The 5 Best Yoga Moves for Back Pain, According to Experts
If you find yourself struggling with chronic back pain, you're far from alone. According to the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, nearly 65 million U.S. adults admitted to having experienced recent back pain, among whom 16 million said their back pain was a recurring problem.
If you want to start tackling your problems today, read on to discover the best yoga poses for back pain, according to experts. And for more simple ways to boost your well-being, check out The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
Sukhasana with side bends
If you're looking for a gentle way to release tension in your back and hips, sukhasana with side bends is a great choice.
"This pose lengthens the lateral torso and back muscles, which are often ignored," explains yoga expert Heidi Kristoffer, E-RYT, YA, founder of CrossFlow Yoga.
"Begin by [sitting and] crossing one shin in front of the other, knees wide, heels underneath opposite knees. Allow arms to relax on either side of you, placing fingertips or hands on the ground on either side of your hips. Reach your left arm long to the ceiling, on the side of your face. Take your right hand to the ground and crawl it over to the right, allowing your right forearm to move towards the ground, and lean your torso to the right. Reach your left arm to the right as well, and revolve your chest open towards the ceiling," and then repeat on the other side, recommends Kristoffer.
Supine spinal twist
Supine spinal twists are a "gentle, restorative way to decompress the spine," says Kristoffer—and they're a move people of practically any fitness level can do. "This is a wonderful, gentle back stretch. It also lightly activates the core muscles and increases blood flow to your back."
To complete the stretch, lie on your back and pull your right knee into your chest. "Take your left hand to your outer right thigh and guide your right knee to the left. Reach your right arm out to the side. You can stay with a neutral neck or, if it feels good, look to the right. You can keep your left hand on your right thigh to allow its weight to ground the right leg, or if you prefer, reach your left arm long to the left so your arms make one long line. Stay here for at least five deep breaths, then repeat on the other side," recommends Kristoffer.
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Opening your hips with a supine pigeon pose can help alleviate back pain quickly, says Kristoffer.
"Hips are connected to the lower back, so if your hips are tight, they pull on the lower back muscles, which can cause strain and pain," she explains.
To do this pose, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet hip-width apart and flat on the ground.
"Bend your right knee and cross your right ankle over your left thigh, keep your right foot flexed. Lift your legs toward your chest and lift up your chest enough to thread your right arm through the hole created by your legs. Take hold of your left thigh with both hands and [move] your right knee away from your body," says Kristoffer, who recommends holding the pose for five breaths and then switching sides.
If you want to combat some of the back pain you're experiencing after a long day hunched over at your desk, cobra pose might just be the perfect way to do so.
"This position brings our backs into extension. We are commonly flexing our backs forwards throughout the day, but we rarely go into extension," says chiropractor Alex Tauberg, DC,CSCS, CCSP®, EMR, founder of The Pittsburgh Chiropractor. "Going into extension helps to stretch out the muscles and joints into that position. This movement is a great way to desensitize pain."
To do this pose, lie on your stomach with your legs extended straight behind you. With your elbows close to your body, press your palms into the floor below your shoulders. Straighten your arms and lift your chest off the floor, pushing your sternum forward, while keeping your thighs and hips flat against it. Breathe in this position for a few seconds, then exhale, bend your arms, and slowly bring your chest back to the floor.
At the end of your yoga workout, entering child's pose is a great way to relax—and it's a great way to stretch your back and relieve tension whenever the need arises.
"It gently releases the spine and hips and can calm the mind while increasing blood flow. Child's pose also stretches the upper back and sides of the core when the arms are extended," says Certified Yoga Fitness Instructor Cher-Ann Texter, owner of Good Ohmens Fitness.
To complete this stretch, sit on your heels and bend forward at the waist, stretching your arms in front of you on the ground with your palms facing down. Breathe in this position and hold it for as long as you're comfortable before relaxing.
For more ways to make your next workout more comfortable, check out The 5 Best Walking Shoes, According to Podiatrists.