Top 3 Yoga Poses for Lower Back Pain
by Andra Picincu
Back pain is one of the most common yet overlooked health complaints worldwide. About eight out of 10 Americans suffering from this condition see a doctor or chiropractor, but only half experience relief. The same goes for physical therapy, which proves to be effective in less than 50 percent of cases. Luckily, there are better ways to manage back pain and restore your mobility.
A growing number of people are turning to yoga for lower back pain relief. This centuries-old practice can improve your flexibility and range of motion, strengthen your back muscles and decompress the spine. It also keeps you lean and makes it easier to maintain a healthy body weight, which further helps prevent and reduce back pain. After all, there's a reason why more than 300 million people worldwide practice yoga regularly.
Certain yoga poses are particularly effective for back pain and other aches. Unlike cardio and strength training, this form of exercise puts little or no stress on your back and joints. This makes it ideal even for those who are already in pain or struggling with injuries.
Not sure where to start? Let's take a closer look at three of the best yoga poses for back pain.
Pose #1: Dhanurasana (The Bow)
This asana is perfect for beginner and advanced yogis alike. It stretches the torso, leg and back muscles, relieving pain and tension. When you're done, you'll feel energized and ready for the day ahead. Many practitioners also report stress relief, better digestion, and reduced anxiety.
To do the bow pose, lie on your belly with your hands at your sides. Keep your palms up. Slowly bend your knees and bring your heels as close to the butt as possible. Reach your hands back and grab your ankles while squeezing your shoulder blades. Lift your head and chest until you feel a stretch in the front torso.
Maintain this position for up to 30 seconds. Repeat two or three times. Remember to take deep breaths throughout the movement.
Pose #2: Salamba Bhujangasana (The Sphinx)
The Sphinx pose is widely recognized for its ability to relieve neck and back pain as well as that from carpal tunnel syndrome and some common injuries. This backbend stretches the chest, torso, and shoulders while strengthening the spine. It also improves blood flow and stimulates the internal organs, leading to better circulation and improved digestive health.
To get started, lie face down with your forearms flat on the floor and your legs extended, with the feet hip-width apart. Press the top of your feet into the floor while slowly lifting your head and chest. Lightly draw your pubic bone away from the floor without squeezing your core muscles.
Stay in this pose for up to 10 breaths and then slowly lower your torso and head to the floor. Repeat once or twice.
Pose #3: Balasana (Child's Pose)
Touted as one of the best yoga poses for back pain, Balasana lengthens your spine, stretches your thighs and relieves stress. It's a healing, restful pose that wards off fatigue and reduces muscle tension. Unless you have a recent knee injury, you can practice this pose anytime.
From a kneeling position, lower your forehead to the floor and your hips to the heels. Spread your knees wide apart. Keep your arms extended overhead or tucked behind. Your chest should touch your thighs. Relax your neck and back, close your eyes and take deep breaths.
Maintain this pose for at least 30 seconds and up to three minutes. Return to a seated position and repeat. If you experience discomfort, place a blanket under your head, knees or hips.
How Effective Is Yoga for Lower Back Pain?
These are just a few of the many yoga poses for back pain. Depending on your needs and fitness level, you can also try the bridge pose, the camel pose, the locust pose or the upward dog.
Another option is the side plank pose, which appears to be particularly effective for scoliosis. In a recent study, scoliosis patients aged 14 to 85 who practiced this pose six days per week experienced a 32 percent improvement in spine curvature. Adolescents saw a 49.6 percent improvement.
Clinical evidence supports the health benefits of yoga for back conditions. According to a 2017 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, this practice may help in the management of mild to moderate chronic low-back pain. Another study has found that yoga can be just as effective as physical therapy and reduce the need for medications.
It's never too late to start practicing yoga. Begin with five to 10 minutes per day and focus on building up your strength. As you progress, include more complex poses into your routine. Do it at home or join a yoga studio to learn the basics from an experienced teacher.
Andra Picincu is a certified nutritionist and personal trainer with more than 10 years of experience. She holds a BA in Psychology and a BA in Marketing and International Business. Her mission is to help people live healthier lives by making smarter food choices and staying active.