Yoga for Lower Back Pain

Your back is a well-designed body part that is made up of muscles, nerves, bones, and soft body tissues. It is a vital part of the human body as the bones of the back act as a supporting frame for the rest of the body. The muscles in the back work with abs to keep the body mobile and upright.

Common symptoms of back pain might include stiffness, pain, spasms, numbness, and in some cases pain in the legs. Back pain is one the most common health complaints. However, if you are experiencing back pain you don’t have to fall into despair. There are many methods and medication available that are able to give you effective relief.  One of the most popular unconventional back pain treatments is yoga.

For a very long time, sufficient rest and painkillers have been the main treatment for chronic back pain.

Almost 20% of all those people who undergo surgery for lower back pain will get no relief. The remaining 80% will have continue to have problems alternating from mild to severe.

Many medical research suggest that yoga is one of the most effective treatments for chronic pain. Yoga has gone from a spiritual practice into a mainstream exercise routine that is taught in gyms and yoga studios everywhere around the world.

Best yoga poses for back pain

More than just back pain relief, many medical studies also show that yoga helps strengthen ligaments and bones. It can help reduce stress and support moments of relaxation. Yoga is great for improving flexibility, building strength, and reducing joint and muscle pain.

Other benefits of yoga include:

  • Increased muscle strength, stamina and endurance
  • Develops the core muscles
  • Releases physical tension and relieves stress
  • Helps maintain a proper posture

Not all forms of yoga are suitable for back pain relief. If your back is injured or very painful, practice only slow-paced and gentle stretches and poses. Some of the poses or stretches may increase the pain and lead to serious injuries.

A type of yoga called Viniyoga is adapted from hatha yoga. Viniyoga emphasizes on deep breathing and slow stretches. Another yoga style – Iyengar yoga is focused on accurate alignment of the body. Students use different props like blocks, blankets, and straps to aid with the poses. Iyengar yoga works best with people who have low mobility and need additional support.

People with back pain who want to participate in physical activities like yoga, should consult their doctors or other health professionals before beginning a yoga class. Previous injuries to the wrist, back, or ankles may prevent some individuals from practicing certain poses and stretches.

Yoga should be always practiced with caution. Individuals have reported injuries that were attained by attempting difficult yoga poses without working on them gradually or without proper focus.

Beginners might experience muscle soreness or fatigue after yoga exercises. These feelings usually disappear with further practice. Yoga is an excellent way to strengthen your body and improve health.

Nonetheless, as effective as yoga might be for reducing lower back pain, you have to first learn what asanas to use, for how long, and in what sequence to practice them.

These aspects should be taken into consideration before using yoga as a therapeutic relief.

Although some of these poses may best be learned under the supervision of a certified Yoga Instructor, with the descriptions given below-and if need be, the use of Youtube videos or Google image searches, you should be able to get some idea to be able to test these poses at home.

Here are some of the best yoga poses for low back pain and since the aim here is more so for pain relief versus exercising, you don’t have to hold them for more than 5-15 seconds, depending on your own level of comfort.

Consider using a yoga mat or other soft surface, it is highly recommended for your comfort when practicing these poses.

All these yoga poses have therapeutic and restorative properties. They will act as a form of slight traction, gently stretching the spinal muscles in safe extension postures. Gradually more strength will built up in your back and your abs will get more toned to help support your core and back muscles. Pressure points along the spine will be stimulated.

Best Yoga Poses for Lower Back Pain and Mobility

Suggested duration for the yoga poses: Hold the pose for 5-15 seconds. Remember to breathe. If any of the poses cause the back pain to increase, don’t continue the pose.

Forward Stretches

Plough Pose (Halasana)

Plough Pose Halasana

Lie on your back on the floor or on your yoga mat. Keep the hands near your thighs, palms facing down. Without bending the knees, slowly raise the legs and bring them down behind your head till they touch the floor (or go as far as you are able). The key here is to get as deep a stretch for the lower back as possible.

Wind Relieving Pose (Vatayanasan)

Lie down flat. Now take a deep breath and hold it. Now bend your right leg at the knee and press the folded leg against your belly. Make sure to keep the alternate leg straight while doing this. Now, switch legs and after that conclude the pose by bending both legs at the same time.

