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Role of Yoga in Spine Health

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

Although recent research supports yoga practice as a way to treat back pain, it may not be appropriate for everyone. Be sure to talk with your doctor (Spine-Specialist) before starting any new yoga or exercise program. They can help you identify any possible risks and help monitor your progress.

You can start a home practice with as little as 10 minutes per day. You can use books, articles, and online classes to guide your practice. Once you learn the basics, you can intuitively create your own sessions.

Does it really work?

One small study assessed the effects of either yoga practice or physical therapy over the course of one year. The participants had chronic back pain and showed similar improvement in pain and activity limitation. Both groups were less likely to use pain medications after three months.

Separate study found that people who practiced yoga showed small to moderate decreases in pain intensity in the short term. Practice was also found to slightly increase participants’ short- and long-term function.

Though the research is hopeful, further studies are needed to confirm and expand upon these findings.

Why it’s beneficial?

If you’re dealing with back pain, yoga may be just what the doctor ordered. Yoga is a mind-body therapy that’s often recommended to treat not only back pain but the stress that accompanies it. The appropriate poses can relax and strengthen your body.

Practicing yoga for even a few minutes a day can help you gain more awareness of your body. This will help you notice where you’re holding tension and where you have imbalances. You can use this awareness to bring yourself into balance and alignment.

This ancient traditional practice, unlike other strenuous exercises, is best not only for your physical pain, but also for the perception of pain and mental health. The use of various postures incorporated various muscles, which in turn strengthen these muscle groups giving it the bones the strength to be alive. Most of the postures strengthens our back muscles, helping the spinal cord to maintain the upright position without giving much stress. If spines relieve stress, you relieve your stress muscles which results the birth of healthy muscles, releasing you from the grabs of back pain. A healthy spine and a painless life would be the dream of almost all.

So let’s dive in to 10 types of yoga for back pain, to make your life ease:

1. Cat-Cow

This gentle, accessible backbend stretches and mobilizes the spine. Practicing this pose also stretches your torso, shoulders, and neck.

Muscles worked:

  • erector spinae

  • rectus abdominis

  • triceps

  • serratus anterior

  • gluteus maximus

To do this:

1. Get on all fours.

2. Place your wrists underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips.

3. Balance your weight evenly between all four points.

4. Inhale as you look up and let your stomach drop down toward the mat.

5. Exhale as you tuck your chin into your chest, draw your navel toward your spine, and arch your spine toward the ceiling.

6. Maintain awareness of your body as you do this movement.

7. Focus on noting and releasing tension in your body.

8. Continue this fluid movement for at least 1 minute.

2. Downward-Facing Dog

This traditional forward bend can be restful and rejuvenating. Practicing this pose can help relieve back pain. It helps to work out imbalances in the body and improves strength.

Muscles worked:

  • hamstrings

  • deltoids

  • gluteus maximus

  • triceps

  • quadriceps

To do this:

1. Get on all fours.

2. Place your hands in alignment under your wrists and your knees under your hips.

3. Press into your hands, tuck your toes under, and lift up your knees.

4. Bring your sitting bones up toward the ceiling.

5. Keep a slight bend in your knees and lengthen your spine and tailbone.

6. Keep your heels slightly off the ground.

7. Press firmly into your hands.

8. Distribute your weight evenly between both sides of your body, paying attention to the position of your hips and shoulders.

9. Keep your head in line with your upper arms or with your chin tucked in slightly.

10. Hold this pose for up to 1 minute.

3. Extended Triangle

This classic standing posture may help alleviate backache, sciatica, and neck pain. It stretches your spine, hips, and groin, and strengthens your shoulders, chest, and legs. It may also help relieve stress and anxiety.

Muscles worked:

  • latissimus dorsi

  • internal oblique

  • gluteus maximus and medius

  • hamstrings

  • quadriceps

To do this:

1. From standing, walk your feet about 4 feet apart.

2. Turn your right toes to face forward, and your left toes out at an angle.

3. Lift your arms parallel to the floor with your palms facing down.

4. Tilt forward and hinge at your right hip to come forward with your arm and torso.

5. Bring your hand to your leg, a yoga block, or onto the floor.

6. Extend your left arm up toward the ceiling.

7. Look up, forward, or down.

8. Hold this pose for up to 1 minute.

9. Repeat on the opposite side.

4. Sphinx Pose

This gentle backbend strengthens your spine and buttocks. It stretches your chest, shoulders, and abdomen. It may also help relieve stress.

Muscles worked:

  • erector spinae

  • gluteal muscles

  • pectoralis major

  • trapezius

  • latissimus dorsi

To do this:

1. Lie on your stomach with your legs extended behind you.

2. Engage the muscles of your lower back, buttocks, and thighs.

3. Bring your elbows under your shoulders with your forearms on the floor and your palms facing down.

4. Slowly lift up your upper torso and head.

5. Gently lift and engage your lower abdominals to support your back.

6. Ensure that you’re lifting up through your spine and out through the crown of your head, instead of collapsing into your lower back.

7. Keep your gaze straight ahead as you fully relax in this pose, while at the same time remaining active and engaged.

8. Stay in this pose for up to 5 minutes.

5. Cobra Pose

This gentle backbend stretches your abdomen, chest, and shoulders. Practicing this pose strengthens your spine and may soothe sciatica. It may also help to relieve stress and fatigue that can accompany back pain.

Muscles worked:

  • hamstrings

  • gluteus maximus

  • deltoids

  • triceps

  • serratus anterior

To do this:

1. Lie on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders and your fingers facing forward.

2. Draw your arms in tightly to your chest. Don’t allow your elbows to go out to the side.

3. Press into your hands to slowly lift your head, chest, and shoulders.

4. You can lift partway, halfway, or all the way up.

5. Maintain a slight bend in your elbows.

6. You can let your head drop back to deepen the pose.

7. Release back down to your mat on an exhale.

8. Bring your arms by your side and rest your head.

9. Slowly move your hips from side to side to release tension from your lower back.

6. Locust Pose