Whether you maintain an active lifestyle or spend most of your time sitting at a desk, your lower back is prone to irritation. This part of the body is easy to disrupt and can really put a damper on your day. Yoga is an excellent tool for pacifying this region while preventing future irritation. Below are twenty postures that can brighten your day by relieving that dull ache.
Salamba Bhujangasana — Sphinx Pose
Spinal flexibility, particularly in the lumbar region, is sustained by encouraging the body’s natural curve. Sphinx pose is perfect for toning the spine while providing relief in constricted areas of the back body. Begin lying on the stomach with legs straight out behind and tops of the feet firmly rooted down. Bring the elbows under the shoulders, and the forearms parallel in front with palms planted. Lift up through the crown of the head while grounding the pubic bone down. Continue to draw the elbows back to open through the heart center. Release down on an exhale and perhaps bend the knees and move both legs side to side to further release the lower back.
Ardha Kapotasana — Pigeon Pose
Tightness in the back is often linked to other areas of the body and can be remedied by releasing tension in unexpected spaces. Hips are common culprits of back pain as they can quickly become constricted and we overcompensate in the back for mobility. Pigeon pose relaxes the hip rotators and flexors while providing a great stretch across the glutes and inner thighs. Different modifications and variations on this pose allow it to be easily catered to meet any needs. If the traditional take on this pose with the body upright doesn’t work for you, try the more restorative reclined version.
Marjaryasana — Cat/Cow Pose
Spinal waves shed awareness on the range of movement through the back body and bring space to the pelvic frame. This flow loosens the muscles surrounding the spine and serves as a perfect warm up for any practice. Starting on all fours with wrists stacked under shoulders and knees under hips, inhale the gaze and tail upwards while dropping the belly to the floor. Use an exhale to round the spine by hollowing out the stomach and tucking the tailbone. Continue to explore the action of the spine by moving through these two postures for three to five rounds.
Adho Mukha Svanasana — Downward Facing Dog
Downward facing dog is a staple posture of most yoga classes and serves as a full body stretch. In addition to lengthening out the spine, you can expect to feel a sweet release through the hamstring and calf muscles. Come to a tabletop position with hands slightly in front of the shoulders and toes tucked. Press through the hands to lift the knees on an inhale, then send the hips up and back while straightening the legs on an exhale. Try holding this shape with bent knees to increase the pelvic tilt and provide more space in the lower back.
Salamba Balanasana — Child’s Pose
Child’s pose is a safe space to return to during any practice and offers a sense of recovery when suffering from back pain. Releasing the hips back while reaching the arm bones forward cultivates a delicate length through the entire spine. Achieve this restful stance by starting in a kneeling position and walking the hands forward while lowering the upper body towards the thighs. If you’re craving a deeper stretch, try widening the knees to the width of your mat while keeping the toes together.
Trikonasana — Triangle Pose
Create spaciousness in the side body and outer hips to soothe aches in the lower back region using triangle pose. Come to a wide-legged stance with the front foot pointing forward, and the back foot turned out roughly 45-degrees. Inhale the arms out wide and exhale to reach forward with the front hand while pitching the hips back. Drop the front hand down to your shin or a block while lifting the other arm straight up, broadening across the collar bones. Root down through the back foot to activate the muscles surrounding the lower back and tuck the tail.
Uttanasana — Standing Forward Fold Pose
Forward folds release tension along the length of the spine while stretching the legs and shoulders. Try standing with feet at hips distance and tailbone rooting towards the heels. Hinge at the waist and bend forward on an exhale, letting the arms hang loosely to the floor or perhaps holding opposite elbows. The more significant the bend is in the knees, the deeper the release in the lower back. You could also try shifting weight forward into the toes to create more space between vertebrae.
Urdhvamukha Shvanasana — Upward Facing Dog Pose
Engaging the muscles of the back supports their future release and helps ease discomfort. This pose opens up the front line of the body and loosens the chest cavity. Start lying flat on your belly with palms planted near the middle of your ribcage and tops of the feet rooted down. Engage the legs and lift the upper body on an inhale using the muscles of the back.
Apanasana — Knee Hugs Pose
Self-massage is an excellent tool for relieving back pain and calming the surrounding muscle groups. Knee hugs provide a fantastic base that targets the lower back and can be modified according to the unique needs of each person. Lie on your back and hug both knees in towards the chest. Mindfully begin rocking from side to side or in a circular motion until you feel a sense of relief.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana — Bridge Pose
Bridge pose is highly customizable and can range from an exhilarating stretch to a restorative release. Lie on your back with feet planted at hips distance and arms flat by your sides. Take a deep breath, engage the legs, and press through the heels to lift the hips up. Energizing the legs to keep the pelvis off the floor strengthens the lower back and glutes while using a supportive prop allows the body to yield to gravity. Find an expression that supports your personal needs and commit to embracing the release.
