A staggering 8 out of 10 American adults will experience back pain at some point in their lifetime.
No wonder so many people are taking up yoga when they hear about all the health advantages, including for back discomfort.
So, which poses are most effective?
We’ve listened to the experts and some passionate yogis and compiled the best 14 asanas to ease back pain:
1. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Statistics show that yoga is growing in popularity every year, and there is no yoga pose more famous than the downward dog.
It’s a position that can really build strength in your abdominal muscles which are essential for the support of your lower back.
Down dog offers an opportunity to reverse the forces of gravity that usually act on the spine. The action of the hip joint flexing and folding in the front brings the abdominals in close toward the spine, strengthening them
However she does warn that it’s essential to practice it correctly or you could find that it makes the pain worse.
Research published in 2009 looked at how yoga could help manage chronic low back pain in minority populations.
Participants were involved in yoga classes for 12 weeks, following a sequence that included downward dog.
Results showed that the sessions decreased pain and reliance on pain medication.
Watch Dr. Tatonté Venable demonstrate how to safely perform downward dog:
2. Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
The upward facing dog can also be highly effective for back pain. Expert yogis recommend the pose as it acts as a spinal decompression exercise.
They believe that by stretching your abdominal muscles it aids you in developing a strong torso, which can lead to relief from back pain as well as associated problems like sciatica.
When performed regularly it’s thought that upward facing dog can improve your overall, long term spine health.
A study published in the International Journal of Yoga in 2017 looked at how yoga can help fix the bad posture that can be brought on by a sedentary lifestyle.
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana was highlighted as one asana that can be particularly effective in activating the back muscles.
Ideal if you’re looking for alternative ways to build muscle, and increase your strength through yoga!
3. Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
Camel pose is challenging for yoga beginners however when mastered it can be effective for back pain.
This asana, which opens up the front of your body, is also thought to help better your digestive system.
Read the inspiring words of yoga guru and Iyengar yoga founder, Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar better known as B. K. S. Iyengar, who wrote about camel pose in his book, Light on Yoga. He advises:
People with drooping shoulders and hunched backs will benefit by this asana. The whole spine is stretched back and is toned. This pose can be tried conveniently by the elderly and even by persons with spinal injury.
4. Cat Pose (Marjaryasana) – Cow Pose (Bitilasana)
Back pain support groups and organizations suggest the cat pose for those suffering from lower back pain, which is typically married with the cow pose.
The cat-cow pose is also suggested as an effective asana for fatigue and chronic pain.
The poses involve rolling your shoulders back, lifting your hips and rounding your spine, effectively opening up the spine which can offer relief from pain.
Licensed chiropractor, Dr. David Oliver, explains that you shouldn’t power through any pain you experience when adopting the pose.
When you start feeling pain in your back, that’s the time to stop!
Over the course of a few days you’ll start to see your range of motion expand and you’ll then hopefully be able to practice the pose without any discomfort.
Watch an example of how the cat and cow pose can be used for back pain:
5. Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
One of the many benefits of yoga practice is an improvement in your balance.
However maintaining your balance to perform positions such as the Eagle Pose when you’re suffering from lower back pain can be difficult.
Luckily the position can be easily adapted. Simply lay down and only practice the leg pose which will help to relieve the pressure on your lower back.
Eagle is also a great asana for boosting your mood, with evidence showing it can improve your sense of energy and self-esteem.
6. Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)
Research shows that over 50% of those suffering from back pain spend most of their day sitting at work.
Extended triangle pose is thought to be effective for helping to relieve those daily aches and pains.
The transition of the position can help to loosen up your muscles and joints, easing pain in the back as well as other sites of chronic pain.
Revolved triangle pose has also been shown to work wonders for lower back pain.
Watch how to practice the triangle pose effectively:
7. Fire Log Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)
Tight hips have long been considered one of the causes of lower back pain. If you feel you need to work on tightness in your hips then the fire log pose can be beneficial.
