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It’s great for balance, flexibility and strength, but yoga’s benefits don’t stop there.

Back pain slowing you down? These eight simple yoga poses, recommended by certified yoga instructor and yoga therapist Michelle Smith, might help you find relief. 

Smith, who works at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa., offers integrative medicine modalities, including yoga therapy, massage therapy, reiki and vibrational sound therapy, to patients, staff and the general public. “Whether it’s simple chair yoga or a demanding sequence of advanced poses, there’s probably a level of yoga that’s right for you,” she says. If you have any doubts, consult with your doctor before starting this or any other exercise program.”

Yoga poses for back pain

Try these poses to relax and strengthen those sore muscles:

1. Cat-cow pose

This gentle backbend invigorates the spine and gives your muscles a good stretch.

  • Get on all fours, wrists beneath shoulders and knees beneath hips.
  • Exhale as you tuck your chin to your chest, draw your navel toward your spine and arch your spine toward the ceiling. 
  • Inhale, tipping your head up to face the ceiling and allowing your spine to sag, dropping your stomach toward the mat.
  • Repeat these alternating upward and downward movements.

2. Downward-facing dog 

This traditional forward bend builds strength and can help with back pain and sciatica pain.

  • Get on all fours, wrists beneath shoulders and knees beneath hips.
  • Press into your hands as you tuck your toes. Raise your hips toward the ceiling.
  • Keep a slight bend in your knees as you lengthen your spine.
  • Keep heels slightly off the ground as you press your hands into the mat.
  • Keep your head in line with your upper arms.
  • Hold for as long as you’re comfortable.

3. Cobra pose

With this backbend, you can strengthen your spine and maybe soothe sciatica as well. Plus, it gives your abdomen, chest and shoulders a rejuvenating stretch.

  • Lie on your stomach with hands under shoulders and fingers facing forward.
  • Draw arms in tightly to your chest. Keep elbows close by your side.
  • Press your hands to the mat and slowly lift head, chest and shoulders — lift partway, halfway or all the way up while keeping elbows slightly bent.
  • Tilt your head back if you want to deepen the pose.
  • Hold the pose for as long as you want.
  • Exhale as you release back onto your mat.

4. Seated spinal twist

This twist energizes the spine and helps relieve back pain while giving hips, shoulders and neck a good stretch. 

  • Sitting on the floor, draw your right foot in close to your left hip. Put your left foot on the outside of your right leg.
  • Lengthen your spine as you twist your body to the left. Place your left hand behind you for support.
  • Move your right upper arm to the outside of your left thigh, or wrap your elbow around your left knee. Don’t move your hips.
  • Turn your head to look over your shoulder.
  • Hold the pose for up to a minute.
  • Repeat on other side.

5. Triangle pose 

This standing pose stretches your spine, hips and groin and can help with neck, sciatica and back pain. 

  • Place your feet about 4 feet apart, right foot pointing forward and left foot pointing out at an angle.
  • Lift arms parallel to the mat with palms facing down.
  • Hinge at your right hip to tilt forward with your arm and torso.
  • Put your right hand on the mat, a yoga block or your leg — whatever works for you.
  • Extend your left arm toward the ceiling.
  • Hold for as long as you’re comfortable.
  • Repeat for the opposite side.

6. Locust pose

Strengthen your back, torso, arms and legs with this backbend. It’s especially good for relieving lower back pain.

  • Lie on your stomach with arms by your side, palms facing up. Keep your big toes together and heels slightly out to the side.
  • Place your forehead on the mat.
  • Slowly lift your head, chest and arms partway or all the way up — whatever feels good to you. You can also lift your legs to deepen the pose.
  • Bring your hands together and interlace your fingers behind your back.
  • Look straight ahead or slightly upward as you hold the pose.

7. Bridge pose

If you have back pain or headaches, this gentle backbend may bring relief.

  • Lie on your back with knees bent, heels close to your hips and arms beside your body, palms down.
  • Press your feet and arms into the mat as you lift your tailbone. Continue lifting until your thighs are parallel to the mat.
  • You can leave your arms as they are, or bring your palms together beneath you and interlace your fingers or put your hands under your hips for support.
  • After holding the pose for as long as you feel comfortable, release by slowly rolling your spine back to the mat, vertebra by vertebra.

8. Reclining spinal twist

This restorative twist stretches your spine, back and shoulders and can help relieve back pain and stiffness in your back and hips.

  • Lie on your back with knees drawn to your chest and arms extended to the side, palms down.
  • Slowly lower your legs to the left while keeping your knees as close together as possible. You can use your left hand to gently press your knees toward the mat.
  • Turn your head away from your knees.
  • Breathe deeply and hold the pose for as long as you wish.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

Next steps: 

See how Geisinger is making better health easier
Exercise tips to get fit — safely
Learn about neck and back pain