Lower back pain can be a real pain in the ass (no pun intended). Because, more often than not, the pain is located along your back itself, which isn’t that easy to reach and give a good rub. Besides, the pain might as well be located deeper into your core. So, whilst pain in other parts of your body might be easily managed by gentle stretches and massage, the deep core muscles of the lower back are less easy to reach and to move. Hence, a different approach is required. Enter yoga for lower back pain: here’s how to get rid of those annoying pangs of pain in your stiff back.
First things first, why do you experience lower back pain?
There can be a thousand reasons why you’re experiencing lower back pain and, to start with, turning inward is important in understanding the source of your pain more definitively. You might be experiencing high levels of stress (more on that here) or (un)consciously be dealing with poor posture (read this article if holding a correct posture hurts).
Lower back pain can be a sign of stored emotions
For me, lower back pain is often a sign of age-old frustrations that I’m still holding onto. This is quite a common phenomenon too, as our lower back is one of the secret areas where we store repressed anger, Sean Grover L.C.S.W. explains in this Psychology Today article. So, read up on the links between stress, repressed anger, poor posture, and pain: most likely, you’re experiencing at least one of the above.
Why yoga for lower back pain helps
As the lower back muscles form an important part of your core, it would be worth your while to dedicate time to understanding how the core functions and look into various ways you can access and loosen the muscles of the core if they are tight. You can’t easily twist or swing around to this part of your body for a good rub, like you’d usually do. But luckily for you, dear reader, accessing the core is where yoga shines!
Asanas for lower back pain relief
Some yoga poses are designed specifically to loosen up your lower back (and more). A few of the asanas that can help you out in case of lower back pain:
- Pindasana (Embryo Pose in Shoulder Stand)
- Balasana (Child’s Pose)
- Malasana (Garland Pose)
- Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose)
How yoga for lower back pain helps take your mind off things
Once you put a variety of asanas into a specific order, and you practice those poses consecutively, you are practicing a yoga flow. The beauty of immersing yourself in a flow is that you are able to take your mind off the pain in your stiff back and let the joy of the movement take over. Mentally, focusing less on your pain also means your body will be more able to relax.
Understand your lower back pain
If you ask me, it’s not easy to fully understand where exactly that nagging pain in your stiff back comes from. For years, the best I could do was point out whether the pain was coming from (for instance) my upper lower back or my left lower back, but more than that, I couldn’t really say. It was only once I took the time to understand my anatomy that it became so much easier to distinguish the sources of different pains. And with this, I understood which stretches would be beneficial for which types of pain. If you’re serious about understanding your pain, treating it, and even finding ways to prevent it entirely I’d encourage you to do similar research.
Understanding your anatomy for lower back pain
Now before you get lost in the wild west of internet research on your anatomy, I do have some helpful recommendations at hand. The two books that have helped me the most in understanding my anatomy are Functional Anatomy Of Yoga by David Keil and The Key Muscles Of Yoga (Volume 1) and The Key Poses Of Yoga (Volume 2) by Ray Long. If you can afford to buy both of them, I recommend using them side by side.
Using specific asanas to relieve lower back pain
When you come to understand the root of your pain you can more effectively choose the right asanas for lower back pain relief. I find this article by Yoganatomy brilliant in ways of explaining lower back anatomy in an easy-to-digest way. By the way, getting specific about choosing asanas doesn’t mean you can happily neglect all asanas but the one you chose 😉 If you’re smart about your lower back pain, you’ll approach the pain from different angles (literally, in this case). But, some asanas you might want to hold for longer or move into more deeply if that’s where your focus is.
Lower back pain relief yoga poses
Here, you’ll find some asanas to help relieve general tightness and pain in your lower back. Later on, in this article, these asanas are implemented into one of the two flows that I have created as part of the yoga for lower back pain practice (find them here).
- Child’s Pose / Balasana
- Garland Pose / Malasana
- Embryo Pose in Shoulder Stand / Pindasana
- Knees-to-Chest Pose / Apanasana
- Bridge Pose / Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
- Supine Twist / Supta Matsyendrasana
Lower back pain relief: how to deepen the stretch using visualization
Something that always helps me to understand how to access a certain part of my body in different ways, is placing myself (mentally) right in front of it. Imagine you’re standing behind yourself, facing your lower back. Now, mentally, draw a cross and an X across your lower back. Then, explore stretching your lower back along all of these axes: vertically, horizontally, and diagonally.
Add twisting to the lower back stretch mix
Now that you’ve taken the time to visualize the stretching directions of your lower back, add another perspective to enable yourself to deepen the stretch. This is where twisting kicks in: spinal rotation. Regular rotation of the spine is important in preventing back and neck injury (more on that here). Besides, knowing how to properly rotate your spine, will seriously benefit your lower back stretch. And the better your stretching technique, the more effective any form of exercise will be.
