Yoga for back pain

Many people make the mistake of completely avoiding physical activity when they have a sore back or an stiff neck for fear of aggravating the issue. However, it is necessary to gradually increase the usage of the muscles which are causing you pain to increase their strength, reduce stiffness and help minimise the chance of another injury.

Yoga is a gentle way to help strengthen the body especially if you are suffer from back pain. Many yoga asanas focus on the spine and postural alignment. Many postures work to improve spinal strength and flexibility, making yoga perfect for back pain. If you have pain and are starting a yoga class, don’t feel apprehensive – you won’t be immediately thrown into a back bend or headstand. Yoga is all about you – working with your abilities, considering your needs and going within your comfort level.

If you’re new to yoga, here are some simple and gentle postures that are effective for back pain.

Bhujangasana (Cobra)
Begin in prone position, lying flat on your stomach. Bring your arms in line with your chest. Inhale and scoop the chest up so the back is concave and ideally straighten the arms. For back pain, take it easy. You will most likely have to keep the arms bent so it is gentle on the back. The pose works to strengthen the back and open the chest. This pose can be held for 15 seconds.

Shalabhasana (Locus)
Locus is very beneficial for the lower back. Again, lie in prone position and place the palms of the hands under each thigh. On an inhale raise the right leg, while keeping the chest and chin on the floor. Repeat with the other leg. If you feel comfortable in this position you can raise both legs at the same time. This stretch is strong on the legs so hold for only 15 seconds.

Warrior one (Veerasana)
This standing position works to lengthen and strengthen the spine. Begin in mountain pose, tadasana. Step forward with the right leg. The left foot should be on a roughly 45 degree angle with the mat. Bend the right knee so it is directly over the right ankle. Bring the hands in prayer at the sterum and raise above the head. Activate and stretch up from the legs going all the way up to the finger tips. You can add a gentle back bend if you feel comfortable. This pose can be held for one minute on both sides.

Spinal twist
Begin in vajrasana – bend you knees and sit on top of the heels.  Take the left hand and place it just outside the right knee. The right hand can be brought behind the spinal colum. On an inhale lift the spine to make sure it’s tall and erect. Then twist and look over your right shoulder. Bring your awareness to the spine and don’t hunch. This pose is great for increasing spinal flexibility. Hold for 30 seconds on both sides.

Paschimottanasana (forward bend)
Begin in dandasana, sitting on the mat with your feet outstretched in front of you. Keep the legs and feet together with the toes pointing upright. Raise the hands over the hand and cutting from the waist, slowly bend forward. Bring the hands as far down as you can touching the thighs, knees, shins or feet. Keep the back straight and on an inhale go deeper into the posture, ideally bringing the chest as close to the legs as possible. This can be held up to a minute.

In yoga there is a Sanskrit term, sthira sukham asanam – meaning steady and confortable position. In yoga, the poses you attempt should not be uncomfortable and cause an intense amount of strain. Hold the position for as long as YOU feel comfortable and slowly release the pose whenever you are ready. This will help you gradually build up your strength and hold the position for a longer period of time.

Veronica Joseph

Veronica Joseph

Veronica Joseph is an accredited yoga teacher who loves to share her yogic journey from travels in India, cleansing techniques, her favourite poses and their benefits and tips to remember when practising.

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