Yoga for Back Strength

Yoga for Back Strength

Discover How Yoga Can Strengthen Your Back and Ease Discomfort with Expert Modifications - By Beth Rush

Reading time: 4 minutes

Here’s a closer look at how to use yoga to strengthen back muscles.

Well-meaning friends and even your doctor may recommend yoga for chronic ailments. Learning the best yoga poses for back pain can ease the discomfort arising from poor posture, sedentary lifestyles and past injuries. 

It’s not only knowing the best yoga poses for discomfort that matters — it’s your self-compassionate, gentle approach. Here’s a closer look at how to use yoga to strengthen back muscles and relieve pain with suggested modifications of certain moves to help you find the relief you seek. 

The Best Strengthening Yoga Poses for Back Pain 

Stronger muscles are more resistant to injury, either from repeated strain or improper movement. Here’s how to play with some of the best strengthening yoga poses for back pain to make them even more effective. 

1. Bridge

This move strengthens all the muscles uniting your hamstrings and lower back. Work on balance and add resistance by pointing one leg toward the sky or crossing it over the other, as in a supine pigeon, to focus the work on the base leg. This modification works especially well to rebalance you if you often limp to compensate for pain that radiates down one side. 

2. Bird Dog

This move works the erector spinae muscles, those lining your vertebrae, by lifting one leg and the opposite arm from an all-fours position. You can throw in an element of core work by contracting your abs as you pull the extended elbow and knee in toward one another before reaching again. Add slow, gentle pulses to feel the contraction and create a slight arch.

3. Camel 

A full camel can sometimes seem like too much on a sore back. Try a one-armed variation, extending the other arm overhead and resting in child’s pose before switching to the other side. Perform several slow, controlled repetitions to strengthen your back and core. 

4. Plank 

Plank works the transverse abdominal muscles, which wrap around you like a girdle to keep everything aligned, including your spine. If you want to challenge yourself in this pose, try lifting one arm, then the other, then try the process with your legs. Into hardcore balance? Try a bird dog from a plank position. 

5. Side Plank 

Side plank is a good alternative to a standard plank for mamas with diastasis and those wanting to play with their balance. You can perform this move on your hand or elbow if the pressure hurts your wrist. Placing your bottom knee on the ground makes it easier — extending the top leg like a starfish or taking vashistasana padangusthasana

6. Downward Dog 

You might think of downward dog as part of a vinyasa, but it also strengthens your back. It also elongates the entire posterior chain, making it a must-do part of your routine if you sit a lot. Your spine takes 90% more pressure in a seated position, and hunching over your screen all day shortens your hamstrings and calves while putting strain on your disks. 

Downward dog is the perfect move to counter that Quasimodo look and feel. Perform it as part of a sun salutation sequence or spend time in the pose. You might walk out your dog by alternately lowering your calves or crossing one leg in front of the other to shift more of the work to one side.

The Most Relaxing Yoga Poses for Easing Back Discomfort 

Strength is only half of the pain relief equation. Sink into these relaxing yoga poses to ease back discomfort at the end of the day or anytime the pressure is high. 

1. Cat-Cow 

A fun twist on the classic cat-cow is the barrel roll. Begin in cat, shifting your spine to one side, then dipping down into cat before moving it to the other side and returning to the top. Do several in each direction to ease spinal pressure across multiple planes of movement. 

2. Child’s Pose

Child’s pose is the ultimate feel-good surrender. Try changing the angle of the pose once you get in it. Reach straight forward, then walk your hands to either side. 

3. Pigeon 

It’s easy to confuse low back and hip pain because of their proximity and the sciatic nerve, which branches off the spine and runs down either leg. Performing certain sports moves improperly can throw you out of alignment, but this pose can help while lubricating this massive joint. Play your front foot adjustment — either closer in toward the hip or closer to parallel — to experiment with different angles. 

4. Sphinx 

Sphinx pose is fantastic for reversing a hunchback. Simply lie on your belly and come up on your elbows, creating a curve in your lower back. Extending into seal pose and shifting from side to side increases the range of motion for this pose. 

5. Supine Twists

Supine twists seem easy, but it’s just as simple to push too hard and injure your lower back. Instead, use a pillow or two beneath your knee — it works well if you try this stretch in bed at day’s end to ease the pressure before taking the last and final pose. 

6. Cradle 

Cradle lets you imagine what it feels like to be a roly-poly bug all pulled in around yourself. Feel free to rock back and forth, massaging your spine as you hug your knees to the chest, letting all the pressure of the day sink into your mat or mattress. 

Using Yoga to Strengthen Back Muscles and Relieve Discomfort 

The good news is that most back pain doesn’t require medical treatment. A little DIY strengthening and stretching fixes the issue. Try these best yoga poses for back pain and discomfort and reclaim your joy in movement. 

Beth Rush

Beth is the mental health editor at Body+Mind. She has 5+ years of experience writing about behavioral health, specifically mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.