6 Yoga Poses for Back Pain That Will Relieve Your Aches Fast

Learn how practicing yoga for back pain can help relieve discomfort and discover a handful of poses to try when you're feeling tight and achy.

Yoga Poses for Back Pain
Clique Images / Stocksy.

Whether you work at a desk for 40-plus hours a week or you spend all of your free time scrolling through TikTok, there's a good chance your back isn't feeling too hot. Thanks to your constantly hunched-over posture and not-so-ergonomic desk setup, you might even be experiencing lower and upper back pain regularly. But one movement practice in particular — yoga — can help give you the relief you need.

Ahead, learn how practicing yoga can help put your back pain to rest and prevent it from springing up in the future. Plus, you'll find six yoga poses for back pain and tips to keep in mind while flowing through them so you don't worsen your symptoms.

The Benefits of Yoga for Back Pain

Flowing through a yoga practice isn’t ideal just when you’re feeling stressed to the max; it can also help relieve back pain, says Lindsay Monal, R.Y.T., a yoga teacher at YogaRenew Teacher Training.  “A lot of the time, back pain [stems] from a lack of flexibility and mobility and sedentary lifestyles,” she explains. “Sitting all day can prevent you from getting movement in your upper and lower back. And yoga is a really great way to counteract that lifestyle.” 

In fact, practicing yoga for back pain can help ease your discomfort in both the short and long run. You’ll generally feel relief soon after flowing through postures that open up and stretch the spine and back, says Monal. “If you’re having constant or regular back pain in the same areas, continuing to practice is definitely going to help alleviate the pain and also start to train your body to hold itself more comfortably,” she adds. “The pain is often coming from sitting down, slouching, rounding the spine — these patterns of how you hold your body. Over time, yoga trains you to sit with a taller, more naturally aligned spine, [which can] reduce the amount of pain you have on a regular basis.”

What's more, many yoga postures can help improve the strength of your core, a group of muscles throughout your trunk that works together to protect and stabilize your spine. If you're short on core strength, you might struggle to maintain an upright posture, which can, in turn, lead to back pain, as Shape previously reported.

And research backs this benefit up: A 2017 study found that taking a weekly yoga class (which was designed specifically for lower back pain) for 12 weeks improved physical function and reduced pain among folks with chronic lower back pain. And these individuals were more likely to stop taking pain relievers after a year, compared to people who only received a self-help book and newsletters to learn how to deal with their back pain, according to the research. 

Of course, you’ll want to get the all-clear from your health-care provider before trying yoga for back pain if your discomfort stems from a serious medical issue, such as a surgery or a specific back injury, says Monal. But generally speaking, yoga is gentle enough to help ease your everyday aches and pains, she adds. 

Best Tips for Yoga for Back Pain

Not all types of yoga are created equal, so you shouldn’t follow along with just any online class or video, advises Monal. Instead, search for practices that are specific to back pain and avoid vigorous forms of yoga, such as Ashtanga or hot yoga, which may worsen your symptoms, she suggests.

That said, yoga is already focused on moving the spine in all directions, so there are plenty of poses that can help relieve discomfort throughout your lower and upper back, says Monal. “A lot of the postures in yoga focus on spinal movement and mobility, so really a combination of different postures can help you relieve back pain,” she explains. Regardless of where your pain is located, it’s worth starting your yoga-for-back-pain practice off with the cat-cow posture, which helps you link your breath with your movement and starts to create some space throughout the spine, she adds. 

Dealing with lower back pain? Postures involving twists, such as a seated or supine spinal twist, forward folds, and backbends can all help open up the spine and create space between the vertebrae, says Monal. “Postures that help open the hips can also help relieve a lot of lower back pain, such as butterfly or a wide-leg forward fold,” she adds. 

If you’re suffering from upper back pain, turn to postures such as eagle pose — which essentially involves giving yourself a hug — to spread the shoulder blades apart and create space across the back, says Monal. And don’t be afraid to use props, she says. Lying with your upper back resting on top of a rolled-up blanket or towel opens the chest, which can help ease back pain too. “If you’re always hunching over, grounding in the spine, moving in the opposite direction, and allowing yourself to hang out in that space for a little while will help to alleviate a lot of tension you’re holding in the back of the shoulders and the neck,” she explains.

The 6 Best Yoga Poses for Back Pain

Whether you’re dealing with upper back aches from your desk job or lower back pain from poor posture, these yoga poses for back pain will help get your body back to feeling its best. Before you get started, consider going for a walk or doing a few rounds of cat-cow or downward-facing dog to warm up the body, suggests Monal. 

How to add yoga for back pain to your routine: When you’re ready, choose a handful of poses that target your specific area of pain — or simply sound soothing to you. As you practice the yoga poses for back pain, aim to hold each posture for five to 10 breaths, though you may feel comfortable enough to hold some (such as supported fish pose) for three to five minutes, says Monal.