Though the pose looks simple and serene, yoga experts explain that the fire log pose is highly effectively in lengthening your hip flexors.
This extension helps to support your lower back and stop you from pulling muscles in the future.
Yoga guru Subhash Mittal advises that those with lower back pain avoid the forward bending variation of the asana.
He explains that this variation is stretching the spine in a way that could lead to further discomfort for those already suffering.
8. Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
Professionals suggest the legs-up-the-wall pose for those with swollen feet and ankles at the end of a busy day, as the position helps to recirculate the blood flow.
It can be a particularly powerful asana for inducing sleep!
However legs-up-the-wall pose can be painful if you’re suffering from back pain.
Luckily you can give your tailbone extra support by adding a bolster and still benefit from this position.
Legs-up-the-wall with bolster pose is recommended by renowned yogi Gail Boorstein Grossmanni., in her book Restorative Yoga: A Relaxing Way to De-stress, Re-energize, and Find Balance.
She suggests that the viparita karani asana can be as beneficial on your nervous system as taking a nap.
The rejuvenation that this position provides is thought to help manage the symptoms of lower back pain.
9. Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
Locust pose is seen as an essential one for beginners to ease them in to the more complex positions.
However its power shouldn’t be underestimated, especially when it comes to strengthening your spine.
The position, when practiced regularly, works to build muscles within your back.
Locust pose was used in a research project conducted in 2009.
The focus of the study was to understand whether yoga could be an effective treatment for lower back pain.
Results concluded that yoga provides an inexpensive way for back pain patients to manage their symptoms.
10. Sphinx Pose (Salamba Bhujangasana)
Sphinx Pose is one of the most gentle backbends you can practice making it an ideal low intensity asana for those suffering from back pain.
Though it’s a gentle backbend it still has many benefits.
A journal titled Yoga Therapy for Management of Neck and Low Back Pain concluded its 2015 findings by recommending the sphinx pose in particular for those suffering from lower back pain.
Yoga by Karina explains that it’s also a wonderful asana for building flexibility.
11. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
If you’re aiming to avoid backbends due to your pain then child’s pose can prove to be a wonderfully restorative middle ground.
Use this pose to counter back bends in your yoga practice, allowing your body the time and movement to regain balance.
When performed correctly it allows you to rest your lower back whilst still strengthening your spine.
Balasana was used in a 2016 research project which sought to understand exactly how yoga relieves low back pain.
After just 12 weeks, yoga practice was shown to reduce the pain levels of the participants involved.
12. Supine Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
Relief from back pain is often cited as a benefit of practicing the supine spinal twist as the movement eases the pressure on your lower back.
Certified Health Coach Anne Asher warns that though the supine twist is a powerful pose for the management of back pain, it’s essential that it’s performed safely.
She suggests consulting your healthcare professional in advance as sometimes the position can lead to a herniated disc.
Watch physical therapist Dr David Lee as he demonstrates how to perform a supine twist to improve the mobility of your spine:
13. Plank Pose (Phalakasana)
It might seem counterintuitive to practice the plank pose when you’re suffering from back pain, however it can be very worthwhile.
The plank pose helps you to build strength in your back (as well as your core, arms and wrists).
Keep your position firm, make sure shoulders and hips are in line and ensure you relax your shoulders to get the most from the pose.
If you feel like switching it up a little then Side Plank has been proven to correct spine curvature by up to 32%!
Just adopt the posture once a day, for three days a week, for as little as three months to start to see improvements.
14. Supported Corpse Pose (Salamba Savasana)
There are around 7,000 yoga studios in the US, visit any of them and you’ll more than likely finish your session with the corpse pose or savasana.
The corpse pose can be painful if you’re suffering from back pain so consider finishing with the supported corpse pose.
This pose involves placing a bolster under your knees to help take the pressure off your back.
Experts also recommend the corpse pose before bed to relax the muscles, and so you can enjoy deeper and most restful sleep.
Stretching and improving your overall flexibility can help to boost your back health.
Explore our article covering 10 of the best asanas to make you more flexible.