10 Yoga Poses to Ease Back Pain

  • Older Caucasian couple stretching and exercising in light-filled room at home
    Yoga can be a do-it-yourself method to relieve back pain.
    If you have back pain, yoga can be a great place to get some relief without medication. Stretching can help alleviate back pain, and yoga incorporates stretching, strength and flexibility for maximum relief. Studies have found that people who participate regularly in yoga (for low back pain, in particular) often can cut back on pain medications, relying on yoga to help manage their pain symptoms. Keep in mind, however, that yoga may not be helpful for people with severe back pain. If you and your doctor decide yoga for back pain is right for you, try some of these poses to get the relief you’re looking for.

    (If you have other health conditions, talk with your healthcare provider about the possible negative effects of practicing yoga, so that you don't inadvertently make your condition worse.)
  • Group of seniors doing cat cow yoga exercise
    Cat-Cow
    The cat-cow is a combination of two yoga poses used together to strengthen the back muscles and alleviate low-back tension. Start on your hands and knees with a flat back, aligning your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. To do the cow pose, inhale and drop your belly downward, lifting your head and tailbone to the sky (or ceiling). Hold for about 30 seconds. Then move into cat pose as you exhale: Round your back up to the sky, pushing your tailbone toward the floor and letting your head drop. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat several times.
  • downward-facing-dog
    Downward-Facing Dog
    This yoga pose lengthens the spine and strengthens the back muscles. Start on your hands and knees on the floor, hands aligned under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Lift your knees up off the ground and push your hips upward toward the sky. Keep your back and legs straight as you hold the position, and try to keep your head aligned with the angle of your arms (ears next to elbows). Slowly bring your knees back to the floor, and repeat the pose several times.
  • Group of young men and woman doing yoga outdoors in mountain setting
    Upward-Facing Dog
    You can start this pose lying facedown on the floor or by moving into it directly from the downward-facing dog pose. Press the tops of your feet into the floor, side by side. Place your palms on the floor at your sides, and use your back muscles to lift your chest off the floor. Lift your gaze to the sky. Your knees should be lifted off the ground as you press the tops of your feet firmly onto the floor, and your shoulders should be pressed down and away from your ears. This pose strengthens your back muscles, opens your chest and stretches your abs.

  • adult man practicing yoga, the dhanurasana pose (bow pose) with white background
    Bow Pose
    This position will stretch your back muscles and also open your chest. Begin by lying facedown on the floor. With your knees hip-distance apart, bring your heels toward your glutes as you exhale. Clasp your ankles with your hands. As you inhale, lift your heels to the sky. Doing this will pull your thighs and upper body off the floor. Make sure your shoulders are pulled away from your ears. Hold for about 30 seconds, and then relax onto the floor. Repeat. Be sure not to overextend yourself in this pose—you can use a yoga strap around the front of your ankles as a modification if you can’t reach your ankles with your hands.
  • Middle age Caucasian woman doing cobra yoga pose on floor
    Sphinx Pose
    If you aren’t quite ready for bow pose, try sphinx pose instead. It still opens your chest and stretches and strengthens your back as you actively lengthen your spine. While this looks like a simple pose (it’s great for yoga beginners), it takes more active concentration than it first appears. To start, lie facedown on the floor, lengthening your tailbone behind you. Gently push your outer thighs toward the floor to open your lower back, and push your toes out behind you. Now push your chest upward, resting on your elbows with your forearms straight out in front of you and your palms against the ground. To get even more low-back relief, gently pull your belly in, which should activate your upper back muscles and relax your lower back. Hold for about 30 seconds and then release.

  • two-women-arching-backs-on-exercise-mat
    Bridge Pose
    Begin this stretch by lying down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Your heels should be aligned under your knees. Then, activating your abdominal muscles to protect your back, press your feet into the floor and gently raise your hips while squeezing your glutes. Hold this pose for about 30 seconds before slowly lowering your hips back to the floor. Don’t strain or push your hips higher than what’s comfortable for you because yoga for lower back pain is meant to help, not hurt.

  • young woman stretching by performing seated forward fold with straps in a pilates or yoga class
    Seated Forward Fold
    This is a great stretch for your back as well as your hamstrings. While sitting on the floor, put your legs out straight in front of you. Start with your hands on your thighs and slide them down toward your feet, as far as you can comfortably go. Hold for about 30 seconds. Your back will be slightly rounded, and you’ll feel a tug on the back of your legs. This pose is a good starting place for yoga beginners who have back pain. Focus on bending at your hips, rather than curving your back to reach farther. (If you are new to stretching, you may not be able to reach far at first.)
  • Middle age Caucasian woman doing leg and back stretch on floor at home
    Seated Spinal Twist
    Sitting down, stretch both legs out in front of you. Bend your left knee and cross it over the right leg, putting your foot down flat on the ground on the outside of your right thigh. You can use your hands to get your leg positioned correctly if you need to, and you can either keep your right leg straight or bent, tucking your foot under your left glute—whichever feels best to you. Next, turn your upper body to the left. Your left hand will be on the ground behind you, and your right arm will be wrapped around your bent knee. Hold for a few seconds, and then switch sides. This yoga stretch feels great for a tight back, but be sure not to push yourself farther than you can comfortably twist.

  • Full length shot of an unrecognizable woman holding a child's pose while doing yoga in her living room at home
    Child’s Pose
    This yoga pose is a great position to stretch the low back, and it also opens up the hips. Starting on your hands and knees, bring your feet together and sit on your heels. Spread your knees apart, and bring your upper body toward the floor, resting your torso on your thighs and stretching your arms out in front of you. Press your hips down and your tailbone backward behind you. Relax your head and upper body on the floor, allowing the weight of your shoulders to open up your upper back. Feel free to hold this pose for several minutes if it feels good to you. If this pose causes pain in your knees or other discomfort, instead try the next position—puppy pose.
  • young woman exercising yoga in a room in a puppy pose or uttana shishosana
    Puppy Pose
    As an alternative to child’s pose for those who have knee pain, puppy pose helps lengthen the spine and relieve back tension. Begin the pose on your hands and knees, with your knees directly under your hips. Then slowly walk your palms forward, stretching your arms out in front of you and pushing your hips back and upward while keeping them aligned over your knees. Press your heart toward the ground, and keep your arms active, not letting your elbows rest on the floor. You can rest your forehead on the floor, or if you feel any discomfort in your neck or shoulders, rest your head on a rolled-up towel. Hold for about 30 seconds.
  • Hawaiian woman practicing yoga outside with joyful expression
    Yoga tips to prevent injury
    While yoga will strengthen your muscles and improve your mobility, it is intended to be gentle exercise. Make sure you move slowly and purposefully during each pose, activating your core muscles (your inner abdominal and spinal muscles) to protect your back. Don’t be afraid to use props to help with balance if needed. And don’t push yourself too far—it’s important to stop if a pose is painful or uncomfortable. A yoga instructor can help you modify poses to fit your needs, so be sure to ask for assistance rather than just push through the pain. If your back pain or any other health condition worsens, contact your healthcare provider promptly.
10 Yoga Poses to Ease Back Pain | Yoga for Low Back Pain

About The Author

Ashley Festa is a Greenville, S.C.-based freelance writer and editor who has been writing professionally for nearly two decades. In addition to Healthgrades, she also has written for Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, the University of Texas at Arlington School of Nursing and Health Innovation, and Fit Pregnancy magazine.
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Last Review Date: 2021 May 12
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