If you have occasional or chronic pain in your lower back, you’re not alone. Back pain is a prevalent complaint, especially in people who lead less active lifestyles. Having a job where you sit most of the day exacerbates the problem. Taking the time to establish a regular yoga practice can help calm the mind and stretch and strengthen the body, including the lower back.
The lower back is defined as the five lumbar vertebrae, which makes up the spine’s curve just above the sacrum. Pain can originate from several interdependent anatomical sources, including the soft discs between each vertebra, the surrounding nerves, and the supporting muscles and ligaments.
Yoga can help alleviate discomfort by building strength in weak areas and stretching out tight areas. A regular yoga practice, which includes many different types of movements that involve the spine, is an excellent way to maintain spinal health over time. To prevent further injury or pain during yoga, people need to practice these positions slowly and gently. Making sudden movements or forceful twisting may overstretch or strain the muscles.
The following 5 poses include spinal extension and flexion postures for lower back pain and how to do them.
Child’s Pose is both a resting position and an active stretch. It is a core position in many yoga practices and may help reduce back pain and tension.
- Start on all fours, with the legs together.
- Now, move the hands forward, so that the arms fully extend.
- Sink the body back, so that the butt sits gently on the heels.
- Place the forehead to the ground.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds to 5 minutes.
Downward-Facing Dog is a popular pose in almost every style of yoga. This position may be especially helpful for people with lower back pain and sciatica, as it helps gently stretch the muscles in the back of the leg.
- Start in an all-fours position, with the knees under the hips, and the hands aligned with the wrists and shoulders.
- Push the weight into the hands and bring the body up off the knees.
- Bring the tailbone up toward the ceiling. The shoulders should naturally move back as the spine and legs lengthen. Keep a gentle bend in the knee, and feel the tailbone rising to the ceiling.
- Keep the heels slightly off the ground first, easing them back as the position gets more comfortable. Press into the hands and arms to feel the stretch in the lower back and legs.
- Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
Cat-Cow pose helps to bring movement to the spine and muscles of the back and shoulders. It also stretches the neck and chest.
- Sit on all fours, with the wrists lined up beneath the shoulders and the knees lined up underneath the hips. Keep the back straight yet relaxed.
- With each inhale, keep arms and legs straight and lookup with the head, letting the stomach gently push toward the floor.
- With each exhale, bring the head down and tuck the chin into the chest. Pull the navel in toward the spine and let the back arch high toward the ceiling.
- Continue with these gentle motions for at least 1 minute. Notice anywhere there is tension in the body, and try to release it and relax the area.
Sphinx Pose is a gentle way to extend the back and activate muscles along the spine. This may help ease tension throughout the back and is good for most beginners.
- Start by lying face down. Keep the feet in line with the hips, placing the tops of the feet on the floor.
- Bring the elbows under the shoulders, with the palms of the hands facing down on the mat.
- Use the hands, forearms, and elbows to lift the trunk up off the mat gently. Push into the floor with the forearms and hands, while gently pulling the chest forward.
- Try to raise the top of the head to the ceiling. Protect and strengthen the lower back by pressing the pelvic triangle into the mat and lengthening the tailbone. The extension in the back should be gentle but cause a noticeable stretch and activation in the spine and muscles along the spine.
- Hold the pose for 1 minute.
Bridge Pose is a back-bending exercise that both works out and stretches the spine, hips, and hamstrings.
- Lie on the back with the arms at the sides and the palms of the hands on the mat.
- Bend the knees and bring the heels to sit near the buttocks, with the feet flat on the floor.
- Press into the feet and arms, lifting the tailbone off the floor toward the ceiling. Lift until the thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
- Slowly release the body back to the ground, from the torso down to the tailbone.
- Alternatively, hold this position for 5-10 seconds, then gently lower back to the ground. Repeat the pose ten times as an effective workout.
Regularly practicing gentle yoga stretches safely and correctly may help reduce or prevent lower back pain.
That said, simply doing a few yoga poses each day will typically not be enough to treat back pain in the long term.
Yoga poses may help in addition to other lifestyle changes for improving back pain, such as getting regular exercise and maintaining a moderate weight.