Yoga for Back Pain: Tips, Poses, and a Bonus!
When you think about relieving back pain, the first thing that comes to your mind probably isn’t yoga. And that’s fair, because, for a lot of people struggling with an injury or constant discomfort, yoga may look like just another way to aggravate your already sore body. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The thing that may stump a few people is that it’s not just the use of yoga poses for back pain that brings relief, but it’s actually the position of your body in combination with how you breathe throughout the pose that gives you the biggest benefit. And from there, instructors and yoga gurus state that it is essential that you find comfort and ease in a position.
So feel free to modify them however you need to so that you feel steady, then stretch just a little bit more to attain greater flexibility.
Whether you’re a beginner or long-time yoga practitioner, we’ve got a couple helpful tips, poses, and additional information that just might help you alleviate some of your pain and discomfort.
5 Tips for Practicing Yoga and Mindfulness
Yoga may seem simple, and it probably is for some, but others may struggle with the quiet and contemplative nature of the age-old practice. Especially if you’ve never tried it before. But when it comes to the search for pain relief, most people will try anything.
Now you’ve probably guessed from the title that we’ve compiled for you the best tips and yoga poses for back pain, but we’ve got a little something extra in store for you too: a way to maximize your pain relief. We’ll get into the best yoga poses for upper back pain and lower back pain below, but first, here are a few tips on how you can practice healthy and mindful yoga.
Go Slow and Take Your Time
Do some research to find a quality yoga teacher near you or check out some YouTube videos until you find a streamer you like so you can take your time and practice from the comfort of your own home. Everyone is at a different starting point, and practicing yoga isn’t a race. Listen to your body.
Set Realistic Goals
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and recovery takes time. Be patient with your body and set realistic goals for yourself and your journey. Remember that everyone has their own struggles, both internal and external, and there’s no need or reason to compare yourself and your situation to another’s.
Respect Your Body and Its Limits
Everyone’s body is built differently, and some people will naturally find certain yoga poses easier than others. But every body has its own limits, and it’s important not to push your body too far into a pose if it’s not ready. Which is exactly where yoga modifications come in.
Modify When Needed (Especially When Practicing Yoga Poses for Back Pain)
There’s no wrong way to modify yoga poses to fit your needs, skill level, and comfort. In fact, there are usually more than a few modifications to every pose so you can take things step by step so that you feel comfortable in your recovery or fitness journey.
If you’re in a yoga class, don’t be afraid to ask the instructor for help modifying where you need to. Or look online for a few ways you can modify various yoga poses to where you feel comfortable and confident.
Hydrate During the Day and Practice Yoga on an Empty Stomach
Adequate hydration is key to life, exercise, and muscle recovery, so it’s important to try to drink enough water throughout the day and keep a bottle next to you during yoga practice to sip on when needed. That being said, you may not want to drink a large amount of water right before.
Practicing yoga right after eating can lead to feelings of discomfort and heaviness, and can even disrupt your digestion process. Because of this, many experts recommend waiting at least two to three hours after your last meal, although a light snack before yoga, such as nuts or a piece of fruit, is perfectly fine.
Top 12 Yoga Poses for Back Pain
Yoga is very beginner friendly, so don’t let the fact that you may never have done yoga before stop you from relieving your mild or severe back pain. Most positions can even be modified through a few steps to make them easier. But what we’re going to focus on here are the yoga poses that help stretch, strengthen, and support the muscles in your back.
Some yoga poses for back pain, such as thread the needle and cat cow, can relieve both upper and lower back pain all in one exercise. That being said, there are also a large variety of poses designed to focus solely on specific muscles or muscle groups. And of course, almost every pose can be modified to meet you at your current level of flexibility and range of motion.
To make it a little easier for you, we’ve separated the focus between yoga poses for upper back pain and yoga poses for lower back pain (and provided a few extra poses for you to check out). And remember that bonus we mentioned earlier? Keep reading to find out how you can maximize your pain relief.
The Best Yoga Poses for Upper Back Pain
Whether your upper back pain is from bad posture, working at a computer screen all day, an old injury, or something else, there are a variety of yoga poses you can incorporate into your daily life to bring you some relief. That being said, it’s important to remember that relieving tension and building strength back into your muscles takes time, and you shouldn’t be discouraged if you don’t see immediate results.
So not only have we compiled some of the best yoga poses to help alleviate your discomfort, but most of them are quite simple and can be practiced anywhere from the comfort of your own home to a small space in your office or the lush grass of your local park. And despite the fact that you may be looking into yoga for pain relief, it’s also important to choose whatever location and time of day is most relaxing and convenient for you.
So without further ado, here are six yoga poses for upper back pain:
Cat Cow to Help Loosen Your Back
Cat cow is a very simple, beginner-friendly yoga pose that is done on your hands and knees and includes two postures: one where you pull your shoulders together and arch your back to the sky (cat) and one where your shoulders are thrust back so that your sternum reaches for the floor (cow). Then all you need to do is slowly flow between the two poses to warm up your spine.
