Yoga Poses for Back Pain: How-to, Tips, Benefits, Images, Videos
One of the most common problems we see at the studio is back pain. There are all kinds of causes. Sometimes it's an old sports injury. Sometimes you just moved a box the wrong way. It can even be something as simple as sitting at a desk all day long. Whether the origins are some acute injury or long-term stress, there are a few simple poses that can help (for acute injuries in particular, it's good to check with your doctor for more detailed instruction).

Something to keep in mind throughout all your yoga -- breathe deeply, and match your moving with your breathing. If you can breathe slowly, easily, with attention -- your moving can be the same. When handling injuries, this is especially important. The muscles around an injury, and even radiating throughout your body, will tighten to defend and compensate. This may protect against further injury, but can prolong or even prevent complete healing. It takes time and patience to let these muscles release.  In the case of back pain, giving time for your muscles to release can allow your vertebrae and discs to align properly, and healing to proceed more easily. If something hurts, back off. Just breathe, move slowly, and pay attention.

Standing Forward Bend - Stand with your feet parallel, hip width apart. Fold forward over your legs, allowing your back, arms, and neck to release toward the ground. [Suggested modifications for back pain: 1) hold opposite elbows to provide some added weight / traction; 2) lightly interlace fingers behind neck to provide some added weight / traction (don't pull)] More on Standing Forward Bend >>

Cow Face Pose
- From hands and knees, cross one knee behind the other, and rest it outside of the opposite calf. Keep the back knee pressed forward, widen your ankles out to the sides, and lower your hips to sit down between your heels. More on Cow Face Pose >>

Supported Bridge Pose
- Want to open up your back and chest without a struggle? A supported bridge is an easy way to relax while releasing your spine in some great new directions. Lie down on your back, feet planted behind your hips, knees up. Lift your hips up to a comfortable level, and place a block under your... More on Supported Bridge Pose >>

Plow Pose
- Lie down on your back with arms alongside your body, and bring knees into your chest. With legs either bent or straight [suggested modification for the back: keep the knees bent, thighs close to chest]... More on Plow Pose >>

Reclining Eagle Twist
- Lie down flat on your back. Lift both knees up, bringing your feet right behind your hips. Keeping one foot on the ground, lift your other foot and wrap that leg over and around your resting leg. Hook the foot of your lifted leg behind the calf of the resting leg. More on Reclining Eagle Twist >>

Supported Spine Opener
- Sit upright with legs straight in front of you. Place one block lengthwise behind your hips on its medium height. Keeping your hips on the ground, roll slowly back to lie.. More on Supported Spine Opener >>

Reclining Half Ankle to Knee Pose
- Tension in your hips and lower back go together. This one helps with both. Remember there's no need to force anything, just go easy with your breath and your body will open... More on Reclining Half Ankle to Knee >>

Reclining Knee to Chest Pose
- This is a simple, easy start for releasing tension in your hips and back. We all hold strength and stress a bit differently on each side of our body, so expect to feel a little different from left to... More on Reclining Knee to Chest Pose >>

Reclining Single Leg Twist
- This pose gives a good release for the lower back, and is a great opener for the muscles around your ribs. For endurance athletes, the... More on Reclining Single Leg Twist Pose >>

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About the Author

Mike is a guide and resident healer at Strala Yoga in New York. Named “Best Mover” by MindBodyGreen and one of Shape Magazine’s Hottest Trainers, he’s practiced Eastern movement and healing techniques for more than three decades, including tai chi, qigong, and shiatsu.

In his younger years, Mike challenged centuries of reasonable and well-tested martial traditions in hundreds of competitions, by applying unruly imagination to a world where rules were unbreakable. As he got older, he happily become more interested in supporting bodies than disrupting them, and continued on to medical applications of the mind-body connection in university.

Mike studied mind-body medicine at Harvard, and alternative medicine and psychology at Oxford. After running into walls with standard medical practice in the U.S. and England, Mike left his healthcare roots. He worked at a steel mill for a while, joined a web company, and then founded a few more. He now serves on the board of Odyl, which helps people discover books on Facebook.

As Strala's co-founder, Mike has found his way back to health care done right: helping people let go of stress in their bodies and minds, become their own best caregivers, and live happy capable lives. Mike is a mountaineer, runner, cyclist, skier, and snowboarder. Check out Michael's MBG Video Course, The Complete Guide To Yoga.