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The Best Yoga Poses for Back Pain

by Dr. Brent Wells

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Dealing with recurrent back pain? You’re not alone, by far. 

Back pain is a common occurrence that affects up to 80% of the world's population at some point or another. With it comes an inability to perform daily activities for some individuals if the discomfort is intense enough. When you are someone that likes to exercise and stay physically active, having something wrong with your back can be a big problem.

When you can't do the more strenuous workouts at the gym, there are other options for getting your workout in without causing any more damage through various yoga poses. Find out which ones are the best to focus on when you're dealing with a back-pain issue.

Causes of Back Pain and Treatment Options

woman on the beach in lotus pose

There are a variety of reasons why you might start feeling discomfort in your back. The most common type is lower back pain, but some people also will have issues with the upper back. You could be dealing with a problem due to:

  • Sitting too long
  • Sprain
  • Strains
  • Herniated discs
  • Stenosis
  • Illnesses

Once your back pain sets in, there's a high probability that it's going to take some time to heal up on its own. You have a few different options when it comes to treatment. Some people choose to see a medical doctor where they will likely be given some form of prescription medication or over-the-counter drug for pain and inflammation. Others will decide that an alternative type of treatment like seeing a chiropractor where you live for an alignment is their best option. You can also work on speeding up the recovery time at home through the completion of different types of yoga poses.

Before Starting a Yoga Routine

woman doing a stretch before yoga on the mat

When you are having pain in your back, the primary focus is making it go away as quickly as possible. You may think the best idea is jumping right into a yoga routine to get some relief. However, if you do so without proper consultation by a professional chiropractor, medical doctor, or physical therapist first, you could cause more harm than good. It's recommended that you get a health evaluation before starting to ensure that there isn't a bigger issue going on than what you see or feel on the surface.

Flexibility, strength, relief of soreness, and an overall improvement in your body's functioning can all be made possible through yoga when done the proper way. Just like with seeing a chiropractor, doing the correct yoga poses will allow your body to shift back into alignment naturally. If the misalignment is what's causing your pain, you should start to feel relief. You may even require less pain medication or none at all after a few completed sessions according to a 2017 study done by the Annals of Internal Medicine.

After you see the health care provider of your choosing and it has been determined that yoga is going to be a safe practice for your back pain problems, there are a few different poses that will give you the best results.

Get  Back-Pain Relief with These Poses:

Downward-Facing Dog

downward dog yoga pose

The downward-facing dog pose allows you to stretch out your back extensors, or the largest muscles in your lower back. They are what help you lift items and stand as well as give you support for your spine. The pose also provides a full-body stretch.

You begin this pose on your hands and knees. Keep your hands in front of your shoulders slightly and then press back so that your knees lift off the floor and your tailbone shoots towards the sky. If you want more of a hamstring stretch added in, you can push your heels towards the floor at the same time. Hold the pose for five to ten breaths and then repeat five to seven times.

Child's Pose

child pose yoga asana woman stretched on mat

Stress is often partnered with back pain. It can be overwhelming to be uncomfortable constantly. The child's pose allows you to elongate your back fully and it's also ideal for alleviating mental stress with the more relaxed position you end in.

On your hands and knees, stretch your arms out straight in front of you. Sit back so that your butt muscles are just above your heels. They shouldn't touch. Hold for five to ten breaths and repeat as many times as you want.

Pigeon Pose

woman doing pigeon yoga pose

The pigeon pose isn't the best for those that are just starting out with yoga, but it can be very effective at stretching out the hip flexors and rotators. You may not consider the hips when thinking about back pain, but if there is a misalignment there, it can be a substantial contributing factor.

This position begins in a downward-facing dog pose. From there, bring your right knee up and turn it to the right so that it is perpendicular to your left. You can leave your leg out behind you or for an additional stretch you can pull the leg up toward your back. Never pull until it is painful. You should stop any yoga pose if it is causing you any discomfort. Hold this for five to ten breaths and repeat on the opposite side for as many cycles as you feel comfortable with.

Cat and Cow Pose

cat and cow yoga pose in a gym

This is what is known as the perfect yoga position for any kind of sore or aching back. It loosens up the muscles and also warms up the body for the rest of your routine. You will feel the relaxation in your back muscles as well as relief of tension. Completing this exercise will help move your spine back into its natural position.

You start this position out on all fours. Pust your spine up and arch your back to get into a cat pose. Hold it there for a few seconds before shifting into cow pose. You have to scoop the spine and press your shoulder blades behind you. Lift your head while doing so. Repeat going from cat to cow ten times for one set. Continue completing the practice as many times as necessary.

Continuing Your Yoga Practice

If you're new to yoga and started the practice to get pain relief, it's essential to continue the routine even after you feel relief. It can prevent further injury and discomfort when done regularly either as your only workout routine or in conjunction with your usual exercises. 

Are you looking for a yoga program that helps rejuvenate your body alongside your mind? Book a getaway at a restorative yoga retreat and you’ll learn the fundamentals for your own beneficial yoga routine.

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