Supta Baddha Konasana — Bound Angle Pose
Bound angle pose, or Baddha Konasana, provides a stretch for the hip flexors and releases the lower back. The posture requires flexibility, energy, and patience to realize the benefits. The use of props can reduce the amount of effort needed and make the pose more restorative. Sit down, perhaps on a block or bolster, and bring the soles of the feet together. Draw the heels towards the sit bones and let the knees go wide, taking support under them if needed. Stay here with a straight spine and lifted heart through 8-10 cycles of breath.
Utthan Pristhasana — Lizard Pose
Lizard pose is a challenging, yet soothing, exercise that pacifies hip and back pain while stretching other areas that can quickly become constricted. Start in a low lunge and slowly move your front foot towards the pinky toe side of the mat. Bring both hands to the inside of the front foot and dial the toes out slightly. Several optional variations can be found from here that include lifting the back knee or dropping down to the forearms. Hold for as long as you can and use the breath as a tool for softening the pelvis down.
Ardha Matsyendrasana — Seated Twist Pose
It’s important to first consider the muscles that are being worked before trying to dive into any twisting posture. If the focus lies in achieving a deep twist without activating the necessary muscles, the risk for injury becomes heightened. There are several variations available for seated twists that are highly accessible and beneficial. For this method begin seated upright with both legs extended straight and feet flexed. Bend your left knee and plant your foot as close to the left sit bone as possible while keeping the right left rooted firmly down. Take an exhale to initiate the twist towards the bent leg, wrapping or hooking the right arm around the left knee. Continue to breathe in length through the spine and breathe out a deepening in the twist.
Uttana Shishosana — Puppy Pose
Some postures require immense strength and flexibility of mind to experience the full benefits they have to offer. Puppy pose is one of those shapes that asks us to let go of fear and surrender through the heart. When we can achieve this balance and fully enter the pose, peace of mind and relaxation are there waiting for us. Puppy pose lengthens the spine while increasing blood flow to the back muscles and removing tension. Start in a tabletop and walk the hands forward slowly, keeping the hips over the knees, until your heart and forehead melt down towards the mat. If this doesn’t feel accessible today, try using blocks under the forehead or elbows.
Malasana — Squat Pose
Yogi squat, Malasana, or Garland Pose is warming for the hips and energizing for the legs. As if these perks weren’t enough, the back body gets a good stretch and release as the pelvis descends downward. To correctly enter this squatting position, bring the feet to mats distance and dial the toes out slightly before sinking the hips down. Bring the hands to heart center and use the elbows to encourage the knees backward and open the hips. Implement props if necessary such as elevation under the heels or a block under the sit bones.
Supta Padangusthasana — Reclined Hand To Big Toe Pose
Tight hamstrings create tension in the lower back that’s hard to dismiss without addressing the legs first. Lay on your back with both legs active and feet flexed. Exhale and bend one knee into the chest while maintaining the groundedness of the other leg. This is a lovely stretch to try with a yoga strap around the sole of your foot, or if you’re feeling more open, ditch the strap and reach for your big toe, calf, or thigh. Whatever path you’ve chosen, lengthen your heel towards the ceiling and use every exhale to draw the leg closer to the torso.
Ananda Balasana — Happy Baby Pose
Many yoga practitioners look forward to happy baby pose in their practice based on its bounty of benefits. Stretch the hip flexors while rocking gently side to side to massage the lower back and relieving inflammation. Lay down on your back and draw both knees towards the chest, aligning the shins to be parallel to the body and feet flexed towards the ceiling. Hold on to the soles of the feet or ankles as you roll over the lower back muscles.
Supta Matsyendrasana — Supine Twist Pose
This posture can be incredibly therapeutic and restorative, but any twist should be entered cautiously as they can also irritate back pain. In addition to offering relief to the lower back, supine twists release muscles up the entire spine into the neck. Lie on your back with arms extended out to the sides and knees drawn in towards the chest. Drop both knees to one side on an exhale, and if it feels okay on the neck, take your gaze away from the knees to complete the full action of the twist. Keep both shoulders grounded as you continue to breathe deep into the abdomen.
Utkata Konasana — Goddess Pose
This pose is the perfect balance between power and release as it challenges the legs while opening the groins and inner thighs. You can expect to experience both upper and lower back relief and relaxation when practicing this shape regularly. Stand with hands on hips, legs wide, and toes turned slightly outward. Take an exhale to bend the knees and drop the tailbone down while keeping the chest and head lifted. Stay for 5-10 cycles of breath with hips descending and spine straight.
Paschimottanasana — Seated Forward Fold
Forward folds stretch the back and hamstrings, making them perfect for passively diminishing lower back pain. Maintain awareness on creating space and expressing patience with the body as you mindfully venture deeper into the fold. From a seated position, lengthen both legs straight out and flex the toes back. Take a deep inhale to draw the lower belly up and in, and exhale to drape the upper body over the legs, using props to provide extra support if necessary. If the feet feel far away in this stretch, try implementing a yoga strap around the arches to bring more space and length to the spine while nourishing the hamstrings.