This is a great way to begin your yoga routine so that your muscles are loose and ready to perform the rest of the poses. The cat cow is also a common warm-up exercise done at the beginning of a workout to minimize possible injuries.
Camel Pose to Open Your Chest and Shoulders
A little more advanced than the cat cow pose, at least in terms of flexibility, is the camel pose which requires you to stand on your knees with your toes flexed on the mat and lean back slightly until your hands touch your heels. While that may sound a little daunting to beginners, the camel pose can easily be modified.
First, by placing your hands on your lower back instead of reaching for your heels, you can stretch until you achieve the right amount of arch to your back. Second, you can set blocks near your feet and use those for better stability (without having to stretch all the way to your heels). Once you gain a bit more flexibility, you can also tuck your toes on the mat so that your heels are lifted and you don’t have to reach quite as far.
No matter where you’re at in your yoga and pain-relief journey, the most important thing to remember is that you need to focus on your form and technique in order to avoid additional injury. There is no shame in starting off by using modified yoga poses for back pain as you work to heal.
Cobra Pose to Strengthen Flexibility
A similar stretch to the camel pose, the cobra pose focuses on the same group of muscles but is easier to achieve by lying on your stomach and using your arms to slowly push yourself until your back is arched in a “C” shape. This will both open your chest and improve the flexibility of your back muscles.
Like the camel pose, the cobra pose can also be modified by changing the height at which you push yourself up from the floor. And as your flexibility improves, so does your ability to fully extend your back as your muscle strength increases.
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose Stretches Your Spine and Increases Flexibility
The half lord of the fishes is probably the most complicated pose on this list, but it is also a crucial exercise for increasing the health and strength of your back. And in order to achieve it, you should find a comfortable place to sit on the ground and stretch your legs out in front of you.
Then you cross one leg over the other, plant your foot on the ground, take your opposite arm, and place it on the outside of your crossed leg. Then you slowly twist until you feel the stretch.
While sitting in this pose, you’re allowing your neck, shoulders, and hips to stretch and open, ultimately increasing the flexibility of your spine and hips. Despite the fact that you might look like a pretzel, you’re actually doing more to open your body than close it off. Once you’ve sat and stretched your spine in one direction for a minute or two, you should switch your legs and arms so that you can loosen the muscles on your opposite side as well.
Thread the Needle Opens Your Shoulders Away From the Spine
Opening your shoulders away from your spine might sound odd since we’re talking about using yoga poses for upper back pain, but it's actually a great way to loosen your upper back muscles. Your upper back and shoulders need the space to expand so that the muscles between them can loosen, strengthen, and better support you during the day. And it’s a very simple and relaxing pose.
Like the cat cow pose, you start by standing on your hands and knees, then reach one arm under your stomach to the opposite side between your other arm and leg until your shoulder is touching the mat. If it helps, you can also slide your second arm above your head to lengthen your stretch and bring you lower to the mat. Once that pose feels complete, switch sides.
Reclining Bound Angle Pose to Straighten Your Spine
Another great pose to open your chest, the reclining bound angle pose is done while lying on your back. By bending your knees, letting them fall to your sides, placing the soles of your feet together, and letting your arms fall to your sides, you can open your chest by letting gravity do most of the work.
And with a foam roller or bolster pillow, you can help your chest expand even more. This is also a great exercise to save for the end of your yoga routine because it helps calm your heart as you let gravity help relax your muscles. It also gives you time to relax and reflect back on your day (if done in the evening) or center yourself for the day ahead (when practiced in the morning).
Additional poses to help relax and strengthen your upper back:
- Child's Pose
- Extended Triangle Pose
- Hero Pose
- Eagle Pose
- Extended Puppy Pose
Simple Yoga Poses for Lower Back Pain
No matter what reason you decide to turn to yoga, it can have a number of additional benefits in your daily life such as stress relief, mindfulness, increased health benefits, a positive body image, and so much more. But for now, we’re going to focus on using yoga poses for lower back pain – everything else is just icing on the cake.
Extended Triangle Pose to Strengthen Your Back and Build Muscles
The extended triangle pose is pretty much what it sounds like: you stand with your feet together before lunging one foot behind you and pointing it away from your body (so your feet are perpendicular). Then you simply turn your upper body to the side and stretch one arm down to your foot and point the other toward the sky. After holding the position for a minute or so, switch to the other side and repeat as many times as needed.
This pose will help strengthen your back and stretch and lengthen the muscles along your sides and hips. It’s also a very calming position to help get your head in the right mindset so that your body can do what it needs to in order to help relieve your discomfort.
Standing Forward Bend to Release Tight Back Muscles and Hamstrings
The standing forward bend can easily be one of the least fun positions if you sit all day and have tight hamstrings. Because in order to perform this pose, you have to stretch your hamstrings so they allow you to bend forward at the waist, press your chest to your things, and clasp the backs of your ankles with your hands.
It’s also recommended that you keep your legs shoulder width apart and remember to bend your knees slightly, and of course, only bend as far as your hamstrings will go without causing pain. And with practice, you can work your way to flexibility.
