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Yoga for Back Pain

Yoga for Back Pain

Back pain is a global issue, estimated to be the single leading cause of disability and accounting for more than 264 million lost work days in the US per year. With experts estimating that 80% of the population will at some point suffer from back pain, what can be done to prevent it and, more importantly, what can be done for those who suffer from it chronically? One avenue that many have found to be beneficial is Yoga.

Why Yoga?

Dating as far back as 2700 B.C. yoga has its roots in India and is a subdivision of a Hindu practice known as Hatha Yoga. Today it has expanded to be a popular form of exercise that strengthens and tones the body. Part of the reason it has caught on and garnered much success is that modern research shows it has a variety of health benefits. From lowering the risk of hypertension and heart disease to lessening the symptoms of depression and headaches, yoga has ensured its place in the world of exercise. Through the use of mindful stretches, various yoga poses help to strengthen the spinal musculature and abdomen, which stabilizes the spine overall. What are some key things to keep in mind before entering a yoga studio or going at it alone on youtube? This article will discuss some key issues to keep in mind and introduce some popular yoga poses for back pain relief.

Step One!

Step one is to always check with your doctor before engaging in any new form of exercise, especially if you have a pre-existing injury. The goal is to improve back pain, not worsen it. One study found that yoga was a source of back injuries, especially among adults 65 and over. While it’s true, yoga can help with chronic back pain at any age, it’s important to spend time understanding proper form and speed, as with any new exercise. Yoga is not a speedy or rushed form of exercise. One cannot quickly drop into certain poses. Instead, focus on slowly lengthening the muscles and gradually stretching them further. If you see someone in a pose with their feet resting on top of their head, know that it took years of daily bodily training to achieve that. The goal is to lengthen and strengthen your body, so focus on doing it right from the start.

When you get the green light from your doctor you may choose to attend a class at a local yoga studio under the supervision of an instructor. If this is the case, be sure to let them know of any previous injuries you have. By doing this ahead of time, the instructor can pay specific attention to you and help you make adjustments to certain poses that may prove difficult in the beginning.

Yoga Poses for Back Pain

There are said to be 84 basic poses in yoga. Don’t worry, we will only be covering 2 common poses used for back pain relief.

  • Downward Facing Dog 

    • Begin on all fours with knees directly under the hips and hands slightly in front of shoulders, with your palms spread and toes curled under.
    • Exhale and, supporting yourself on your toes, slowly lift your knees from the ground, keeping them bent and your heels off the ground. Try to bring your bottom toward the ceiling. Inhale.
    • Exhale and slowly straighten your knees and connect your heels to the floor. Tighten your outer leg muscles while rotating your lower thighs inward.
    • Straighten and make your arms firm while pressing your two index fingers to the floor. Draw your shoulder blades back and down. Keep your head in between your arms without dropping it down. Maintain this pose for 1 to 3 minutes.
  • Cat and Cow Pose

    • Begin in a tabletop position with your knees below your hips and hands perpendicular to your shoulders. Head should be in a neutral position.
    • Exhale and round your spine up toward the ceiling, while maintaining your original knee and shoulder position. Release any tension in your neck so your head falls toward the floor.
    • Return to the tabletop position.
    • Inhale and curve the spine with your chest and sit ones reaching up towards the ceiling and your belly dropping towards the floor. Raise your head to look forward.
    • Exhale coming back to the tabletop position. You can repeat 10 to 20 times.


Chronic back pain can be depressing for obvious reasons. Talk to a physiotherapist at Blue Hills Sports and Spine Rehabilitation can help you manage your pain. Give them a call today to learn more about how yoga may be able to help you. You could strengthen your back and quite possibly improve your mood!