Forward Bend (Paschimothanasana)

Seated Forward Bend Paschimottanasana

Lie flat on your back on the mat, with arms overhead on the floor. Keep the legs and thighs firmly on the floor. Harden your body. Slowly raise the head and the chest and rise to a sitting position. Now exhale till you are able to catch you toes, ankles or heels. You may even bring your forehead to your knees.

Backward Stretches

Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)

Bow Pose Dhanurasana

This pose is said to be the best backward bend pose. Lie on your stomach. Relax all muscles. Now bend your legs over the thighs. Catch hold of the right ankle firmly with the right hand and the left ankle with the left hand. Raise the head, upper body and knees by tugging at the legs with the hands so the whole body rests on the abdomen.

 

Wheel Pose (Chakrasana)

Wheel Pose Chakrasana

Lie down. Bend the arms and legs. Raise the body and keep the weight on the hands and feet. Tuck your head firmly in between your shoulders.

 

Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsendrasana)

Spinal Twist Ardha Matsendrasana

Sit on the floor with both legs out in front of you.

Bend your right knee, lift your right leg over your left, and place your right foot on the floor next to your left knee.

Keeping your back straight, place your left elbow on the right side of your right knee.

Touch your right hip with your left hands fingertips, twisting your back to look over your right shoulder.

Since this pose involves a twisting of the back, make sure you go only as far as it feels comfortable.  It is advised that depending on the severity of your pain, you only go as far as the poses allow you to at any time.

 

Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Corpse Pose Savasana

Savasana is the common relaxation pose in yoga. If you go into this pose straight after the spinal twist, there is an indescribable sensation of release from tightness in the back.

Lay on your back with the arms and legs slightly extended, palms facing up.

Breathe deep in counts of 5, in a ratio of 5:5:5 (inhale-hold your breath-exhale)

Advanced Yoga Poses for Back Pain

The Shoulder Stand (Savangasana)

The Shoulder Stand Savangasana

Lie on your back on the floor or yoga mat. Slowly raise the legs up to the sky. Lift your torso hips and legs to a vertical position.

Rest your elbows firmly on the floor and support the back with both hands.

Raise your legs till they become vertical. Press your chin against the chest.

When performing the shoulder stand, the back of the head and the shoulders should touch the floor.

Don’t allow the body to shake. Remember to breathe.

For the counter poses to the shoulder stand, try the following yoga poses:

 

Bridge Pose (Sethu Bhandasana)

Bridge Pose Sethu Bhandasana

From the shoulder stand pose, stretch your legs and let your feet slowly touch the floor. It is done by bending your spine in the opposite direction.

 

Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
Fish Pose Matsyasana

Lie flat on your back. Straighten the legs and keep your hands palm down under your thighs.

Raise the chest up with the help of the elbows and, bending the neck as much as possible backwards, rest on the top of the head.

 

Other tips for back pain relief

If you suffer from chronic back problems you must be aware during the day of how you sit, stand, and lie down. Here are few suggestions:

  • Try sleeping on a firm (not too hard) bed, with a flat pillow under your head and a thicker one under your knees. This helps the spine to reposition itself.
  • Avoid wearing high heels as this stimulates lumbar lordosis and chucks the spine out of balance.
  • For lower back pain, sitting is most excruciating. Sit on a stable seat, not on soft cushions, and sit on your buttock bones. Do not lounge back on the tailbone or lower spine. Put a rolled towel or small cushion behind your back to keep the back in upright position. Whenever it’s possible, sit in the Diamond Posture in order to assist the sciatic nerve and to cure a lateral curvature of the spine.

Remember that yoga doesn’t offer a miracle cure. But if you devotedly practice these poses daily or even weekly, there will be a chance for pain free life. With practicing these yoga for lower back pain exercises you’ll build up a strong, more flexible spine, and improve your posture.

Recommended books in Yoga for Lower Back Pain:

Yoga and Scoliosis

Yoga and Scoliosis

 

Back Care Basics: A Doctor’s Gentle Yoga Program for Back and Neck Pain Relief

Back Care Basics A Doctors Gentle Yoga Program for Back and Neck Pain Relief

Links to Medical Studies and Research

Yoga or Stretching for back pain
Yoga for chronic low back pain
Yoga for veterans with chronic low-back pain

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