To move more freely and counteract the effects of sitting at a desk all day, practise these 5 easy yoga poses for back pain – as recommended by yoga instructor, Madeleine Bong.
“I often find my students with back pain after sitting for long hours or standing around for a long period of time,” says Maddy. “This is because, as we sit for long hours, our core, glutes, and hamstrings are completely turned off, and as we stand, we may not be as consistently aware of our posture. Both actions can compromise the integrity of our body, leading to back pain. This is where yoga comes in.
“Through time, patience and awareness there is a way to alleviate back pain. Everything is a journey, but here are 5 easy yoga poses for back pain to get you started!”
Yoga Pose 1: Bridge
Targets: Core, hamstrings, glutes
The bridge pose lengthens the front side of your body while strengthening the underside. This shape also focuses on core strength through a lengthening perspective rather than a “crutching”. A bridge is the complete opposite of the shape we mostly make in our daily lives, i.e. sitting.
How to do a Bridge pose
Use a mirror to help with your alignment or ask someone to spot you until you get a feel of your position.
- Lay on your back and place your feet on the ground with your knees lifted.
- Ankles are stacked under your knees so your shins are in a straight line to the ground.
- Feet at about hip width distance and toes pointed forward.
- Tuck your hips underneath you (imprint your spine on the ground) as you lift your hips towards the sky. You will lengthen your spine as you tuck your hips/tailbone.
- Hold for 5-10 breaths and breathe deeply into your belly.
- If this is your first time in this shape, I recommend placing a block in between the knees to help stabilise the hips and keep a steady engagement of the inner thighs.
- Press down evenly through your feet and energetically draw your heels to your glutes to engage your hamstrings.
- Be aware of the alignment of your legs – it’s easy to point the toes away from one another but that could put pressure on your lower back over time.
- Your neck is in a vulnerable position, so try to keep your head still.
Yoga Pose 2: Cat-Cow / Spinal Rolls
Targets: Spine and hips
This easy yoga pose for back pain is a GREAT one to do any time you feel stiff! The Cat-cow movement helps build strength in the muscles surrounding your spine and develops mobility throughout the length of your back.
How to do Cat-Cow
- Start on hands on knees. Stack your hips over your knees and your shoulders over your wrists. Lengthen the sides of your neck by drawing your ears away from your shoulders.
- Pull your belly button to your spine to engage your core.
- Inhale – softly drop the belly as your chest moves through the broadening of your collar bones. This creates an arch in the spine. Your eye gaze can move towards the front of the room or close your eyes to draw your awareness inwards.
- Exhale – press your hands down and dome your back towards the sky as you pull your lower belly to your spine. Tuck your tailbone under. Relax your neck and drop you head towards the ground.
- Continue with this movement for as long as you’d like. You can add in more movements such as swaying the hips or finding child’s pose. Whatever makes YOU feel good!
- This is a chance to simply move the body and bring awareness to your breath and any areas within your body that need your attention.
- Be mindful of your wrists and come onto your fists if you feel any pain.
- Fold your mat over in two if your knees are feeling sensitive.
Yoga Pose 3: Extended Side Angle
Targets: Core, glutes, adductors (Inner thighs), hip flexors (front of your hips), entire side body
This shape lengthens your front and side body while adding strength in your legs, glutes and core to create a strong foundation to support your back.
How to do the Extended Side Angle pose
- Front toes are pointing forwards. Blade-edge of your back foot is parallel to the short edge of your mat.
- Lift through the inner arches of your feet but press down through your big toes and the outer edge of your heel.
- Engage the glute of your front leg to stack your knee on top of your ankle.
- You can soften your other glute so that your back leg can have slight internal rotation.
- Engage your core by pulling your lower belly softly to your spine. Create a slight hollowing of your front body (i.e. draw the bottom of your ribcage to your front hip bones). The tendency is to arch the back and flare out the ribs.
- Bottom arm reaches down. (See below for variations)
- Top arm reaches up and over the side of your ear. Fingertips reaching for the front of the room.
- Eye gaze towards the ground or up towards your top fingertips if your neck is feeling strong.
- Ground down through the blade edge of your back foot.
- Draw awareness to length of your side body from the blade edge of your back foot, up the side of your back leg, your waistline and up your arm through your fingertips.
- Bottom arm can rest on a block to keep the length on both sides of your waistline rather than dumping into your bottom waistline and overly arching through your top waistline. If a block is unavailable, you could rest your elbow on your knee.
- Notice if you’re relying too much on the support of your bottom arm that your core becomes disengaged.
- Externally rotate from your top shoulder (I.e. your pinkie finger and palm spins down).
- Breathe and expand into your ribcage.
Yoga Pose 4: Locust Pose (or Superman/ Superwoman)
Targets: Back, hamstrings, glutes, and adductors (inner thighs)
Like many of the other easy yoga poses for back pain, the locust pose focuses on the strengthening of the back body and lengthening of the front body.
How to do the Locust Pose
- Lie on your belly. Palms facing down or towards one another.
- Press down through the tops of your feet and lift through your chest as you engage your back body.
- Squeeze your legs together and, if you would like, you can lift through all 4 limbs of your body.
- Look down towards the front of your mat to lengthen the back of your neck.
- Hold for 3-5 breaths to start and take about 3 rounds with rest in-between each round.
- It’s tempting to want to look at yourself if there is a mirror in front of you, but this can lead to crutching in the back of your neck. My advice is, look (you deserve your own admiration J) and looking in the beginning can help with your alignment. However, do look down and lengthen your neck afterwards.
- Feel free to shake out your hips or sway the legs from side to side during your resting periods to help release any tension in the lower back.
Yoga Pose 5: Spinal Twist
Targets: Spine, core, hips/glutes
The more you can create safe movements for your spine, the more your body will thank you. This yoga pose helps with back pain by creating muscular activation in the lumbar spine (lower back) and abdominal core. Strength especially in your core will help your overall spinal health.
Alongside spinal and core strength, spinal twists aid in increasing stability and blood flow into this area. Increasing oxygenation into your spine is important since this area does not receive as much blood flow as other parts of our body.
How to do a Spinal Twist
- Place your foot on the outside of the opposite knee.
- Straighten your bottom knee if you notice your sit bones are not evenly pressing down or you have knee pain.
- Place the same hand of the knee that is pointing upwards just behind your hip.
- Inhale – reach your opposite arm towards the sky. Lengthen your spine and pull your belly button to your spine to engage your core.
- Exhale – begin to twist, perhaps wrapping your arm around your knee or hooking your elbow on the outside of the knee.
- Find length through each inhale and stay grounded through your hips with each exhale.
- It’s not important to go deep in your twist as it’s more important to stay strong in your core to safely twist using the muscles supporting the spine.
- Twist from your chest not your hips.
- Therefore, keep your hips grounded.
- There are many twists you can take; some may be more active, others more restorative. My advice is to work with both.
Good luck with these easy yoga poses for back pain! Or follow the link to read about The Alignment Studio’s workplace yoga classes.
Disclaimer: Everyone’s body is unique and carries its own story. Please care for YOUR body and take variations for anything listed above that does not feel good for you. My words are simply an offering. Seek assistance if needed.