How to Relieve Lower Back Pain With Yoga
One of the benefits of yoga is a reduction in the severity and frequency of symptoms from common ailments and illnesses. Yoga for lower back pain relief includes a few simple poses to relax, release and gently stretch muscles in the back. The National Institute of Health states that yoga can be an effective tool in dealing with lower back pain.
Here is a sequence of five gentle yoga poses to help stretch and release your lower back, relieving lower back pain in many cases. These poses are different from yoga that might be used to increase strength in the back. You can work on that after recovering from back pain and tension.
Practice them in the order shown, taking a few moments after each yoga pose to relax your back and observe any changes in your physical or mental state. Hopefully, you will feel better after trying these stretches for lower back pain.
Savasana with Legs on a Chair
Lie on your back on the floor with your lower legs supported by, and resting on, the seat of a chair. A folding chair or dining room chair should work fine. Your lower legs should be parallel to the floor. Add folded blankets as needed to make the leg rest taller. Angle your arms away from your side and rest them on the floor, palms facing up.
Let your lower back release into the floor. Visualize your breath releasing through your back body as you exhale. Keep your breathing relaxed and release any tension in your face.
Supta Padangustasana - Reclining Big Toe Pose
Lie flat on your back. Bend one knee in toward your chest and loop a yoga strap or belt around your foot. Carefully straighten your leg toward the ceiling with both hands holding the strap. Contact the thigh (quadriceps) of the raised leg. This helps the hamstrings to lengthen and release. Lengthen from the outer knee of the raised leg to the outer hip, as if pulling the outer hip into the floor. If your back has been bothering you, ease into the leg extension slowly. Relax and release your lower back.
During this yoga pose, the leg on the floor should remain straight with the thigh pressing down into the floor. Don’t let that leg roll out to the side. Keep your leg raised for 30 - 60 seconds, then switch to the other side. You can repeat this asana 2 or 3 times, easing a little further into it each time.
Adho Mukha Savasana - Downward Facing Dog
This is perhaps the most well-known and one of the best overall yoga asanas. Start on your hands and knees with your hands just wider than your shoulders and your feet hip width apart. Engage your abdomen and thighs to lift your hips high. Straighten your arms and your legs. Gently stretch your back by drawing your navel in toward your spine and pressing your thighs back. There is often a tendency in downward dog to make the lower back concave. This actually compresses the lumbar spine. Firmly draw the abdomen in, and the lower ribs back, until the lower back is flat. Roll your outer shoulders toward the floor. Remain for 30 - 60 seconds or more. Feel free to repeat this pose 2 or 3 times.
Bharadvajasana with a Chair - Seated Twist
Sit sideways in a folding metal or straightback chair so that the back of the chair is on your right side and the front on your left. Keeping your spine straight, turn to the right, using your hands on the back of the chair to assist with the twist. Keep the lower back relaxed. It is OK if the left hip shifts forward. Stay for 15 - 30 seconds, then swing around to the other side of the chair and turn to the left. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
This is one of the easiest stretches for lower backs and one of best yoga poses for lower backs, too. Just be careful not to tense the back muscles; let them be soft. You can easily practice this pose almost anytime during the day.
Savasana with Support Under the Knees
Lie flat on your back with a rolled-up blanket or a bolster under your knees. As in the first pose, angle your arms away from your side and rest them on the floor, palms facing up. Let your lower back release into the floor. Visualize your breath releasing through your back body as you exhale. Keep your breathing relaxed and release any tension in your face. Move your senses and awareness inward. As your mind starts to drift, bring your awareness to your breath and the relaxation of your back.
When one one group of muscles is tense or strained, adjacent muscles will often becomes tense as well. When the lower back is tight, expand your focus to relax your middle and upper back and your buttock muscles.
- Yoga or Stretching Eases Low Back Pain - NIH Research Matters - National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Weekly classes of yoga or intensive stretching are equally effective at reducing low back pain and improving back movement, a new study reports.
The two versions of Savasana described here will be the most useful for relaxing and releasing back tension. The other three yoga asanas are good for stretching the lower back. Depending on the extent of your lower back tension, you should ease into them gently and carefully. Be sure to use your thigh and abdominal muscles. They will help with expansion and release of the back muscles.
If you are experiencing acute symptoms, don’t just rely on yoga - consult a doctor. It is always wise to talk with your doctor before beginning a new exercise practice, particularly if you have health issues. There are many doctors that support the use of yoga to treat back pain. A future hub will focus on asanas to strengthen, support and protect the lower back. Namaste!
All photos by the author unless otherwise noted.
© 2012 chet thomas