Yoga for lower back pain: create your own flow
Once you understand how to stretch your lower back properly and which asanas are most likely to give you effective back pain relief, you can start to create your own flow. If you do so, make sure to shape your flow in a mindful way. These are some things to take into consideration:
- Warm-up: always do a few Sun Salutations to warm up your body before you dive into a deeper stretch. Warmed up muscles make for easier stretches and help prevent injury.
- Asanas: choose to practice asanas that you feel comfortable with. If you feel discomfort, that might be a sign that this asana is too intense. Instead, choose something gentler. Keep in mind that 4-5 asanas already make up the core of your flow.
- Deepen the stretch: if you feel comfortable in an asana you might feel inclined to deepen the stretch a bit and it’s important that you do so mindfully. If you don’t know how to deepen the stretch, think of the mental cross you drew on your back and gently move around these axes to feel the impact.
- Counter poses: always make sure to do one or two counter poses after an intense stretch to neutralize your body and balance your practice. For example, after a forward fold, you’ll do a back bend. After a twist, you’ll do a pose where your body returns to neutral alignment.
- Cool down: once you are finished with your flow, give your body some time to rest. Resting also stimulates the healing process. Finish in Savasana and take at least 5 minutes (preferably 8) to cool and calm down.
Want to discover more yoga poses for lower back pain?
In this step-by-step guide to yoga flows for lower back pain relief I have designed two unique and effective flows to work with your body to release pain in your lower back. One is a gentle flow for beginners who want to practice yoga for lower back pain relief, the other one is a more intense flow for advanced yogis. I have designed both flows so that you can practice them in under 30 minutes and they both contain an illustrated guide (they’re free, too :)) Check out the two flows to practice yoga for lower back pain here.
Some more ideas to combat lower back pain
Whilst gentle movement may be effective on one day, on another day you might be more tired or overwhelmed and need a different approach. If that’s the case, you could try massaging your lower back with a massage tool or let the warmth of a bath or hot water battle soothe your pain. Read more tips for feeling down here. Or, try a pressure point massage in the arches of your feet to relieve low back pain. More on that in this Healthline article.
If you have a stiff back, do not…
- Sit in the same position for more than 20 minutes.
- Get cozy in your ‘ergonomic’ (home) office setup, as getting cozy often means slouching, which strains the lower back significantly.
- Think that you are too stiff to improve your flexibility. Everyone can improve their flexibility.
- Try to do too many things in the day. Excessive busyness can trigger stress that will often manifest as tension in your lower back.
Instead, work with your stiff back by…
- Moving around often throughout the day (link to easy ways to improve flexibility)
- Exploring ways to sit that are the most comfortable for you.
- Working toward being comfortable in as many sitting positions as possible.
- Thinking outside of the Western-ways-of-sitting-box. For example, you could try a standing desk.
- Being committed to working with your lower back pain, even if that means those new ways of sitting might be uncomfortable at the start.
- Learning to take it slowly, day by day, to avoid unnecessary tension and being open to creating more of a state of relaxation. More on stressing less in this article
Checklist: find relief from your stiff back using yoga for lower back pain
- Learn to understand your lower back pain by taking time to understand your anatomy
- Approach your pain from different angles by practicing multiple asanas for lower back pain relief
- Customize: practice a gentle yoga flow or a more intense one, as part of your yoga for lower back pain practice
- Stay curious in your practice; try moving around in asanas that you feel comfortable in, so that you know how you can deepen your stretch. Make sure to do so in a mindful manner.
- Keep moving: practice yoga for lower back pain whenever you are in pain and feel up to moving. Even if you just practice 3 asanas: that’s better than nothing!
- If you feel overwhelmed or have low energy levels, try using a massage tool for lower back pain relief or use a hot water bottle soothe your pain.
- You may also want to try foot reflexology pressure points to relief the pain in your stiff back.
- Get ahead of the problem: keep up with your yoga for lower back pain practice even when you don’t have pain, so you can avoid developing it.
- Short on time? Here are my favorite asanas in the Yoga for lower back pain flows: Child’s Pose (Balasana), Garland Pose (Malasana), Embryo Pose in Shoulder Stand (Pindasana). As a counterpose I like to practice Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana).
DID YOU ENJOY READING THIS POST?
I sure hope you did If you have any questions, recommendations, or experiences you want to share, I’d be more than happy to read your thoughts! You can leave your comment in the field below. Do you know someone who could benefit from this article about yoga for lower back pain? Feel free to share this post (via the URL bar or any of the social share buttons) and get the positive energy flowing!
Regarding any form of bodily movement or exercise, please note the following. If you are in severe pain or have a known condition, please consult with your treating doctor. Don’t continue to practice if you experience pain while doing so. Only practice for as long as it feels comfortable and practice mindfully. Be aware of how your body reacts when practicing yoga for lower back pain.