Yoga can provide many benefits for people who are suffering from back pain–it can help increase strength in the back and abdominal muscles, promote good posture and flexibility, and increase relaxation. All of these are important elements of spine health.
Some yoga poses are especially beneficial to those with back pain. The following yoga poses stretch and strengthen the muscles supporting the spine, helping to relieve tension in your back. If you’re new to yoga, you may want to work with an instructor to make sure you have the correct form. He or she can also help you modify the poses if they are too difficult for you.
1. Cat and Cow Pose
This pose helps to relieve tension in the back muscles. Start on your hands and knees. Slowly press your spine up, arching your back; this is the “cat” portion of the pose. Hold for a few seconds, then pull the spine back in as you press your shoulder blades back and lift your head; this is the “cow” part of the pose. Hold this for a few seconds, and repeat the whole sequence 5 to 10 times. Try to flow smoothly between the “cat” and “cow” positions.
2. Downward-Facing Dog
The downward-facing dog helps to lengthen and strengthen the muscles in the back and legs. Begin the pose on your hands and knees, hands positioned slightly in front of your shoulders. Lift your knees up from the floor, pushing your hips up toward the ceiling. Relax your neck muscles. Your body should resemble an upside-down V. To make the pose a little more challenging and stretch the hamstrings, press your heels toward the floor. Hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths, and gently come back down to the starting position. Repeat the pose at least 3 times.
3. Child’s Pose
Child’s pose is a gentle, relaxing pose that helps to lengthen the back. Start on your hands and knees, then bring your hips back toward your heels. Stretch your arms out in front of you, palms resting on the floor. Hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths, then bring your hands in toward your legs and sit up slowly. You should repeat this pose at least 3 times, but can repeat it as often as you need to stretch the back.
4. Triangle Pose
This pose is great for lengthening the muscles along the sides of the torso and also helps strengthen the back and legs. Start by standing, your feet about 4 feet apart. Turn your left foot to the side, so that it forms a 90-degree angle with your right foot. Inhale and lift your arms out to your sides. As you exhale, bend to the side, reaching your left arm down toward your foot and bring your right arm up toward the ceiling so that your arms form a straight line. Look up toward your right hand, and keep your back straight. It’s ok if you can’t touch the floor with your left hand–just stretch as far as you can while still keeping your back straight. Hold the stretch for 5 to 10 breaths, then repeat the stretch on the opposite side.
5. Upward-Facing Dog
This pose helps to open up the chest and stretch the abdominal muscles. To begin, lie facedown on the floor with your legs together and the tops of your feet pressed into the floor. Place your palms on the floor on each of your sides, at the middle of your ribs. Lift your chest up off of the floor with your back muscles; do not use your hands to push yourself up. Hold this pose for 5 to 10 breaths; it can be repeated as often as needed.
Remember, yoga poses should not be painful. Do not overstretch yourself. If you experience any pain, numbness, or tingling while doing yoga, slowly move out of the pose. Consult with your doctor to identify poses you should avoid, and consider working with a yoga teacher who is experienced in working with people who have spinal conditions.
These are just some basic moves to get you started. Give them a try, and see if they help with your back pain.