And as always, listen to your body. “If it feels you’re getting a sharp pain or really feeling a ton of discomfort, I would recommend you back away from the posture,” says Monal. "But if you’re feeling comfortable and able to breathe deeply in the posture, you're probably okay [to continue].” 

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

Why it works: Along with strengthening the shoulders and glutes, this yoga pose for back pain stretches the chest, shoulders, abdominal muscles, and neck, which can help relieve tightness after staring down at your phone all day.

A. Lie facedown on the floor with legs fully extended, feet slightly closer than hip-width apart, and arms at sides, palms facing the ceiling. Place hands on the mat directly underneath shoulders and spread fingertips wide. Allow tops of feet to rest on the floor.

B. Keeping elbows tucked close to sides, slowly press through palms to lift chest up off the floor. Continue lifting chest as far as is comfortable or until arms are fully extended.

C. Roll shoulder blades down back and lengthen through crown of head. Gaze forward and keep back of neck long.

Hold this position for several breaths.

Seated Side Stretch (Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana)

Why it works: This yoga pose for back pain stretches the side body, the hips, and the hamstrings and helps to release tension along the spine, says Monal.

A. Sit tall on the floor with legs extended in front of body, feet hip-width apart, and arms at sides, fingertips touching the floor.

B. Open left leg out to the side as far as comfortable, keeping left foot flexed. Then, bend right knee and place sole of right foot on inside of left thigh. Rotate torso to point toward right knee.

C. Keeping spine long and gaze forward, extend arms over head and lean torso toward left foot. Rest left hand on left foot, shin, or thigh while continuing to reach right arm over right ear. Draw right shoulder down and back to create space between biceps and ear.

Hold this position for several breaths. Switch sides; repeat.

Seated Eagle Arms (Sukhasana with Garudasana Arms)

Why it works: This seated posture will give the backs of your shoulders a feel-good stretch while also opening up the arms and chest, says Monal.

A. Sit cross-legged on the floor with spine long, gaze forward, and arms resting at sides. Draw shoulders down and back.

B. Open arms out to sides to form a "T" with body. Then, cross arms in front of chest, resting right hand on left shoulder and left hand on right shoulder and stacking elbows, if possible. Right arm should be on top of left arm.

C. To deepen the stretch, lift hands off shoulders and point fingertips toward ceiling, allowing backs of forearms to touch with elbows at shoulder height in front of body.

Hold this position for several breaths. Switch sides; repeat.

Gate Pose (Parighasana)

Why it works: This yoga pose for back pain not only stretches out the spine but also targets the hamstrings, ankles, torso, arms, and abs, making it a worthwhile addition to any yoga practice.

A. Start in a table-top position on the floor with shoulders stacked with wrists, hips stacked with knees, and feet hip-width apart.

B. Step left foot out to left side, extending left leg. Keep left ankle in line with left knee, foot flat on the floor, and toes pointed forward. Engage core and push through palms to bring body upright, then place hands on hips.

C. Point toes on left foot toward the top of the mat. Then, rest left fingertips on left thigh or shin and extend right arm overhead. Slowly lean torso toward the left, continuing to reach right arm over right ear. Draw right shoulder down and back to create space between biceps and ear.

Hold this position for several breaths. Switch sides; repeat.

Supported Fish Pose (Matsyasana)

Why it works: A stretch for the upper back, chest, shoulders, and neck, this yoga pose for back pain is also ideal for correcting the rounding in the shoulders that runners often develop, says Monal. Plus, it helps open the chest, allowing you to breathe better, she adds.

A. Bring one block to its tallest height setting at the top of the mat. Place a second block about 5 inches in front of it, on its medium height setting, perpendicular to the first block.

B. Lie down over the two blocks so that the tallest block supports head and the shorter block sits just below shoulder blades (about where a sports bra crosses the back).

C. Let both arms rest down beside body. For a deeper stretch, extend arms out wide to a “T” shape to further open the chest. Keep your feet flat on the floor, or start to extend the legs long if possible.

Hold this position for up to 3 minutes.

Reclined Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)

Why it works: Along with stretching the groin, hamstrings, glutes, and calves, this yoga pose helps relieve lower back pain. "It helps to create space between the vertebrae of the lower back, which can help relieve the pain from sitting all day," says Monal. "Doing the pose on the floor...helps you get a good stretch into the back body and hamstrings [without] putting a lot of stress on the body."

A. Lie faceup on the floor with knees bent to 45-degree angles, feet flat a few inches in front of butt, and hands resting on stomach.

B. Draw right knee in toward chest, bringing right thigh snug against stomach. Keep left foot planted on the floor or extend left leg long for a deeper stretch.

C. With right hand, loop a yoga strap around sole of right foot or right big toe and start to lift and straighten right leg straight up toward the ceiling (right leg can remain slightly bent depending on flexibility). Keep shoulders pressed to the mat and collarbones broadened.

Hold this position for several breaths. Switch sides; repeat.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles