5 Essential Yoga Stretches for Lower Back Pain

If you have occasional or chronic pain in your lower back, you're not alone. Low back pain is very common, especially as you age. Having a job where you sit most of the day exacerbates the problem. Taking the time to establish a regular stretching routine can make a big difference in your back pain prognosis.

The lower back is defined as the five lumbar vertebrae, which make up the curve of the spine just above the sacrum. Pain can originate from any of several interdependent anatomical sources, including the soft discs between each vertebra, the surrounding nerves, and the supporting muscles and ligaments. 

Yoga can help treat and prevent pain by building strength in weak areas and stretching out tight areas. A regular yoga practice, which includes many different types of movements that involve the spine, is a good way to maintain spinal health over time. 

The following series of poses includes spinal extension and flexion (also known as back bending and forward bending) and a twist. If you're already in pain, it's important to see your doctor for a diagnosis before starting any new exercises since not all stretches are appropriate for every condition. If you've been given the OK to do these types of movements or are looking for a preventative regime, you've come to the right place.

1
Pelvic Tilts

Pelvic Tilts Are a great Way to Reduce Back Pain
Pelvic Tilt Position. John Freeman/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Begin by lying on your back for pelvic tilts. If you can't lie down comfortably, you can also do these standing at the wall. Gently rocking your pelvis forward and back has the effect of flattening your low back against the floor (or the wall). It's a good way to introduce movement into a stiff spine.

Do 10-15 rounds of this stretch and you will be amazed by how different your back feels at the end.

2
Sphinx Pose

Sphinx Pose Is a Great Stretch for Low Back Pain
Sphinx Pose. Ann Pizer

Roll over  onto your stomach for sphinx pose. Make sure that your elbows are directly under your shoulders. Press into your forearms to keep your shoulders away from your ears. This position emphasizes the curve of the low back, which can be helpful for herniated discs

Stay here 5 to 10 breaths. Rest on your stomach for a few breaths and then repeat.

3
Cat-Cow Stretch - Chakravakasana

Cat-Cow Stretch for Lower Back Pain
Cat - Cow Stretch. Ben Goldstein

Come to all fours for a few rounds of cat-cow. This stretch, which moves back and forth from flexion to extension, expands the action of the pelvic tilt into the whole spine, from tailbone to neck. Balancing on your hands and knees also helps build core strength. This basic movement can have a big impact for people who sit all day.

5 to 10 rounds should do the trick, but you can always do more if you like.

4
Child's Pose - Balasana

Child's Pose - Balasana for Lower Back Pain
Child's Pose - Balasana. Ian Hooton/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Forward bending is not recommended for some types of back pain (herniated discs, for instance), so make sure you're diagnosed before trying child's pose. To lessen the angle of the forward bend, you can also take a bolster under your chest and head. Your arms can rest beside the body or be outstretched in front, whichever is more comfortable.

Take a least 10 breaths here.

5
Chair Twist

Spinal Twist in a Chair - Stretch for the Lower Back
Spinal Twist in a Chair. Ann Pizer

Twists are also tricky for some conditions, but if you can do them, the rotation is great for keeping your spine flexible. Take twists slowly and do not force yourself into position. 

Take about 5 breaths in this chair twist, lengthening your spine on the inhalations and gently deepening the pose on the exhalations. Then turn around to twist the opposite way. If you have more mobility, try a seated spinal twist - ardha matsyendrasana

Continue Reading