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Yoga for Back Pain: Relieve Your Discomfort with Gentle Stretches

Yoga for Back Pain: Relieve Your Discomfort with Gentle Stretches

Back pain can be a real pain in the, well, back. Whether you're dealing with chronic discomfort, an injury, or just the occasional twinge, finding relief can be challenging. Fortunately, yoga can be an excellent way to soothe your aching back and improve your overall well-being. In this beginner's guide, we'll explore the best yoga poses for lower and upper back pain, as well as yoga for sciatica pain, herniated discs, and chronic discomfort. You'll also learn about the benefits of yoga for back pain and how to create yoga sequences for back pain relief.

Let me be clear from the get go, they are called gentle stretches but if you are reading this, well you are on team Vince as I like to call it in my studio.  These poses will take you to your edge despite being "restorative".  Unlike other sports where grit and tenacity bring you the biggest benefits in these poses you want to find a balance of ease and discomfort.  The videos are critical but read through to get an overview.  I put together some videos for each pose and the links are in text and also at the end of the article.  Let's get into it...

The Benefits of Yoga for Back Pain

Yoga is a form of exercise that focuses on breathing, mindfulness, and gentle movements. When done regularly, yoga can help alleviate back pain by improving flexibility, strengthening the core muscles that support the spine, and reducing stress and tension in the body. In fact, a 2017 study found that practicing yoga for just six weeks led to a significant reduction in back pain intensity and disability compared to those who did not practice yoga. 
 Source- Holtzman, S., & Beggs, R. T. (2017). Yoga for chronic low back pain: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Pain Research and Treatment, 2017, 1-13. doi: 10.1155/2017/2847280

Gentle Yoga for Back Pain

If you're new to yoga or have a sensitive back, it's essential to start with gentle poses that won't aggravate your pain. A few examples of gentle yoga poses for back pain include:

  • Child's Pose: Kneel on the floor, then lower your upper body forward, reaching your arms out in front of you. Rest your forehead on the mat and breathe deeply, feeling a stretch in your lower back.

  • Cat-Cow Pose: Start on your hands and knees, then alternate between arching your back (cow pose) and rounding your spine (cat pose) while inhaling and exhaling.

  • Sphinx Pose: Lie on your stomach with your forearms on the ground, elbows under your shoulders. Press your forearms into the ground and lift your chest up, keeping your shoulders relaxed.

Remember! The poses won't aggravate things but you could.  It's a big piece of humble pie, trust me I know, but you need to be easy with yourself.  A yoga strap goes a long way helping here as do blocks.  Watch the videos when you can form and breath has to be intentional to reap the benefits.

Best Yoga Stretches for Back Pain Relief

If you're ready for a bit more of a challenge, there are several yoga stretches that can help relieve back pain. The key is to be preventative, these stretches are much better at preventing a flair up than calming things down.  A few poses are:

  • Downward-Facing Dog: Start on your hands and knees, then lift your hips up and back, straightening your arms and legs. Press your hands and feet into the ground, feeling a stretch in your hamstrings and lower back.

  • Cobra Pose: Lie on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders, elbows close to your body. Inhale and lift your chest up, keeping your shoulders down and away from your ears.

  • Triangle Pose: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, then step your left foot back and turn your left toes out to a 45-degree angle. Extend your arms out to the sides, then hinge forward from your hips, reaching your right hand down to your shin or ankle and lifting your left arm up towards the ceiling.

Yoga for Upper Back Pain

While lower back pain tends to be more common, upper back pain can also be an issue for many people. If you have low back pain, don't ignore these stretches for your upper back. There are several yoga poses that can help relieve and prevent discomfort in the upper back, shoulders, and neck. Here are a few of my personal favorites.

  • Eagle Arms: Sit or stand with your arms extended out in front of you, then cross your right arm over your left and bring your palms together. Lift your elbows up and away from your body, feeling a stretch in your upper back and shoulders. (if you have tight shoulders just press your forearms together palms flush.)

  • Shoulder Opener: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms extended out to the sides. Cross your right arm over your left, then bring your palms together and fold your arms in towards your chest. Breathe deeply and hold for a few breaths before switching sides.

  • Cow Face Arms: Sit or stand with your right arm extended up towards the ceiling, then bend your elbow and bring your hand behind your back. Reach your left arm behind your back and try to clasp your hands together. Breathe deeply and hold for a few breaths before switching sides. ( I'm going to level with you, this is an ELITE movement few people can execute.  Grab a towel, or just grab your shirt

    • Yoga for Sciatica Pain and Herniated Discs

      Sciatica pain and herniated discs can be particularly challenging to manage, but yoga can be an effective way to relieve discomfort and improve mobility. A few yoga poses that may be helpful include:

    • Pigeon Pose: Start on your hands and knees, then bring your right knee towards your right wrist and extend your left leg out behind you. Lower your upper body down towards the mat and breathe deeply, feeling a stretch in your right hip and glutes. Repeat on the other side.

    • Cat-Cow with Leg Extension: Start on your hands and knees, then lift your right leg up and back while rounding your spine (cat pose). Inhale and extend your right leg out behind you while arching your back (cow pose). Repeat on the other side.

    • Seated Forward Fold: Sit with your legs extended out in front of you, then fold forward from your hips and reach towards your toes. Breathe deeply and hold for a few breaths, feeling a stretch in your hamstrings and lower back.

      These poses are tricky, watch the videos.  A few minutes or seconds on the video will save you pain.  I also want to mention that working with a PT can help address underlying issues.  I find that mat Pilates can also help with mitigating this from flaring up in the future.

      • Yoga Sequences for Back Pain Relief

        If you're looking for a more structured yoga practice to relieve back pain, consider creating a sequence that includes a variety of poses and movements. Remember you are not dancing, you are not an influencer, you are team Vince.  You just want things to work so you can do the things you like longer.  Leave your ego at the door and focus less on transitions and be more methodical in your approach.  Focus on your breath and throw on some of your favorite tunes.

        • Child's Pose
        • Cat-Cow Pose
        • Seated Forward Fold
        • Downward-Facing Dog
        • Cobra Pose
        • Triangle Pose
        • Eagle Arms
        • Pigeon Pose
        • Shoulder Opener
        • Sphinx Pose
        • Cow Face Arms

        Repeat the sequence 2-3 times, moving slowly and mindfully and breathing deeply throughout. Don't stress fancy transitions, keep your objective in mind and move with precision.  I like to give myself about 15 seconds to find a sweet spot and then take a few breaths if time allows in each.  

        So let me level with you

        Back pain can definitely be reduced through yoga, but you have to be kind to your body in the poses.  It's allot harder to do this than you would think!  Additionally the likelihood of doing an entire flow in one shot just starting is minimal.  Try the poses individually watch the videos and then just randomly sprinkle them in your day.  I get the most benefit from just doing a stretch while the kettle boils, or a quick couple movements during a commercial break.  Some of these poses you can literally just hang out in while watching your favorite show.  

      The video links are below, (they aren't yet because I have to film them) but you can follow or message me on Instagram until then Vince_Ghost or on @2ndwindhealth and I would be happy to give you guidance until the videos are loaded. 


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