward, being mindful not to strain your neck. As you exhale, draw the belly in and arch the spine upward, creating a curve — cat pose. Repeat this sequence for a minute or two, synchronizing breath and movement.

Cat/cow is excellent for spine mobility and health. The pose releases tension, and the coordination of breath and movement relaxes the nervous system.

4. Plank pose

woman doing planking pose

Your back is closely linked with your core, and the plank pose is incredible for strengthening the core muscles that support the spine. This pose is also great for stabilizing the shoulder blades, which is very important for thoracic spine and shoulder strength.

To move into plank posture, begin in a tabletop position and move your legs out behind you so that your body is parallel to the floor. Draw your belly up and in, feeling the muscles tense as you gaze down between your hands. Take long, slow breaths in and out through the nose.

Precautions. If you are new to yoga, try to do this exercise on your fours by lowering the pelvis down and extending the hips to get the plank position from your knees. Try to maintain stabilized shoulder blades so that they do not look like wings but are nested close to the ribs. To progress, stand on your fours, lift your knees, and stay in this position for a few seconds.

5. Seated spinal twist

Woman doing Seated spinal twist

Twists are great for releasing the spine, stretching the muscles that support it, and improving flexibility. To move into a seated spinal twist, begin with your legs in front of you. Bend the right leg and cross it over the left leg, with your right foot planting into the floor. Twist your body to the right, crossing the left arm across the bent right knee to increase the stretch. Take a few deep breaths, release the posture, and move to the other side.

Simple yoga postures, effective relief

Although these poses are simple, they are incredibly effective for alleviating back pain. When practiced daily, you could notice an improvement in a matter of days or weeks. Make sure you go slowly and gently, don’t push your body to do more, just allow the release to happen mindfully. Remember to breathe deeply and give your body time to relax into each posture.

You don’t have to suffer from back pain and sore muscles. Try incorporating these poses into a daily routine; soon enough, the tightness and aching will begin to subside. However, if you have existing health issues and feel uncomfortable when doing these exercises, consult with a healthcare professional to adjust the individual exercise plan.

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