Yoga for Back Pain

Chronic back pain is a common issue attended to by many physicians. While there are many medications available to manage pain, there are also very simple, low impact exercises that can reduce or even eliminate mild back pain all together.

Yoga is a great form of exercise that can ease pain and discomfort throughout the body. The great thing about yoga is that it allows one to focus on specific areas of the body if needed. There are many yoga poses that focus on stretching out the back muscles, thus potentially easing or eliminating back pain.

Here are some poses that can ease and reduce back pain (images from Google images):


Start on your hands and knees with your spine neutral (think of your back as a table top). Use your breath to move between the two poses, breathing in during cow pose and out during cat pose. Move slowly and with intention.

Benefits of cat-cow:

  • Improves balance and coordination
  • Strengthens and stretches the spine and neck
  • Stretches the hips, abdomen and back
  • Massages and stimulates the kidneys and adrenal glands
  • Relieves stress and calms the mind

Downward facing dog

Press equally between your hands and feet. Press back, pulling your chest towards your thighs. Bend the knees and elbows to reduce pressure in the shoulders. Pull your heels towards the mat or floor (it is not required for your heels to touch the mat/floor).

Benefits of downward facing dog:

  • Calms the brain, relieves stress
  • Energizes the body
  • Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands
  • Strengthens the arms and legs

Half Pigeon (do pose on each side)

From downward facing dog take your right leg towards your arms and bring the leg down flat with your foot on the outer edge, facing the left hand. Square your hips and bend your right knee as much as is comfortable. Keep your torso up or fold it to the ground, being sure to listen to your body and making sure that your body isn’t feeling any pain. Repeat this pose with the left leg.

Benefits of half pigeon:

  • Stretches out hip rotators and flexors
  • Stretches out lower back and spine
  • Relieves tension

Standing forward fold

Stand with your feet together or slightly apart (about two fists distance), whichever feels more balanced. Gently fold from your hips, bending your knees as much as feels good. Take your hands to the floor or hold opposite elbows, using your arms to frame your head. Sway from side to side, slightly twisting at the waist. Settle into the forward fold, allowing gravity to pull your head and spine towards the ground. Stand in this pose as long as feels good. Roll your spine up slowly, one vertebrae at a time, coming into mountain pose (tadasana).

Benefits of forward fold:

  • Helps relieve stress
  • Stimulates the liver and kidneys
  • Stretches the hamstrings, calves, and hips
  • Strengthens the thighs and knees
  • Reduces anxiety

Supine twist (do pose on each side)

Lay flat on your back. Keep your left leg straight, take your right knee into your torso, and use your left arm to pull your knee to the left side. Take your right arm out to the right side, keeping your right shoulder blade to the floor, turning your head towards the right. You can take both knees bent together and twist them as well, whichever feels better for your lower back. Repeat this pose with the left leg.

Benefits of supine twist:

  • Helps release the lower back
  • Opens tight shoulders
  • Elongates spinal muscles
  • Calms the mind

Ease into each pose and create your own flow. Take time in each pose. Be sure to breathe deeply into each pose and if there is any pain adjust or come out of the pose.

Be sure to get professional medical advise before using these poses to treat any chronic or severe back pain.

Yoga for Weight Loss

Weight loss is a common denominator as a reason to initiate physical activity. There are so many quick weight loss programs on the market, with diet pills and juice cleanses, it is surprising anyone considers becoming physically active in the first place.

Yoga can be a very good, easy transition from a relatively sedentary life to a more active one. Rather than rush to the gym and join a P90X class (note, I am not against P90X or any other high calorie burning activity) one can have a smoother transition into physical activity. Why not try doing some yoga? Sounds simple enough, right?

Yoga is the perfect blend of cardio and strength building which is highly recommended to lose weight, tone the body, and gain muscle mass. While a regular yoga practice won’t lead you to be completely ripped or muscle man competition ready, it will help you become healthier, stronger, and help tone your body.

The best way to use yoga to successfully lose the weight is to remember that yoga ISN’T FOR WEIGHT LOSS. The purpose of yoga is to meditate and relax. If you only want to lose weight, yoga isn’t going to be the miracle exercise. Also, start slow. Don’t jump into a 110 degree 90 minute Bikram yoga session every day if you haven’t already practiced some form of yoga (especially if you haven’t experience any versions of hot yoga). Start with slow, show flows to ease your body into the poses and the allow your mind to get used to the relaxation and meditation.

Ultimately, to lose weight you will have to change more than the level of physical activity. Losing weight is done by having a full lifestyle change. Changing all habits, from eating to physical activity is the only way you will get to the healthy weight you want. Yoga is a perfect addition to this lifestyle change as it will help balance your mental health and physical health.

For yoga sequences for weight loss, do a quick search on YouTube. You’ll find anything from a 10 minutes sequence to a 90 minute one. Try them out and find something you like! You’ll only stick with something if you enjoy it.