Lower Back Pain Exercises and Stretches│Yoga to the Rescue

The lower back pain pandemic is one that is prevalent for a long-long time and affects all of us at some point in our lives largely due to our modern and sedentary lifestyles. It’s no surprise here as to why it happens. Now, to bring about change and to improve your present circumstances, you need to take action. Precisely you need to make this a top priority and do just a few simple lower back pain exercises and stretches as often as possible. 

The goal is to form a new habit by choosing an exercise regimen that suits you the best and the one that you are most likely to stick to in the long run. That said, in this article, we are going to talk about the best ways that yoga can help rescue your lower back and keep it from saying, ‘save me before it’s tooo late’. 

This post is PART 3 of a THREE-PART SERIES of articles meant to help people with lower back pain and problems. The three articles in this miniseries are about everything from lower back home exercises and yoga stretches to gym workouts with weights for building a rock-solid lower back. These articles will be relevant for everyone from complete beginners to experienced folks! The other two posts in this three-part lower back series are –

PART 1 PART 2
Exercises to Strengthen Lower Back│How to Get a Stronger Lower Back at HomeLower Back Workout Exercises│6 Best Weighted Gym Exercises That Are Proven To Work

In this post, I will specifically talk about the best yoga exercises and stretches you can do to make your lower back muscles flexible and mobile and reduce the chances of developing lower back pain. Let’s begin!

How Did We Get Here and What Can We Do About It?


Imagine a great day that starts with you waking up refreshed and excited to conquer tasks and difficulties that today brings. Now as soon as you get up from the bed, you feel a sharp, stabbing pain in the lower right side of your back. You’re thinking about what possibly might be the reason that this severe pain in your lower back decided to ruin your perfect day and now you’re off to a bad start where this pain will stick with you for almost a while until you decide to do something about it. 

The point of the story is that most people don’t realize that their small, unimportant, and often ignored daily habits, weaken one of the most crucial muscles of their body to a point where it can no longer take the huge responsibility of carrying the weight of the entire body. The muscle we’re talking about here is the “lower back”.

Are you going to be like Hitchcock and Scully (from Brooklyn Nine-Nine) who love to and can literally spend all day sitting? Or, are you going to stop being lazy with your daily routine and start spending some time exercising and stretching so your muscles remain functional and pain-free? 

It all starts with having the right attitude and a desire to change. 

If you think that you are special and exempt from all lower back problems thinking it will never happen to you, the reality is it surely can and surely will.

My goal with this article is to prepare you for when the lower back problem strikes, you will know what to do and be ready! 

And for those who are already suffering from lower back pain, know that these six exercises listed below will help you in a major way and improve your condition no matter where you are in your back pain journey.

How Yoga Can Help With Lower Back Pain


Yoga is a mind-body practice first developed in ancient India, dating back thousands of years. Its popularity has spread across the Western world in just the last century.

In her book The Concise Book of Yoga Anatomy, author Jo Ann Staugaard-Jones says,

“Yoga is a perfect example of balancing, strengthening and stretching at the hip joint in all three planes.”

Jo Ann Staugaard-Jones

You must be thinking if yoga will help make your lower back stronger and if it’s really necessary to do any yoga exercises at all for your lower back. 

If your goal is to strengthen your lower back, it is absolutely crucial to add a few relaxing yoga stretches and yoga exercises for your lower back to keep the balance and prevent sciatic nerve pain (also called sciatica).

Yoga will also help improve your mobility and range of motion. It’s for you to experiment with different yoga positions (sitting, lying, or standing) to perceive what feels better to you and benefits you the most.

If you are in constant or deliberating back pain right now, yoga is an easy movement to start with for temporary relief. In the early stages, yoga and stretching can offer you some relief from the back pain and a positive hope when you start seeing results. 

Mentally, this will give you a jump start and proof that your small, consistent efforts are working, and someday soon you will be able to live pain-free if you push through adversity and keep going on this journey.

