13 Yoga Poses to Relieve Lower Back Pain

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The lower back can be a sensitive spot for many people, which means lower back stretches should make up a key part of your movement mix. That’s true whether you’re looking for lower back pain relief or you’re ache-free but want gentle stretches as a way to strengthen lower back muscles. That’s where yoga for the spine—and those other all-important back areas—comes in.

While there can be a ton of causes of low back pain, a weak core and poor posture from sitting all day (and consequently shortening the hip muscles that then pull on the lower back) are two really common contributing factors to lower back aches and discomfort. And yoga is one such exercise modality that can target both of these things.

It’s always important to figure out what’s causing pain so you can address it and prevent it from happening again—and in some cases, connecting with a doctor or physical therapist might be the best way to go about doing so. But in many situations, doing some gentle stretches can help relieve tightness and give your lower back some relief. Here’s everything you need to know about how to use yoga to give your lower back some love.

How can I reduce lower back pain with yoga?

Simply put, the movements—and the isometric, or movement-free, holds—used in yoga can help you build both strength and mobility, both of which play a role in reducing low back pain.

“Yoga is great for working on flexibility and core stability, correcting posture, and breathing—all of which are necessary for a healthy back,” Sasha Cyrelson, P.T., D.P.T., O.C.S., clinical director at Professional Physical Therapy in Sicklerville, New Jersey, tells SELF.

She adds that yoga is generally safe to do daily. It’s important, though, to make sure you’re in tune with your body and to stop doing anything that makes any discomfort worse.

“Never stretch into a position of pain,” Dr. Cyrelson says. “Pain is how our bodies tell us something is wrong. If it actually hurts, ease up on the stretch.” That means you should feel a combination of muscle tension and release, but if there’s any pinching, sharp pain, or brief numbness, ease way back on the stretch.

Is it OK to do yoga with lower back pain?

If you have any history of lower back injuries, problems with your discs, or experience pain that lasts more than 72 hours without improving, Dr. Cyrelson suggests seeing a physical therapist before doing any exercises. If you have an issue that requires medical attention, it’s best to address it before it becomes worse.

If your lower back pain is more of a general achiness or discomfort, though, it’s worth trying some yoga stretches to address any tightness and alignment issues. Stretches like child’s pose and downward dog are particularly good because they provide a sense of relief, not just in the lower back but also throughout all your back muscles—alleviating any tight spots.

How should you use lower back stretches like these yoga poses to help reduce back pain?

Although each of the stretches below are helpful on their own, they’re especially beneficial as a flow, New York City-based yoga instructor Shanna Tyler tells SELF.

For lower back pain relief, try choosing five or six from the list below as a flow, and plan on holding each pose for 10 seconds to one minute, making sure to take deep breaths throughout the hold.

If your lower back feels relief with that sequence, you can work up to holding each pose for longer, up to three minutes. In terms of frequency, you can do yoga daily if you’d like, but if you’re doing beginner yoga for back pain, start with just a couple times per week. Also, many people find it useful to break up these lower back stretches into a few mini-sessions when their back feels particularly tight, like first thing in the morning or after sitting at work all day.

Here are the recommended yoga-inspired lower-back stretches:

  • Child’s Pose
  • Cat/Cow
  • Downward Facing Dog
  • Standing Forward Bend
  • Sphinx Pose
  • Knees to Chest With Slow Rock
  • Reclined Pigeon Pose
  • Reclined Supine Twist
  • Upward Facing Dog
  • Crescent Lunge
  • Plank
  • Thread the Needle
  • Happy Baby

Demoing the moves below are Jessica Rihal, (GIFs 1, 7-8) a plus-sized yoga instructor (200-HR) and a strong advocate of fitness/wellness for all bodies; Shauna Harrison (GIFs 2 and 12), a Bay-area based trainer, yogi, public health academic, advocate, and columnist for SELF; Shanna Tyler (GIFs ), a New York City-based yoga instructor; and Devon Stewart (GIFs 9-11), a yoga instructor and sexual and reproductive health doula based in Harlem.

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