What is yoga?
Yoga is a form of exercise made up of a series of movements and postures, as well as breathing and meditation techniques.iii, iv Yoga is mainly used to help increase strength, flexibility and balance, but there are many other ways that it can benefit our physical health – particularly if you suffer from back pain.iii, v
One of the best things about yoga is that it is extremely accessible. Yoga is suitable for people of all age groups and fitness levels, so you can take it up at any time of life.iii
But with so many different yoga poses, types and techniques available, it can be difficult to know which are best suited to easing your back pain. We’ve compiled a short list of simple, common yoga poses for back pain below, to help you get started in the comfort of your own home.
What are the best yoga poses for back pain?
Consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
Balasana (aka Child’s Pose)
Possibly the easiest posture in yoga besides Savasana (corpse pose), child’s pose is a gentle yoga pose that can help stretch your lower back and ease lower back pain.vi
- Starting on your hands and knees, sit back and bring your hips toward your heels.
- Then, stretch your arms out in front of you and place your palms on the floor.*
- Relax your forehead to the ground* and pause for some big, deep breaths (pictured: left).vi
*If you cannot bend or reach all the way down to complete this pose as pictured, don’t worry. Do not push your body any further than it can naturally stretch.
Bhujangasana (aka Cobra Pose)
Another yoga pose to help stretch the back and ease back pain, cobra pose is also very simple.vii
- Start by lying on the floor, on your front.
- Stretch your legs back and keep the tops of your feet facing the floor.
- Press the tops of your feet, thighs and pelvic bone into the floor.
- Place your hands on the floor under your shoulders, hugging your elbows into your sides.
- Inhale and straighten your arms to lift your chest off the floor, keeping your pelvic bone in contact with the floor (pictured: left).
- Hold for 15-30 seconds, taking some deep breaths. Release back to the floor as you exhale.
It’s important to note that if your back pain does not improve within a few weeks, is severe or limiting your day-to-day movement, then gentle exercise (including yoga) may not be suitable. Speak to your doctor so that they can advise on the best course of action for you. Your doctor can refer you to a specialist or physiotherapist who may recommend specific activities or yoga poses to avoid, depending on the severity of your back pain.ii
i Back problems. NHS Inform Scotland. https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/muscle-bone-and-joints/self-management-advice/back-problems. Accessed 08/06/20.
ii Back pain. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/back-pain/. Accessed 08/06/20.
iii A guide to yoga. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/guide-to-yoga/. Accessed 08/06/20.
iv Yoga. British Heart Foundation.https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/activity/yoga. Accessed 08/06/20.
v Benefits of yoga. American Osteopathic Association. https://osteopathic.org/what-is-osteopathic-medicine/benefits-of-yoga/. Accessed 08/06/20.
vi 5 Simples yoga poses for back pain. Spine Universe. https://www.spineuniverse.com/wellness/exercise/5-simple-yoga-poses-back-pain?page=5#top. Accessed 09/06/20.
vii Cobra pose. Yoga Journal. https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/cobra-pose. Accessed 09/06/20.