Claire Grieve is a highly sought-after international yoga specialist, stretch therapist, plant-based health coach, and wellness writer. She underwent extensive yoga training with some of the world’s top yogis and has dedicated almost a decade to teaching and making yoga enjoyable and accessible to everyone. Below, she's sharing a few lengthening and stretching moves to help ease back pain sans pain-killers or a visit to the chiropractor.
Back pain is a common ailment and can be caused by so much more than an injury to your back. Sitting for long periods can cause your upper leg and hip muscles to tighten, which can pull on your back muscles. Neglecting to use your core throughout the day can put extra pressure on your lower back, forcing the lower back muscles to work double time. Even if you’re super active, overexertion can make you tired and more prone to back injury.
The following 13 yoga poses for back pain will help relieve discomfort by releasing tension throughout your whole body.
Child’s pose is the ultimate relaxation pose. Practicing this pose can help ease stress and tension throughout your entire body.
- Sit on your heels on your yoga mat with your knees wide and your toes touching.
- Lower your belly between your thighs and rest your forehead on the floor.
- Extend your arms with your palms facing down and lengthen from your hips through your fingertips.
- Breathe gently in this pose anywhere from one to five minutes.
Performing a series of gentle-flowing cat-cows will gently release the tension along your entire spine.
- Start on all fours.
- Inhale, lift your chest to the sky and arch your back.
- Exhale, pull your belly button into your spine and look back toward your feet.
- Repeat for at least five deep breaths.
Downward-facing dog will open up the backs of your legs. If these muscles are tight, they might pull on your back muscles and cause strain and pain. This pose is meant to lengthen the glutes, hamstrings, and calves and release tension from your back.
- Place your hands shoulder-distance and hip-width apart.
- Activate your arms, and draw the sit bones up and back.
- Press your heels firmly towards the ground.
- Relax your head and neck and gaze back towards your feet.
- Hold for 30 seconds to one minute.
Practicing standing-forward fold will release tension from your entire back. As you fold down, you may feel the stress melting away.
- Stand in mountain pose with both feet planted firmly on the ground, hands on your hips.
- Exhale and slowly fold forward from your hip joints, lengthening the front of your torso.
- Bend your elbows and hold onto each elbow with the opposite hand.
- Lightly sway from side to side if it feels good.
- Hold for at least one minute.
Upward-facing dog helps to stretch the lower back while allowing you to open up your upper spine and heart chakra. Practicing this pose is meant to help lengthen your entire spine.
- Start by lying flat on the floor with your hands by your chest.
- Push up until your elbows are almost straight and your hips are lifted off the ground.
- Take a deep inhale while extending your heart to the sky.
- Hold for 15-30 seconds.
Reclined Hamstring Stretch
Tight hamstrings may be a contributor to back pain. This stretch is meant to help to loosen built-up upper leg tension. This pose has also been claimed to help relieve lower back pain, sciatica, digestive problems, and menstrual discomfort.
- Start by lying flat on your back.
- Lift one leg to the sky.
- Flex the foot of the leg extended on the floor, press your thigh down and make sure not to let your hips lift.
- Press up through the heel, grab onto your big toe on the elevated leg, and draw your leg back.
- If you can’t reach your toes, a strap is a wonderful tool.
- Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat three times on each side.
Pigeon pose is meant to provide a deep stretch for your glutes and psoas muscles in order to relieve back pain and sciatica. Breathe into the areas that feel tight—each exhale will melt away tension.
- Start in downward-facing dog.
- Bring your right knee forward and place it in line with your right hand. Your shin should be parallel with the front of your mat.
- Extend your left leg back and rest your knee and top of your foot on the ground.
- Square your hips and fold forward, resting your forehead on your hands.
- Hold for two to five minutes on each side.
This gentle twist is meant to help lengthen and strengthen the muscles along your spine, removing energy blockages and leaving you feeling revitalized.
- Sit with your legs extended.
- Bend your right knee and place it close to your right sitting bone.
- Elongate your spine, put your right arm to the floor behind you, and hook the left arm over your right knee.
- Keep your straight leg pressing firmly into the ground with the foot flexed.
- On every inhale, lengthen your spine, and on every exhale, twist deeper into the pose.
- Hold 15-30 seconds. Repeat as needed on both sides.
Legs up the Wall Pose
Legs up the wall pose, also called Viparita Karani, is a rejuvenating restorative pose that will allow the tension to drain from your hips and lower back. This pose is also great for grounding tense or anxious energy.
- Lie on your back with your tush up against a wall.
- Your legs will rise up the wall creating an L-shape with your body.
- Breathe deeply and relax here for up to 10 minutes.
Happy Baby is a beautiful stretch for releasing tension in your lower back and hips.
- Lie flat on your back and begin to take deep breaths.
- Bring your knees to your chest and grab onto the outside edges of your feet with feet flexed.
- Inhale and exhale deeply, feeling more tension release each time you exhale.
- Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
Bridge pose is meant to activate your glutes and core to help support your spine and avoid lower back pain. When you clasp your hands underneath your body, this pose also serves as a lovely stretch for your neck and shoulders. For a more restorative pose, you can try resting your hips on the palms of your hand, which can help release locked tension from your hips and lower back.
- Start lying on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor.
- Lift your pelvis into the sky and clasp your hands underneath your body, opening your chest.
- Breathe deeply through your nose.
- Hold this pose for 30 seconds.
Extended Puppy Pose
Extended puppy pose is one of the best stretches for your upper back and shoulders. This pose usually feels deeply relaxing, so you can plan on really enjoying this one.
- Start kneeling on both knees.
- Bring your forehead to the ground and extend your arms out in front of you.
- This pose will feel as though you are coming into child’s pose, except in extended puppy pose, you want to leave your tush up in the air.
- Breathe and let the stretch melt away your shoulder tension.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
This one may seem a little counter-intuitive, but lower back pain might be caused by a weak core. Doing plank pose for thirty to sixty seconds every day will help you build the strength you need to take pressure out of your lower back.
- Start on hands and knees and place your forearms on the ground.
- Lift your body onto your toes so that your body is parallel to the ground. Keep your tush from lifting.
- Breathe and hold this pose for thirty to sixty seconds.
- If you start to feel pressure in your lower back, come down immediately.
Heneweer H, Staes F, Aufdemkampe G, van Rijn M, Vanhees L. Physical activity and low back pain: a systematic review of recent literature. Eur Spine J. 2011;20(6):826-845. doi:10.1007/s00586-010-1680-7