A few yoga facts related to lower back pain worth knowing:

  • Yoga has also been proven to be an effective therapy for chronic, non-specific low back pain (back pain for more than twelve weeks).
  • This 2019 study published in the Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice journal concluded: “Yoga is better than stabilization exercise for pain relief.”
  • This study shows that an estimated 15 million American adults had used yoga at least once in their lifetime and 7.4 million during the previous year, 21% specifically using yoga for back or neck pain. 

The new form of yoga that most people practice today has evolved over thousands of years from a focus on controlled breathing and physical postures to now being used for both wellness and treating specific health conditions. 

There are many forms and styles of yoga and the one we are particularly interested in is called Therapeutic Yoga

As the name suggests, therapeutic yoga is for people who want to use simple yoga postures and stretching exercises to help treat health conditions, heal, de-stress muscles, relax and ease pain from specific health problems like back pain or any other physical and physiological pain. 

This study on therapeutic yoga and its ability to increase the quality of life from 2011, sums it up:

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Results from this study show that yogic practices enhance muscular strength and body flexibility, promote and improve respiratory and cardiovascular function, promote recovery from and treatment of addiction, reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, improve sleep patterns, and enhance overall well-being and quality of life.

A few simple exercises and stretches that anyone can do from the comfort of their home…. sounds like an easy and convenient solution to reduce the stress and discomfort caused by lower back pain. 

For beginners, yoga is a great way to improve the flexibility, mobility, and strength of their muscles by practicing different physical poses. 

That said, there are better options out there than yoga to target lower back pain at its source, which is muscle weakness and imbalance from a lack of physical activity. 

What I’m referring to is doing some form of resistance training with weighted exercises to strengthen your back muscles. This strategy will always remain the best way to build a stronger lower back that is more likely to stay pain-free and healthy in the long run.

Therefore, for people with lower back pain, using a combination of yoga and resistance training is the best therapy for long-term effectiveness.

Yoga benefits for lower back pain, lower back pain exercises and stretches
Yoga Benefits for Lower Back Pain

How a Weak Core Causes Lower Back Pain


‘Core’ here refers to the muscles of the lower back, hips, and abs. 

The core muscles play a vital role in stabilizing our body and maintaining a proper posture while sitting, standing, and during any physical activity. 

You must be wondering what your hips and abs got to do with your lower back pain. Most people have no clue about the connection between these three core muscles which is why let’s clear this once and for all. 

The answer lies in the anatomy of the lower back or lumbar

The lower back further connects to the hip muscles at the posterior chain (backside of our bodies) and to the abs at the anterior chain (front side of our bodies). 

In most cases, the source of all lower back problems and pain originates from a weakness of the hips, rather than abs because the lumbar is directly connected to the glutes at the posterior chain. So, when either of these two muscles is overused and weakened, the lower back pain starts.

The main reason for the weakening of our back muscles is through our daily lifestyle of sitting for long periods of time whether for driving, studying, eating, reading, watching TV, playing video games, or working at the computer.

So, if you are sitting for long hours every day, are inactive, and are unwilling to do any form of exercise, chances are high that you’ll soon develop lower back pain. 

On the bright side, if you want to keep your lower backs healthy and reduce the chances of developing pain, you must start doing exercises and stretches that focus not just on your lower back but also on your hips and abs. 

In summary:
  • Weak Core = Weak Lower Back (higher chances of developing non-specific low back pain)

  • Strong Core = Strong Lower Back (extremely lower chances of developing any low back pain)

The One and Only Remedy for Lower Back Pain You’ll Need, Like Ever


Did you know that core stability exercise has been proven to be more effective than general exercise for decreasing lower back pain and preventing injury?

That’s why the simple solution and the best remedy for lower back pain is –

Core Strengthening.

Most core strengthening programs and workouts will include exercises for the lower back, hips, and abs. 

Anyone can build a strong core and develop core stability by doing a combination of the following:

  1. Bodyweight exercises
  2. Weighted exercises
  3. Yoga and stretching

We explained points 1 & 2 in the previous two articles in this “lower back” series. If you still haven’t checked them out, you can find them here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).

In this article, we’re talking about the ‘yoga and stretching’ way of addressing lower back pain. Now, you can choose to do any of the core stability exercises that we recommend in this 3-part series that best suits your current circumstances.

