Updated: Apr 29, 2020
Lower back pain is one of the most commonly reported problems among adults. One reason we experience lower back pain is due to poor posture and slouching, and we often find it arise from long hours sitting at a desk. The human body was not made to sit 8 hours a day on a chair so it not surprising that lower back can seem like a persistent problem for many office workers.
As well as practising proper posture, taking short breaks away from the desk and choosing a chair with good back support, yoga can help to ease lower back pain and a short practice in the evening can be very beneficial.
Yoga treats not only back pain but also the stress that accompanies it by relaxing, stretching and strengthening the body. Below are 7 of the best yoga postures to stretch and strengthen the muscles in the lower back, soothe existing pain and prevent future aches.
1. Downward Facing Dog ( Adho Mukha Svanasana )
A restful yet rejuvenating posture, downward-facing dog is a great stretch for the whole of the body especially the hamstrings and lower back muscles (back extensors). Downward dog can give instant relief to a dull lower backache.
To do: From all fours (on hands and knees) exhale as you lift your knees off the floor and raise the hips towards the sky. Slowly start to straighten the legs drawing the heels down towards the floor. Spread the fingers pushing each knuckle into the mat and keep the upper arms working and shoulder blades firm. Take 5-10 breaths here.
2. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Standing forward fold stretches the hamstrings, hips and back muscles while providing a release for tight, tense shoulders.
To do: From standing, exhale as you bend forward from the hips ensuring you lengthen through the spine as you fold forward. Keep a slight bend in the knees to avoid locking the knee joints and allow the head and neck to relax. Let the arms hang or grab hold of opposite elbows. Stay here for up to 1 minute before slowly rolling back up to standing.
3. Cat - Cow
Cat to cow movements are a great warm-up posture as they gently mobilise, massage and stretch the spine and loosen the back muscles.
To do: Start from hands and knees with knees directly under hips and hands directly under shoulders. Ensure hands are shoulder-width apart, knees are hip-distance apart and spine is in a neutral position. Inhale as you arch the back, lift the tailbone and chest and bring your gaze forward. Exhale as you round the back and bring the chin to the chest drawing the tailbone down. Repeat these movements 5-10 times.
4. Child's Pose (Balasana)
As well as promoting calm and relaxation, child's pose elongates and stretches the entire back and releases tension.
To do: Sit on heels with knees and feet together. Drawing your sitting bones to your heels, extend forward as you lay your torso on your thighs with arms stretched out. Rest your forearms and forehead on the mat keeping the neck relaxed. Stay here for 1-3 minutes. This posture can also be done with the knees mat distance apart.
5. Knees to Chest Pose (Apanasana)
A 'reversed child's pose' hugging the knees to the chest and rocking gently side to side massages the lower back and relieves tension and aching instantly.
To do: From a reclined position hug both knees into chest keeping the head and shoulders on the floor. Ensure the lumbar spine is in contact with the mat and slowly rock from side to side for as long as needed.
6. Upward Facing Dog ( Urdhva Mukha Svanasana )
Upward facing dog strengthens the spine and stretches the chest, shoulders and abdomen.
To do: Start in a prone position with your hands on the floor directly under your shoulders. On a inhale hug the elbows into the body as you straighten through the arms to lift the chest, abdomen, knees and legs off the mat. Draw the shoulders down and back away from the ears by rooting the hands firmly into the mat with fingers spread. Hold for 5 breaths.
7. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
Triangle pose is a strong standing posture which strengthens the back and leg muscles and lengthens the oblique muscles (sides of torsos). Strengthening the back muscles with strong postures like this is vital for preventing back pain from becoming a regular occurrence.
To do: From Tadasana (standing) step the left foot back turning the toes out to 90 degrees to open the hips. Keep the front toes facing forward and the legs straight. Reach arms out at shoulder height, palms face down, looking to the right hand.
As you inhale, extend through the right fingertips as far as you can, as you exhale release the back of the right hand to a block, the inside of the shin or ankle. Reach left fingers up to sky drawing the shoulder back to open the chest. Gaze up to left fingers. Hold for 5 breaths then slowly come out and repeat on the other side.
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