I had a request from my sister the other day for a short yoga sequence (YouTube video link) to help with her lower back pain. She joined an exercise program and was feeling the painful effects of getting back into working out.
These yoga poses for low back pain are gentle and restorative so as to not irritate your inflamed muscles more. You can practice these poses on the floor or on a bed. Some props that might be helpful are a blanket and some pillows.
Please practice mindfully and listen to your body. Only go as far as your “edge” – the last part of the stretch before it turns painful. If a pose is painful, please move to the next pose.
1. Gentle Cat and Cow
~Start in tabletop – knees under your hips and wrists under your shoulders. Spread your fingers wide.
~As you inhale, start to raise your gaze and let your belly relax towards the floor.
~As you exhale, let your head come down slowly as your back arches up. Let your head, neck and shoulders relax, and gently pull your belly button towards your spine.
~Move back and forth between the poses on your own breath between 5 and 10 times.
Benefits: This pose connects your movement and breath and helps you to feel where your “edge” is.
2. Half Frog
~Lay flat on your belly.
~Bring your right knee out to the side of your body, in line with your hip.
~Line your ankle up with your knee.
~Side bend your body over towards the right knee and relax here for 90 seconds.
~Bring that leg and your torso back to center and take a full inhale and exhale before moving to the other side and repeating these steps.
Modification: If you are on a hard floor, place a blanket under your hip and knee.
Benefits: Because of our tendency to sit for a majority of the day, a large muscle in the lower back, the quadratus lumborum (or QL) is constantly contracted. In other words, it’s always “turned on and working” when you are seated. This pose allows your QL to relax.
3. Sphinx Pose
~Come back to center, still laying on your belly.
~Place your elbows and forearms on the ground. Your elbows can be a little bit in front of your shoulders.
~Notice the stretch in your lower back. Feel free to walk your hands out a little further if this does not feel good.
~Stay here for 90 seconds.
Benefits: This pose relaxes the internal oblique muscles that run parallel to your spine.
4. Supported Balasana – Supported Child’s Pose
~Sit on your heels with your knees spread out wide and your big toes touching.
~Place a couple of pillows in front of you.
~Take a deep breath in, and on your exhale, fold forward.
~Rest on one cheek and bring your arms alongside your body or wrap them around the pillows. Allow any tension to release on your exhales, and notice if your inhales reach all the way down to your belly.
~Stay here for 90 seconds.
Modifications: Add a blanket, or pillow underneath your hips to make this more comfortable. (4 Child’s Pose Variations)
Benefits: Since you are practicing the supported version of this pose, your lower back won’t be stretched as much as the full version, but it will still allow for a stretch across your upper back muscles.
5. Knees to Chest Pose – Apanasana
~Laying on your back, bring both knees in towards your chest and loosely hold your knees or the back of your thighs.
~Feel your sacrum (lower back) resting on the floor and gently rock side to side, using the floor to massage your lower back.
~Come back to center and take some deep breaths while releasing your leg muscles.
Benefits: A free massage!!! (It feels so nice!)
6. Legs on a Chair (or couch)
~Set up a folding chair or you can use your couch.
~Facing the chair, place one foot on either side of the chair, scootch your hips towards the chair and rest down on your back.
~In any way that’s comfortable for you, bring the lower part of your legs to rest on the seat. Adjust your chair so that your knees line up over your hips in a 90 degree angle.
~Close your eyes and relax – stay here for up to 5 minutes.
~To get out this position, bring your knees into your chest and roll over into a fetal position – staying here until you feel balanced and ready to move back up to a seated position.
Benefits: This is a pose to release the psoas muscle, an important and often neglected muscle that joins the upper body to the lower body, and is part of the hip flexor group. The hip flexor group is responsible for the muscles that make it possible for us to walk.
I hope you have found these 6 gentle yoga poses helpful for low back pain. I truly believe that less is more when it comes to pain in the body. I’d love to hear in the comments how these poses have worked for you!