If it helps, my personal exercise routine that has helped me keep my lower back healthy and pain-free over the years is this: 

“3-days a week weighted training in the gym (Push-Pull-Legs) plus 2-3 days a week of yoga and stretching with a few bodyweight exercises towards the end of the workout.” 

Now, for those of you dealing with chronic lower back pain, in the early stages, you may have to increase the frequency and duration of your yoga exercises to either a few extra days per week or a few extra minutes a day if you can just make time on the weekends.  

The other factor that is even more important than core strengthening is to stop procrastinating and be willing to take control of your physical health. You have to find that inspiration to get up and out of the bed or couch or chair and do the work, over and over again. 

Only knowledge that is used sticks in your mind and gives results. Remember this, put in the work and get stronger. 

The 6 Best Lower Back Pain Yoga Exercises and Stretches for Men and Women


Proper Form is Crucial:

Before starting on this yoga and stretching exercise program for the lower back or in fact any exercise program, always learn the right form.

Many injuries of the lower back in yoga happen because of increased pressure on the lower back muscles due to an incorrect form. While doing any yoga exercise, be sure to practice and learn the correct form. 

Remember: Discomfort is normal, pain is not. 

If you experience any pain while doing an exercise, immediately stop and re-assess. This will help you learn and understand where you’re wrong so you can correct the course without causing any problems.

What You’ll Need:

  1. Yoga mat
  2. Relaxing yoga playlist like Spotify’s Sunrise Yoga (optional, but recommended)
  3. Comfortable clothing with freedom of movement (in short, Athleisure). Our favorite “athleisure” brand that makes both fashionable and high-end fitness apparel is Vuori.
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After learning the proper exercise form and preparing the things you will need, it’s now time to start doing the lower back yoga exercises. All things considered, the best and essential core strengthening yoga exercises and stretches for low back pain are:

1. Child’s Pose

Also called: Balasana

Stretches: Back, Hips, Thighs, Ankles

Like a newly born child, embrace the world with open arms and say goodbye to all the pain and tension in your muscles by getting into the child’s pose.

An ideal pose to aid in back pain, the child’s pose is a resting asana and a restorative stretch for the whole body.

This exercise is helpful in de-stressing tight muscles and increasing the flexibility of the hips as well as the lower back. 

Main Benefits

  • Stabilizes the spine.
  • Releases any unwanted pressure from the backbone.
  • A great resting posture for the relaxation of whole body muscles.

How to Perform:

Child’s Pose
Child's pose for lower back pain
Rest your belly between your thighs and rest your forehead on the floor with your arms straight out in the front.

2. Cat-Cow

Also called: Bidalasana/Marjariasana (Cat Pose), Bitilasana (Cow Pose)

Stretches: Neck, Shoulders, Spine, Hips, Abs, Chest

Strengthens: Lower Back, Hips, and Core Muscles

The cat-cow pose is a combination of two yoga exercises which are the cat pose and the cow pose where one alternates between the two poses repeatedly to get maximum benefits for a healthy lower back. 

Cat-cow is a widely popular yoga exercise that is used as an essential part of most yoga programs designed to prevent lower back pain. 

This stretch does wonders for your backbone and counteracts the negative effects of sitting all day primarily by moving the spine from a rounded position (flexion) to an arched position (extension). 

Main Benefits

  • Relieves tension from the entire back and neck.
  • Improves flexibility of all the muscles stretched during this exercise.
  • Strengthens and loosens the spine plus its surrounding muscles.
  • Improves posture and balance.

How to Perform:

Cat-Cow Pose
Cat-Cow Pose for Lower Back Pain
Inhale and gently move your pelvis back for the cow pose (extension). Exhale and tuck in your pelvis for cat pose (flexion).

3. Bird-Dog

Also called: Quadruped exercise, Parsva Balasana

Stretches: Back, Obliques, Abs, Hamstrings, Glutes

Strengthens: Glutes, Core and Lower Back

The bird-dog exercise is one of the best lower back stabilization exercises that actively engages all three core muscles which are necessary to be strengthened for the effective treatment of lower back pain.

