The Best Yoga Exercises Against Lower Back Pain

The Best Yoga Exercises Against Lower Back Pain

Photos by Loredana di Filippo

Everyone faces back pain at some point. Whether you might have been sitting for too long or you have been moving too little or in the wrong way – the causes for back pain are diverse, but ultimately it results from our typical modern way of life. Lack of movement leads to weak torso muscles, but a strong torso is crucial for a pain-free back.

With yoga, you can strengthen your entire torso and relieve your back pain or even get rid of it. Following, we are showing you the best yoga exercises against lower back pain. We will proceed in three steps with three exercises each: First we will be
relieving the lower back, then we will be strengthening it, and finally we will be stretching the lower back.

Note: In case of acute or chronic back pain, please always check with your doctor first whether the following yoga exercises are suitable for you.

Relieving Exercises for your Lower Back

01 Uttanasana – Standing Forward Bend

• Stand at the end of your mat with your feet hip-distance apart.
• Bend your knees slightly and support yourself with your hands on your knees.
• Bend your straightened upper body forward until it touches your thighs.
• Your sacrum goes upwards. Press your heels into the mat.
• Let your arms and head hang down in a relaxed position and remain in this position for a few breaths.
• To release, give yourself some support with your hands on your bent knees and return to an upright position with your back straight.

Tip: In case of acute lower back pain (please consult a doctor first!) it may be more comfortable to gently roll your back from top to bottom to get into the forward bend. To do this, start with your head, tilt your chin down, roll your shoulder blades to the front and down and slowly roll your back down, bit by bit. To release, you can roll up again as mindfully in the opposite direction.


02 Malasana – Deep Squat

• Start again from a standing position with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Turn your toes outwards and your heels inwards.
• Bend your knees and come into a deep squat.
• Bring your hands together in front of your chest and gently press your thighs back with your elbows.
• Keep your back and neck straight.
• Remain in this position for a few breaths.

Tip: If the squat feels a little wobbly to you or if you have problems with your knees, simply place one or two blocks or a meditation cushion under your buttocks.


03 Ananda Balasana – Happy Baby

• Lie with your back on your mat.
• Bend your knees and pull your legs to your chest.
• Grab and hold the outside of your feet and gently pull them closer to your chest, while just as gently pressing them against the palms of your hands.
• Spread your legs to the sides with the soles of your feet parallel to the ceiling.
• If it feels good to you, you can gently rock from side to side in this position.
• Enjoy the position for a few breaths.

Tip: If it feels more comfortable to you, you can also do a „half“ version of Happy Baby. To do this, keep one leg stretched out on your mat and pull the other leg to your chest. After a few breaths switch sides.


Strengthening Exercises for your Lower Back

01 Shalabhasana Variation – Locust Pose

• Come prone on your mat and form a cushion with your hands, resting your forehead on it.
• Your legs and feet are stretched full length. Pull up your knee caps, keep your legs and buttocks active (tense), pull in your belly button.
• While inhaling, raise your right leg and hold for a few breaths so that you feel a nice stretch.
• While exhaling, bring your leg back down onto the mat and inhaling, raise your left leg.
• Again, hold for a few breaths and bring back your leg onto the mat.
• Inhaling, raise both legs and hold for a few breaths.
• Exhaling, gently bring both legs back down onto the mat.

Tip: Only raise your legs as high as it feels good to you. Stop instantly if feeling pain. You do not want to raise your legs as high as possible, but to gently strengthen your lower back.


02 Bhujangasana Variation – Baby Cobra

• Remain prone on your mat with your hands placed beside your shoulders with elbows bent.
• Keep your legs straight and your feet hip-distance apart.
• Raise your chest without pushing with your hands. Use your torso‘s strength alone.
• Your pelvis remains on the mat.
• Hold the position for a few breaths and then come back down mindfully.

Tip: Baby Cobra strengthens the entire back and the gluteal muscles. It is a great counter-position to our everyday sitting posture. Again, only go as far as it feels good to you and stop when you feel pain.


03 Setu Bandha Sarvangasana – Bridge Pose

• Lie with your back on your mat, bend your knees and place your feet hip-distance apart in front of your buttocks.
• Place your arms at the sides of your body with the palms facing down.
• Inhaling, slowly lift your hips and roll your spine up, one vertebra at a time, until you come to rest on your shoulders.
• Maintain body tension in your legs and buttocks while relaxing your abdomen, shoulders and neck.
• Hold the position for a few breaths and then slowly bring down your back again, rolling down your spine one vertebra at a time.

Tip: In case of lower back pain (please consult a doctor first!) it might be a relief if you mobilise your pelvis first by curling it in and out again a few times before rolling it off the mat completely.


Stretching Exercises for your Lower Back

01 Sucirandhrasana – The Eye of the Needle

• Lie with your back on your mat and stand up your feet.
• Lift your right foot and rest your lower right leg on your left thigh.
• Pull your left leg closer to you by reaching your hands through your thighs and intertwining your fingers behind your left thigh.
• Enjoy the stretch for a few breaths and then switch sides.

Tip: If the back of your head does not come to rest on the mat in this position, simply place a block or blanket underneath for support.


02 Anjaneyasana – Deep Lunge

• Start with a Standing Forward Bend.
• Place your hands on the mat beside your feet and bring the left foot back in a wide lunge.
• Bring your left knee down onto the mat behind you and mindfully bring up your upper body. 
• You can either place your hands to the left and right of your right foot or, if it feels good to you, place them on your right thigh, bringing your upper body up a little further.
• If it feels good to you, you can also stretch out your arms to the ceiling to intensify the stretch.
• Enjoy the stretch for a few breaths, come back into Standing Forward Bend, mindfully straighten up your spine and then switch sides.

Tip: If the stretch in your flank feels too strong, you can simply kneel on the mat with your left leg at a 90° angle instead of doing a wide lunge.


03 Supta Matsyendra – Back Twist

• Lie with your back on your mat and stand up your feet.
• Spread your arms to the sides and once again press your lower back into your mat.
• Now take your knees down to the right side and, if it feels good to you, turn your head in the opposite direction to the left.
• Stay in this posture for a few breaths, then come back to the centre, take down your knees to the left side and turn your head to the right, if it feels good to you.

Tip: Only go as deep into the stretch as it feels good for you. You do not have to turn your head; also, you might want to do the posture a little more dynamically – instead of holding the pose for a while on one side, just move your knees from side to side, dynamically, but mindfully.

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