Downward Facing Dog to Stretch Your Hamstrings
This classic yoga pose is a full-body stretch all in one move, allowing you to target the largest muscles in your back that help support your spine. All you need to do is start on your hands and knees, then plant your feet and push up your hips until your body forms a triangle with the floor. Once you gain some flexibility, you can try pushing your heels flat to the floor to increase your hamstring stretch.
Pigeon Pose to Relax Your Hips
The pigeon pose is one of those special yoga positions that can simultaneously feel like the best kind of stretch in the world and also a painful one. Especially if your hamstrings are tight from stress, a recent workout, or the discomfort of supporting a back in pain. In order to obtain the best stretch possible, start in the downward dog position, then draw one knee forward until you can lower both legs to the floor, with one stretched out behind you and the other bent in front.
First one leg each way, then the other. And while you may or may not feel the other stretches, with this one you definitely will! Opening up your hip flexors allows you a better range of motion and less tightness in your hamstrings.
Upward Facing Dog Stretches and Releases Tension From Key Muscles
The upward facing dog pose is so similar to the cobra pose that some consider the cobra pose to be an easier modification. Because once in the cobra pose, the upward facing dog position then requires that you pull your chest forward and lift your body with your hands until only your hands and the tops of your feet touch the mat. This pose helps open your chest and build stability into your abdominals and lower back while also decreasing the tension in your shoulders.
Child’s Pose Can Help Elongate Your Back
Child’s pose, like the downward facing dog, is another well known yoga pose thanks to its simplicity and comfort. And it’s often a favorite position saved for the end of the yoga session because it allows you to relax into it by tucking your legs under you and stretching your hands out on the mat below you.
By allowing yourself time to elongate your back after working to stretch and strengthen your muscles, you give your body a moment to collect itself before resuming your normal daily or nightly routine. Using yoga poses for back pain takes time to gradually, naturally, and efficiently reduce discomfort. So it’s important to remember that it may take more than a few days before you notice an adequate amount of relief.
But don’t worry, there are a few things you can do to maximize your yoga session so you can gain the most relief.
Additional Poses to Help Loosen and Stretch Out Your Lower Back:
- Cat Cow
- Sphinx Pose
- Reclined Pigeon Pose
- Thread the Needle
- Knees to Chest With Slow Rock
- Reclined Supine Twist
- Crescent Lunge
- Happy Baby
- Locust Pose
Bonus: How to Get The Most Relief From Your Yoga Session
Yoga in and of itself is an amazing, relaxing, and body-affirming practice. But there’s no shame in admitting that your mind and body may need a little extra help achieving the full benefits of yoga.
Adding CBD to your yoga routine, for example, can help any muscle soreness you may feel and relieve lingering discomfort from your back pain in a few different ways. First, by helping to calm your mind and body before you begin, second by soothing your tender muscles after they’ve been stretched and strengthened through yoga poses. And third, by helping you achieve restful, restorative sleep at night so you’re ready for the coming day.
Calming CBD Gummies with Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha, a shrub found in parts of India, Africa, and the Middle East, is gradually becoming a better-known herb in the holistic health and wellness communities thanks to its ability to help your body maintain homeostasis. So when it comes to giving your body the boost it needs to help alleviate back pain through yoga, ashwagandha is a natural choice.
Now add in the calming properties of CBD, and you have a tried-and-true recipe for back pain relief. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that our brand new calming CBD gummies with ashwagandha come in a delicious raspberry flavor with 12.5 mg of CBD and 150 mg of ashwagandha in every single bite.
Our award-winning cbdMD Freeze roller is one of our best-selling products because it provides ease of use and clear results. This menthol gel roller earned a Product of the Year Award in 2020 thanks to the combination of our proprietary Superior Broad Spectrum CBD formula, menthol, aloe vera, tea tree oil, and arnica. It doesn’t hurt that we provide it in four different concentrations and a squeeze tube either.
But menthol is the real star here. Used in a large number of over the counter products for its pain relief properties, menthol actually helps to counter your pain at the site of application, leaving you with a tingling and cooling sensation.
Just the right size and easily portable, our Freeze roller applies relief exactly where you need it so you can home in on the areas where you need it most.
CBD Sleep-Aid Gummies with Melatonin
Last but certainly not least are our brand new CBD sleep-aid gummies with melatonin. And although we mentioned using yoga as a great way to start your day in the morning, it can also be used to help you unwind, stretch out your tight muscles at the end of the day, and set the tone for a great night’s sleep. All of which are crucial to providing relief from discomfort in your back.
So when it comes to achieving quality sleep, we’re not messing around. In fact, did you know that your body does a large amount of work when you're sleeping? Such as muscle recovery, memory retention, and body regulation, just to name a few. So it should come at no surprise that quality sleep is key to maximizing your back pain relief.
Designed with melatonin, 25 mg of CBD, and another 100 mg of ashwagandha per serving, our CBD sleep-aid gummies are sure to help lull you to sleep for a full night of relaxation and recovery.
For more information on how you can use CBD and yoga poses for back pain, keep an eye on our frequently updated blog. Interested in staying up to date on the latest CBD news and cbdMD’s upcoming special offers? Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, or chat with someone live today!