Exercises like the bird-dog that strengthen the lower back stabilization muscles of the rectus abdominis (abs) and erector spinae (different muscles running along the spine) are a staple of an exercise program to treat lower back pain.

Some of you may find the bird-dog exercise a little difficult at the start as it demands balance and upper-body strength to keep one in position on all fours while maintaining a neutral spine. 

Tip: Do this exercise early in your yoga routine when you are fresh, energetic, and have the most strength. Follow bird-dog after cat-cow as these two exercises have the same starting position, that is on all fours with a neutral spine.

Main Benefits

  • Prepares you for more dynamic and challenging exercises of the trunk by engaging your core.
  • Improves your balance and core stability.
  • Strengthens the lower back and helps reduce low back pain. 
  • Involves almost all muscles of the body in one movement.
  • Teaches the spine muscles to stay rigid during heavy lifting. 

How to Perform:

Bird-Dog Exercise
Bird dog exercise for lower back pain
Focus on forming a straight line from your hands to your legs, squeezing the hips. Hold the position for a few seconds with good form before switching sides.

4. Reclining Pigeon Pose

Also called: Lying Leg-Resting Piriformis and Glute Stretch, Crossed Leg Stretch, Lying Glute Stretch, Supine Figure Four

Stretches: Hips, Thighs (Hamstrings and Quads), Lower Back

As we learned earlier, tight hip muscles can ultimately lead to lower back pain because of their connection with the lumbar spine. This is why it’s vital to include direct hip flexor stretching exercises in your yoga routine. 

The reclining pigeon pose, or Figure 4, is one of the best hip stretching exercises that can immensely benefit you in relaxing your tight butt muscles. 

You will know you’re doing this stretch right when during the lying leg-resting stretch position, you will feel a sweet, mild discomfort in your hips (discomfort is normal, pain is not) followed by a satisfying relaxation of the muscles that you can feel getting loose. 

Main Benefits

  • Helps open up the hips with its deep stretch position.
  • Eases and relaxes hip flexor muscles that weaken and tighten from sitting for long hours.  
  • Helps relieve sciatica and tight glute muscles.
  • Helps improve hip flexibility and range of motion.
  • Avoids inflammation and irritation of the piriformis muscle located in the hip joint.

How to Perform:

Lying Glute Stretch / Figure Four
Lying glute stretch or Figure four exercise for lower back pain
Lying on your back, cross your ankle on your knees and keep the other foot in a flexed position, bringing the knee towards your chest. Hold the position for as long as possible. Switch sides and repeat. (Image: Openfit)

5. Upward Facing Dog

Also called: Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana

Stretches: Chest, Shoulders, Spine, Abs, Hips

Strengthens: Core muscles of the abs, glutes/hips, and spine/backbone, including lower back

The upward-facing dog is one of the classic modern yoga exercises for lower back pain relief. The backbend position of this yoga pose is proven effective for strengthening the three primary core stability muscles. 

The upward dog exercise works great for stretching and relieving pressure from the lower back while at the same time targeting your hips and abs. 

The up dog pose can be slightly challenging to maintain and hold as you need to use your arm strength for getting into the proper position as long as you comfortably can. Be sure to follow the performing instructions below and remember to keep your knees off the floor.

Main Benefits

  • Supports back health by improving flexibility and spine alignment thus reducing lower back pain.
  • Helps maintain good posture.

How to Perform:

Upward Facing Dog
The correct form for upward facing dog exercise for lower back pain
The correct form for upward facing dog exercise for lower back pain/ Source: Yoga Journal

6. Knees to Chest (with slow rock)

Also called: Supine Knees to Chest Pose or Apanasana

Stretches: Lower Back, Hips, Abs, Knees, Pelvis

The knees to chest is a classic and simple yoga pose with an easy-to-get-to position. The main muscles targeted by this asana are the lower back and hips. 

A better and more effective variation of the knees to chest exercise for reducing back pain is by adding a slow, controlled rock from side to side. 

The side-to-side rolling movement will make you feel like you’re giving yourself a relaxing, gentle bodyweight massage. Just be sure to do this exercise on a well-cushioned, thick exercise mat for the best results. 

