5 Yoga Poses for Lower Back Pain
Do you struggle with aches, pains, and tightness in your lower back? You’re not alone; up to 60% of adults suffer from lower back pain (LBP) at some point in their lifetime, and seniors are even more likely to struggle with back pain.
In this blog, Yoga Educator and Nutrition Coach Jen Buddington shares five yoga poses which can help manage and prevent lower back pain. If you’re new to yoga, make sure to also check out these yoga poses for beginners.
There are many factors that can contribute to lower back pain, including poor posture, muscular imbalances, strains, or injury. And once you have LBP, you’re more likely to struggle with mobility. Research has also shown those who suffer with lower back pain also experience ‘low mood’ due to physical inactivity and pain .
How can yoga help with lower back pain?
Yoga is a mind, spirit, and body practice that has many physical and mental benefits, including improved strength and mobility, better mental health, and reduced stress. Practising yoga, even for just 10 minutes a day, improves body awareness and highlights tension and imbalances in the body, which can then be addressed.
For back pain particularly, yoga can highlight areas to relax and areas to strengthen to create a more balanced body and mind. It can also alleviate anxiety and stress, which reduces tension held within the body that can be contributing to muscular pain.
For many people, lower back pain is a result of poor posture and prolonged periods of sitting, which leads to muscle imbalances. Yoga also helps to gently stretch and strengthen the muscles, which can help with these imbalances and the pain caused by tight, weak muscles.
Chair Yoga Flow connects your movement with breath, increasing mood, mobility, and strength – plus it’s a gentle approach to ease in with, especially if you’re feeling stiff and sore with back pain. Practicing this style of yoga will help to improve blood circulation, range of motion through your joints, and balance and coordination. All of this can be particularly helpful for the muscles around your back and spine, helping to stabilise and strengthen your lower back area.
While research supports yoga to treat back pain, not all yoga will be suitable for people with LBP. Some asanas are incredibly advanced and need a lot of strength and flexibility in the spine and surrounding muscles and attempting these without building up to them could risk causing further pain or new injuries. We recommend speaking with your GP before starting any new exercise programme, especially if you have pain, as they can identify if there is an injury causing this pain that might be worsened with activity.
5 yoga poses to ease back pain
Lots of yoga poses can help with back pain, but here I’ve selected 5 chair-based asanas which will help relieve discomfort and stress that comes with lower back pain. These are gentle enough to do every day – I recommend building 10 minutes into your morning routine to work through these before your day begins, so you can start the day with a positive mind and comfortable body.
Start with three rounds of each exercise, and slowly increase the breaths you hold each pose over time.
Chair Mountain Pose
The Chair Mountain Pose helps to gently strengthen your core muscles. A strong core is better able to support the lower back and hips, which reduces tension and stress at the base of the spine.
When doing this pose, make sure to engage your core muscles throughout by pulling your belly button in towards your spine. Keep your awareness on the lower back, middle back, core muscles and hips, and make sure not to overstretch.
- Begin by sitting comfortably on your chair with your feet firm on the floor, hands on your knees, and focusing on deep, gentle breaths
- As you inhale, extend your spine upwards
- Exhale and bend forward slowly taking the torso to 60 degrees
- On your next inhale, stretch your spine while in this forward bend
- Exhale and look up, then remain in this posture for 4 breaths before releasing and relaxing back to the sitting position
Chair Cat/Cow Pose
This exercise moves between two poses, Cat and Cow, to open the back, shoulders, chest, psoas major, and abdominal muscles. Curving the back inwards and outwards while coordinating the breathing process helps to release the tensions of the entire back.
Practice this six times, coordinating the moves with the breathing process.
- Start by sitting in a sturdy chair with your feet flat on the ground and hands on your knees - aim to sit towards the middle of the chair rather than being pressed flat against the backrest
- As you inhale, expand your chest, drop your head and chin back and arch your back into Chair Cat. Hold for a moment
- Exhale and tuck your chin in and your head forward, while rounding your back, chest and shoulders forwards into Cow Pose. Hold for a moment
- Move dynamically here from Chair Cat to Cow Pose, making sure to use your full range of movement to feel the best stretch. As you do this smile and breath with positivity to really help calm your mind and relieve stress
If you feel comfortable, you can also try this on all fours, with knees below hips and hands below shoulders on the floor. The same curving movement will apply.
Chair Sun Salutation Modified
Sun salutations are an iconic yoga favourite and provide a powerful flow for the entire back, hips, and core. This complete body movement will improve blood circulation, which in turn helps to reduce joint stress and stiffness, including in the lower back (base of the spine), easing the aches and pain in the lumbar region.
The modified chair sun salutation is easier on stiff or sore backs.
- Begin by sitting comfortably and straight in a sturdy chair with your feet firmly on the floor and hands on your knees
- As you inhale, raise your arms up over your head extending the chest, shoulders and arms. Stay here for one breath
- As you exhale, fold forward, bending from the hips, ideally until your hands drop down to the floor (or as low as you can comfortably go). Stay here for one breath
- Inhale and slowly sit back up
- Exhale and lift your right knee up upwards, supporting with your hand
- Inhale and raise the right knee in towards your body with your hand and look up
- Exhale and continue to look up, leaning slightly backwards. Stay here for one breath
- Exhale and press your thigh towards you and bring the head towards the knee, rounding your back forwards
- Gently release the leg, rest for one breath and repeat with the left leg
- Rest for one breath before repeating again
Chair Revolved Pose
These hip and upper back twists will help stretch your lower back spine and middle back. These muscles will open up as they stretch, increasing flexibility and strength. Work slowly as you bend and twist. Make sure to keep your breath flowing rhythmically throughout.
- Begin sitting comfortably and straight in a sturdy chair with your feet firmly on the floor and hands on your knees
- As you inhale, stretch and extend the spine
- Exhale and fold forward, reaching for the ground with your left arm
- While in this position, inhale and raise your right arm upwards
- Exhale and turn your head to look up at the extended arm
- Stay in this Revolved Chair Pose for about three breaths before releasing your right arm down towards the ground
- Repeat by raising your left arm upwards
- Chair Cobra Pose
This is a simple back bend, so really take your time to enjoy it and explore how this stretches right through your back. Relax into the movement and focus on your breathing.
- Start sitting towards the front of your chair, with feet firmly on the floor and hands holding the back of the chair on either side of your hips
- Inhale and curve your body forward, feeling the stretch through your arms, chest and spine
- Exhale and drop your head backwards
- Hold this back bend for six breaths before releasing and relaxing
Once you’ve learnt the basics you can begin to build new exercises into your routine. You may wish to take a yoga class, or get a personal trainer to develop your skills even further. Discover more about the benefits of yoga with this Yoga vs Pilates guide, and you can try some other movements over on our Beginner Guide to Yoga. We offer more advice for lower back pain with this mobility and stretch guide, as well as more stretches for lower back pain here.