Yoga for Back Pain — Part 1

Low back pain is one of the most common reasons people seek out physical therapy care, and clients often ask if yoga can improve their low back symptoms. Therefore, as part of National Yoga Month this September, Tru-Care Physical Therapy would like to share some insight why yoga is often considered effective in the treatment of back pain.

Yoga has many benefits that assist in the management of low back pain that include improving posture, increasing flexibility, and stabilizing the spine by increasing core strength.

Part I

First, and most importantly, yoga can help improve postural imbalances that lead to low back pain. You can increase body awareness with basic poses. The most basic of all standing yoga poses or “asanas” is Tadasana or Mountain pose. At first glance it may seem like you are simply standing. However, it is the attention to “how” you are standing that makes it so important. For guided instruction on how to do mindful Tadasana pose see the previous post on standing posture from May 2013.

The next benefit of yoga is increasing flexibility of the spine and extremities. The main components of spinal motion are flexion (forward bending), extension (backwards bending), rotation (twisting), and lateral flexion (side bending). Yoga asanas address all of the motions of the spine through poses of various intensity and difficulty. Below are some gentle yoga poses that address each of these motions.

When performing these poses listen to your body so you do not cause pain. Take slow, deep breaths and try to increase your motions. The pictures below are taken from which is a great reference for all things yoga. The Yoga Journal site also provides step by step instructions to safely perform each of these poses. 

  1. Cow: improves back bending (extension) of the spine.

    As you inhale, lift your sitting bones and chest toward the ceiling, allowing your belly to sink toward the floor. Lift your head to look straight forward.

    Exhale, coming back to neutral “tabletop” position on your hands
     and knees. Repeat 10 to 20 times.

  2. Cat: Improves forward bending (flexion) of the spine.

    As you exhale, round your spine toward the ceiling, making sure to
    keep your shoulders and knees in position. Release your head
     toward the floor, but don’t force your chin to your chest.

    * Cat and cow can be held as isolated stretches for 30 secs each (2-3 reps)or you can move between the two poses with each breath doing 10-15 reps of each.

  3. Child’s Pose Stretch: improves lumbar flexion. It is also a great place to begin side bending by walking both hands to one side creating length in the side of the body.

    Begin kneeling and sit onto your heels.

    Reach arms forward in front of you and lower your head toward the floor.

    Sustain the position 30-90 secs relaxing into the pose with each breath.

  4. Supine Spinal Twist: improves rotation of the spine. Performing twists lying on your back is the safest place to begin twisting because the back is supported, minimizing stress on the spine.          

    Begin on your back with arms to the sides.

    Turn your head to the right.

    Bring your right knee up and across your left leg<.

    Let your right leg rest across the left stretching towards the floor.

    Child’s pose and spinal twist can be performed for 30-60 secs. Attend to your breath as you slowly let your low back stretch.

For more detailed instruction in performing these yoga poses you can again refer to

Next post will instruct in 2 hip stretches that will effect the low back, as well as more information on breath and balance. If you have any questions or are interested in more information on this topic check out or contact Ericka at (401) 884-9541

Post contributed by: Ericka Fryburg MPT