Many people ask me about the best yoga poses for back pain relief. And the good news is that there are many ways yoga can help with back pain.
As a mind-body therapy, yoga can help alleviate spinal discomfort and associated stress.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, approximately 80% of people will experience back pain problems at some point in their life  and for various reasons. The causes of back pain range from sitting for too long, to having bad posture, to being stressed. Left untreated, back pain can lead to arthritis and ruptured discs.
But yoga can help. Indeed, it helped me.
I suffered back pain after a car crash years ago. I was a very active person and I loved working out. But in the car crash, I injured my neck and back, so I was unable to do the things I love. The constant pain really got me down. I needed a solution.
Thankfully there are lots of treatments for back pain. You can go to your local chiropractor. You can take painkillers. But for me, it is best to use yoga poses for back pain relief. Let me explain why.
Benefits of yoga for back pain relief
Research published by the National Institute Of Health  recommends using yoga for back pain relief.
Studies show that people with mild to moderate-chronic lower back pain can benefit from specific yoga poses.
Dr Robert Saper at Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center studied 320 adults with moderate to severe back pain. The participants were split into three groups. One group was given 12 weeks of yoga classes, another was given an educational book and newsletters about self-care for back pain, and a third group was given fifteen physical therapy visits over 12 weeks. The participants were given a further 40 weeks of either practising yoga at home or taking physical therapy sessions.
All three groups showed improvement, but the yoga and physical therapy groups showed the most improvement. Indeed, yoga was equally as effective as physical therapy.
Best Types of Yoga for Bain Pain Relief
There are lots of different types of yoga. And some are better for back pain than others.
When using yoga for back pain, it is important to go slow and gently.
Sasha Cyrelson, P.T., D.P.T., O.C.S., clinical director at Professional Physical Therapy in Sicklerville, New Jersey, says, “Never stretch into a position of pain… If it actually hurts, ease up on the stretch.” .
Cyrelson tells us that it is safe to practice yoga every day provided you do so in a gentle way. She also states that if you experience pain for three days or more you should visit a physical therapist before continuing to do yoga. If your lower back pain is not a serious condition but rather a case of tension, practice some gentle asanas to relax the back and improve alignment.
Jennifer Bayliss [fitness expert, Williamstown, Massachusetts] warns against using yoga for chronic back pain. However, Bayliss says yoga is ideal for most aches and mild discomfort.
Here are the best types of yoga for back pain relief.
If you’re worried about potentially worsening your back pain, practice yoga with a chair. Just make sure you have a suitable chair for yoga.
Iyengar yoga is a very precise type of yoga that features modifications for people with neck and back problems.
Ashtanga is an effective type of yoga for back pain that is mild to moderate. It uses power moves like lunges and can strengthen the spine.
Vini-yoga emphasises breathing. Movements are coordinated with inhalations and exhalations. This helps to slow the body and mind. Plus, it can release muscle tension.
Yin is a very slow type of yoga in which poses are held for a few minutes. This helps us to learn how to move the body and can improve posture.
Meditation: As well as using yoga for back pain relief, meditation helps the spine too.
Best Yoga Poses for Back Pain Relief
The best yoga poses for back pain relief are ones that move the spine in gentle ways, and ones that gently massage the area. Try the following yoga poses for back pain relief.
Downward Dog to stretch the hamstrings
Back pain can be caused by poor alignment and by tension in the lower back. One great asana to help with this is Downward Dog (Adho mukha svanasana).
According to Orthopaedic Exercise Specialist Amber Ash, “Downward Dog offers an opportunity to reverse the forces of gravity that usually act on the spine. The action of the hip joint flexing and folding in the front brings the abdominals in close toward the spine, strengthening them”.
This is a great pose for the back extensors (muscles in the lower back that support the spine).
Upward Dog for abdominal muscles:
As you might expect, “Upward Dog” is basically the inverse of Downward Dog. And it is a particularly good yoga poses for back pain relief. It gently stretches the spine while also improving back strength and working the abdominal muscles.
Triangle pose for torso and hips:
Approximately half of all cases of back pain result from sitting for too long either at work or home. This puts unnatural pressure on the lower spine and can cause severe health problems. Thankfully, yoga can help.
Try Triangle Pose. In this asana, the legs are in a triangle position, and we stretch to the side with one arm reaching down the front leg, and the other up towards the sky. This gently stretches and relaxes the back to ease spinal discomfort. It is excellent for stretching the muscle fibres along your outer hip (your IT / iliotibial band).
Legs-up-wall pose for stability
If you spend too much time on your feet and you find that your back pain gradually develops throughout the day, you might like to try legs-up-wall pose (I wonder why it’s called that…?).
This pose helps to recirculate your blood flow. It is easy to do. Simply lie perpendicular to a wall, place your legs up the wall and relax your arms by your side.
Child’s Pose elongates the back
Child’s Pose is a restorative pose that we often return to when doing yoga. To do this pose you simply sit with your knees on the floor, then bow your head and stretch your arms out in front of you. This gently stretches the back all the way from the pelvis to the neck. It’s literally so easy a child could do it.
Cat / Cow for relaxing the spine
If I had to pick the absolute number one best yoga pose for back pain relief it would be cat / cow. It’s the pose where we are on all fours and gently stretch the back and neck in an arch, up and down. This stretches the back both ways and massages the torso. It is wonderfully relaxing and helps to improve posture.
Always remember that if you are using yoga poses for back pain relief, you are best to go slowly and cautiously. Although yoga can be very beneficial, it could worsen your injury if you practice incorrectly.
If you have serious spinal health problems do not practice alone. Always consult a healthcare professional.
Paul Harrison is a passionate meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison