Yoga and Lower Back Pain - Aura Wellness Center

About Yoga and Lower Back Pain

lower back painBy Kimaya Singh

What to do about lower back pain? Should you call your doctor? If your pain is chronic, you should contact your doctor first. Your doctor may recommend gentle Yoga classes for you. Can your local yoga instructor help you with solutions for backaches?  Back pain causes many people to suffer greatly, day after day. Although there are many causes of lower back aches, the result is often the same: pain, tenderness and irritability. When your back is sore, the pain often can’t be ignored. Many people spend thousands of dollars annually on painkillers to ease their discomfort. Yoga provides an easier and much cheaper way to reduce the pain. If you suffer from chronic lower back pain, try yoga to strengthen and lengthen all of the body’s muscles. The results may surprise you.


A complete yoga practice involves breathing deeply, stretching all of the body’s muscles and relaxing the mind. When you suffer from chronic pain, it’s easy to let the pain take over. Yoga helps you release the pain from your mind as well as your body. Try sitting in a comfortable position and taking several deep breaths through the nose. Draw the air into your abdomen and allow it to fill your entire chest cavity as well. Breathe the air out while thinking positive thoughts, such as, “I have a strong, healthy back,” or, “My breath will ease my pain.” For maximum benefits, incorporate the breathing and mantras with a series of asanas. Below are postures to reduce discomfort in your lower back.


Downward Dog

This simple yoga pose will stretch all of the muscles in the back of the legs, allowing the lower back muscles to relax and release. Begin on all fours, placing your hands below the shoulders and then moving them forward several inches. Come up off of your knees, pushing your bottom up and back with the arms. Rest in this position with your feet flat on the floor about hip width apart. You can raise your heels up if there is discomfort in the legs. Push your hands into the yoga mat to provide stability. Hold for several deep breaths.


Modified Downward Dog with a Chair

It’s important to understand all Yoga teachers are not equal. Some have more experience and knowledge than others. Some teachers know how, when, and why to use props. Not every student will be able to practice Downward Dog with a mat. Using a chair or wall is another solution. Some students may only be able to reach the top of the chair or straight out to a wall. With a chair, you can use the back or front to reach out at different angles. The Modified Downward Dog with a Chair has so many options that chairs should be in every studio. This method decompresses the spine, helps students with muscle aches in the back, and relieves some discomfort for students suffering with frozen shoulder. Is it a cure? No, I can’t promise any cures, but I can say it relieves pain with steady and gentle practice, it feels great, there should be no force.


Modified or Baby Cobra

All forms of Cobra Pose are backbends. That said, a standing or seated backbend is a litmus test for pain. So, you could sit in a chair and try a mild backbend with no force, while keeping it gentle. In other words, backbends might help or they might just cause more pain. This is why we’re starting with a mild form of Cobra Pose first.  You can adjust your spine to any upward angle you like.  You could also practice modified Cobra, while standing and place your hands on all wall. It’s not a contest, but it is a mild introduction to gentle Cobra variations.



Cobra pose might help relieve lower back pain by improving posture, while opening the chest and abdomen. Lie flat on your stomach, placing your hands palm down next to your armpits. Tuck your elbows in so they point behind you. Keep the legs together, pressing the thighs and tops of the feet into the floor. Using your back muscles, slowly push up with your arms as gentle leverage, raising the chest off the floor. Keep the hips planted on the mat. Keep the shoulders down and elbows slightly bent. Lift and open the chest while gently pointing your chin upward. Bring your elbows down to a lower angle if this pose causes you any pain. Don’t forget to breathe.


Notes for Yoga Instructors and Students

There are many other asanas to choose from and the above-mentioned postures may not help everyone.  Among the postures, you would learn at Aura Wellness Center are Triangle, Revolved Triangle, Half Downward Dog, Half Chair Pose, and Half Moon.  If you are a Yoga instructor, you need to modify these asanas for some of your students.  The reason being: Students who come into your classes for therapeutic needs are less likely to be flexible.  If you are a student, you need to find a competent yoga teacher who has the compassion and knowledge to make modifications and physical adjustments.


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To see our selection of Yoga teacher training courses, please visit the following link.

Yoga for a Healthy Lower Back: A Practical Guide to Developing Strength and Relieving Pain


52 Essential Principles of Yoga Philosophy to Deepen your Practice

by Rina Jakubowicz.


A Relaxing Way to De-stress, Re-energize, and Find Balance

by: Gail Boorstein Grossman.


by B.K.S. Iyengar

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9 thoughts on “About Yoga and Lower Back Pain”

  1. Science confirms that yoga is really helpful for chronic back pain. There are 11 good quality studies demonstrating that yoga does help reduce pain, suffering and improve peoples quality of life.

    Here are some great yoga tips for people with back pain, especially I like the mantras.

    This is important because back pain is a mind and body problem, it is not just physical. This is also proven by modern neuroscience.

  2. Yoga is restorative, healing and an effective way of dealing with chronic pain, physical illness and chronic stress.
    Yoga is the foundation for good health.

  3. I came to yoga due to chronic low back pain caused by scoliosis and poor posture. I now have a healthy spine with little if any back pain. Yoga has done more than any drugs could do. Namaste.

  4. I began suffering from lower back pain in my early twenties, starting around 1982. Over the years, the pain was on and off, but mostly “on” and progressively so. Eventually, I was suffering from chronic lower back pain. I was fit, I taught fitness classes and worked out often, ate the right foods, tried to maintain a positive attitude. But still the pain worsened. At the same time, my personal life was also deteriorating, although I didn’t see it as such.

    Years (almost two decades!) later, around 2001, a friend dragged me to my first yoga class. She saw how much stress I was under at that point in my life, enduring a hopeless and frustrating relationship, while trying my best to raise three boys, work part time, and work towards my PhD. She was concerned for my mental and emotional health and well being because it was pretty obvious to her (and probably every one else but me) that I was at a breaking point. Needless to say, my back was at that point too–but my girlfriend knew nothing about that.

    So I started yoga practice, and I very quickly became addicted to this life. Hatha yoga. Peace. Breath. Connection. Chakra energies. Understanding and releasing energy blockages. I loved it. But while practicing, I suffered what I perceived as worsening back pain. I wasn’t sure if yoga was making my situation worse or if this was the pain one could expect as one slowly worked through the knots and stiffness towards loosened, relaxed, muscles and tendons. I didn’t know but I somehow trusted that this was going to work. It seemed so right!

    Then slowly, over the years, I began to notice that I was no longer in pain. I hadn’t been in pain for a week! Then a month. Then a year! I couldn’t believe it. I was pain free for two years! Three years! It was GONE. Just gone. I was no longer a “back pain sufferer”. I was free of it completely. There was no other explanation because nothing else had changed in my life–except for the fact that my relationship had actually gotten worse! The only variable was the switch and commitment to yoga. And when I say yoga I am not only referring to the asanas and “exercises” we come to equate with yoga practice, but the full “8 limb system” including the breath work, meditation, chanting, the yamas and niyamas, and so on.

    This story is just one small anecdote. But it is one I do tell to others who are suffering from back pain. It is a long and slow road toward healing. But you will break free, I tell them. Like anything — quitting smoking, losing weight, learning to listen or to suspend judgement–this too will take commitment, practice, time and great faith. But it will work. I had to trust that I was doing the right thing. There was something there that told me I was on the right path, even though the pain had to get worse before it got better. Yoga does work. But one has to embrace the whole system of yoga, not just the postures and exercise classes. It is truly a collaboration of mind, body and spirit.

  5. I am an instructor and I have on-going issues with back pain/sciatica, which developed out of other activities. I really like the Cat/Cow pose (or Cat Stretch)because it opens up the hips, stretches the spine and shoulders. I would caution folks with lower back pain regarding cobra pose, however. It can put a lot of strain on the lower back so I offer sphinx as an alternative to Cobra. I have to say that without yoga I probably would’ve had surgery by now. Besides managing my back pain, it has alleviated issues with migraines, knee pain and shoulder pain!

  6. I been suffer of being awakened all night long due to my back pain, then i try some yoga posture like Downward Dog and the Cobra Pose that can relieve my back pain…I feel much better now. Thanks!

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