Main Benefits

  • Helps ease the stiffness in your lower back.
  • Releases tension in posterior chain muscles that get weak due to lack of motion and a sedentary lifestyle.
  • The slow rock variation massages the spine to reduce the stress on the lumbar and supporting muscles helping to reduce any accompanying lower back pain.

How to Perform:

Knees to Chest Exercise with Slow Rock (Source: Self)
Knees to chest with slow rock for lower back pain
Lying on your back, brings both your knees to the chest, clasping your hands around them. If it’s comfortable. softly rock side-to-side for a gentle spinal massage.

Bottom Line: Yoga Helps with Lower Back Pain


Yoga helps manage your symptoms by improving your lower back pain, therefore, improving your quality of life.

If you’ve read this far, you surely are eager to know the best way to fix the lower back pain problem once and for all. And, the answer is simple –

How Yoga Can Help Improve Lower Back Pain

  • 🧘‍♂️ Yoga, specifically, therapeutic yoga has been proven to improve low back pain, enhance muscular strength and body flexibility, and overall well-being and quality of life.

  • 6️⃣ The six best yoga and stretching exercises to reduce lower back pain are cat-cow, bird-dog, child’s pose, lying glute stretch, upward facing dog, and knees to chest (with slow rock).

  • 🏋 Make core strengthening the goal of all your workouts by choosing specific lower back-focused exercises as a part of your training program.

  • 🔚 To make your yoga exercise routine even better, consider adding a few ab exercises like plank, bicycle crunch, or any of your favorites towards the end of your yoga and stretching sessions. 

  • ✅ A consistent workout routine with the best and most effective exercises that both stretch and strengthen the muscles is the most effective strategy that works in the long run to cure low back pain.

My personal recommendation of a highly effective and the best bodyweight lower back exercise (after having tried them all) is to add Reverse Hyperextension to your current exercise program. 

Reverse hyperextension is an advanced and challenging exercise that you can progress to as you get stronger doing the basic and fundamental exercises shown in this post. Trust me, it will work wonders for your lower back pain and make your back feel great after a few days of doing this exercise, daily.

Other than exercise, how you spend the remaining hours of your day also matters. In addition to exercise, keep a good sitting posture taking regular breaks every 30 minutes, and when sitting, use pillows and cushions to support your lower back. If your job demands standing for long periods, consider adding support for your lower back with back braces.

Concluding this final post of the 3-part series on the lower back, your best weapon to fight and win against lower back pain is by following an exercise program that includes back-focused bodyweight exercises, weighted exercises, and yoga. 

I hope and wish that the information I shared will be helpful to you in progressing in your fitness journey and making your lower back muscles stronger. If you enjoyed this post, please leave your experiences and comments below.

And finally, if you’d like to stay up to date with the Physiqueness blog, then please like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Pinterest. Your kind gesture would be incredibly appreciated! Thanks for reading 🙂

Next: How to use bodyweight exercises to strengthen your lower back at home? (Part 1)

Or: How to strengthen your lower back with weighted training workout exercises? (Part 2)

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2 thoughts on “Lower Back Pain Exercises and Stretches│Yoga to the Rescue”

  1. So yoga can improve your health and improve your lifestyle?

    I wanna thank you so much for giving us ideas and things about what yoga has to offer for the human body. I sometimes have lower back pains and it is the worse pain to deal with it, I do sit all the time because I am working on my computer, and also I’m an introvert so I really do hate going outside but I have to try new things.

    Child pose probably is the easiest for me to do along with the upward-facing dog. They seem like the best options for me to do, when I do yoga I want it to target my lower back and I want to feel that feeling that it is working and how good it will feel afterward. I am going to bookmark this site for future yoga positions so I can find what can help me for my body and make it healthier and stronger!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Caleb for sharing your thoughts, and I’m glad that you found the article helpful.

      Start with the easy exercises and slowly add the others as you get comfortable with the movements. I wish you the best in your efforts towards improving your lower back pain with these yoga exercises and stretches.

      Also, do check out the other two articles in this 3-part series on the lower back where I have researched and written about the best exercises one can do (Part 1: bodyweight and Part 2: weighted) to help reduce lower back pain and build a strong lower back. Good luck!

      Reply

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