Is Yoga Good for The Back? The Best Yoga Poses for Back Pain


Back pain is one of the most common physical issues that people deal with on a daily basis. If you have ever dealt with back pain, you know how painful it is and how the discomfort that follows you through the day can hinder your daily activities and take the joy away from your life. 

We both have suffered from chronic back pain issues. And we can most definitely say that Yoga (and Pilates), along with some help from physios and massage therapists, has helped us manage this pain. 

Many people that deal with back pain on a daily basis, especially people with osteoporosis or osteopenia, look everywhere to find pain relief. 

This is also true for people with scoliosis, which is the curvature of the spine, and people with arthritis, which is joint pain. 

If this is you, or you know someone with these issues, you’ll probably know that many people that deal with these health conditions are told: “practicing yoga can help your back pain!”

Yoga is a very popular form of exercise, and it has been around for centuries. 

Yoga owes its popularity to the fact that it is an excellent way to relieve stress and tension. But did you know practicing yoga can also lengthen your spine, improve balance (which can prevent falls), improve range of motion, and stretch and strengthen important back muscles, which can relieve back pain?

IMPORTANT: Before we get into the benefits, we must mention, that if you do suffer any kind of pain or injury, to first seek professional medical advice. It is important you know exactly what injury or issue you have before you jump into a Yoga class. It is very easy to think you are doing the right movement for a certain pain but you may in fact be worsening the issue. 

Here are some of the main benefits of yoga for arthritis, scoliosis, osteoporosis or osteopenia, and other back issues. 

How Yoga Helps with Back Pain

When it comes to rehabbing an old back injury, dealing with back pain, or preventing back pain from happening in the first place, Yoga really can be an effective form of exercise to do so. Some of the main benefits of Yoga for back pain include:

Yoga Strengthens 

Unlike weight-lifting, for example, Yoga targets your entire back, including your stabilizers. Yoga encourages all of the back muscles to work together to complete the full-body movements performed during Yoga poses. 

You will find yourself in many isometric poses where you are holding your own body weight. This is where you will really feel the strength build. A strong back, core and booty is very important when it comes to looking after your back health. 

You’ll find that often lower back pain isn’t actually caused by the lower back itself but more so the surrounding areas like: glutes, core and hips. The issue doesn’t always lie where the pain is found. This is why during a Yoga class designed for lower back issues, we will add many glute and hip stretches! 

Yoga Stretches 

One of the biggest problems with back pain can be the stiffness in the muscles, which sometimes makes even the smallest movement very difficult, almost impossible. Yoga is going to help safely and gently stretch your back to improve its flexibility.  

Yoga Relaxes 

Yoga relieves the pressure in the back muscles through various poses that loosen the muscles supporting your spine. Taking a deep breath in each Yoga pose will help you focus on mindfulness and the present moment, which will further help relax you. 

Yoga Improves Posture 

Many of us spend hours and hours hunched over computers and phones, which can cause bad posture, bringing on a variety of problems that worsen over time. Practicing yoga can help strengthen the stabilizers in your back, improving the awareness of your posture. 

The Best Yoga Poses for Back Pain 

If you are on your feet all day, working with people or lifting heavy objects, as well as walking a lot, you will probably be feeling it in your lower back and upper back. Ironically, if you are sitting a lot and not moving… you too will be feeling some pressure in your back! This is why we have Yoga classes specifically for Desk Workers inside MerryBody! 

A lot of standing, walking and sitting puts pressure on your back muscles (especially if your posture is compromised), making them work extra hard and potentially creating an incorrect pattern in the way you move.

If that’s you, here are some of the Yoga poses that may help with back pain. 


Cat Cow Yoga Pose

Cat Cow is a gentle, accessible Yoga pose that stretches and mobilizes the spine, torso, shoulders, and neck.

The muscles targeted with the cat-cow pose include:

  • triceps
  • erector spinae
  • rectus abdominis
  • serratus anterior
  • gluteus maximus

To do the pose, start in all 4’s with your hands under shoulders, knees under hips. 

Inhale to drop the belly and arch the spine, looking up toward the sky.

Exhale to press the Earth away and puff the back of your headspace. 

Repeat 3-5 times slowly.


Downward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog is one of the most widely known Yoga poses, and it is famous for being restful and rejuvenating. Practising Downward Facing Dog can help relieve back pain and sciatica while improving the body’s strength.

The muscles targeted with the Downward Facing Dog include:

  • hamstrings
  • gluteus maximus
  • triceps
  • quadriceps 
  • deltoids
  • abdominals

To do the pose, start in All 4’s, hands under shoulders, knees under hips.

Inhale to tuck the toes, exhale to shift the booty back and lengthen the legs, lifting the hips toward the sky.

Draw the core in and up, press the Earth away with the hands and draw the shoulders back. Rotate the elbow creases forward so there is an external rotation of the shoulders.

Gaze toward your feet and hold for 5-10 breaths. 


Cobra Pose

The Cobra Pose will stretch the muscles in your abdomen, chest, and shoulders while strengthening the muscles around your spine and can potentially soothe sciatica. The Cobra Pose can also relieve stress and fatigue, which are back pain’s best friends. 

The muscles targeted with the cobra pose include:

  • hamstrings
  • deltoids
  • serratus anterior
  • gluteus maximus 
  • Infraspinatus

To do the pose, lie on your belly, squeeze inner thighs together, or hip-width if you have lower back issues (as show in the image below). Hands are flat just under the shoulders or lift them off the earth for a little challenge. 

As you inhale start to lift the chest off the Earth, using your back muscles to lift you. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, press your feet down and engage your booty and back of the legs. 

Hold for 5-10 breaths. Repeat 3 times.


Locust Pose

The locust pose will help you relieve lower back pain and fatigue while also strengthening your back, arms, and legs. It is similar to Cobra Pose, however, it takes it up a notch. 

The muscles targeted with the Locust Pose include:

  • trapezius
  • gluteus maximus
  • triceps
  • erector spinae

To do the Pose, remain in Cobra, then simply make one big fist behind your booty, squeeze your palms together and lift them off the booty. Feel the chest lift and open. If you feel strong, inhale to prepare and exhale to lift the legs off the Earth, keep them engaged and lengthened. Another option, as shown below, is to lift the arms forward. 

Hold for 5-10 breaths. Repeat 3 times.


After these backbends, it’s important to take a gentle twist to release and neutralise the spine.

Now that you’ve tried these poses, why not try a full length 20 minute online Yoga class? You can get access to our Desk Worker Upper Body Yoga class over here and this class is absolutely perfect for upper back pain and tension. 

Back pain really is something that can add stress and discomfort to your life. For us, one of the main reasons we exercise and move with Yoga and Pilates is to increase vitality and longevity of life. We want to live a long time and live with no pain. 

For so long we accepted that we had to live with the pain and the niggles within our bodies, but it’s simply not true. 

With the right help and movement practices, we’ve been able to create and sustain pain free bodies (yay!).


Once you do the class, let us know how you go!

Always merrymaking,

Emma + Carla

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