Back pain, in all of its many forms, is a fairly common ailment among the general population. In fact, according to the American Chiropractic Association, it’s estimated that about 80 percent of the U.S. population will experience a back problem at some point in their lives.
Of course, back pain can present itself in many different ways and is caused by a wide variety of different effects. The National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases says it can come as a result of poor physical fitness, being overweight, your job and even smoking, heredity, and simply growing older.
When dealing with any health-related issue, and especially something like back pain, which could potentially be very serious (especially if your pain is severe), it’s always a good idea to first figure out the root of the cause by talking to your doctor. This way, you can work to eliminate the problem entirely, instead of simply treating your symptoms.
However, several studies have shown that yoga is in fact an effective way to help relieve back pain. For example, one study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine found that participants who practiced yoga or stretching were twice as likely to cut down on pain medications prescribed for back pain when compared with those who managed symptoms on their own.
No matter what your situation, you should always first consult your doctor before starting a new fitness routine—no matter how gentle and low-key it may be. But once you get the go-ahead, you can use the following eleven poses—suggested by Beth Shaw, president and founder of YogaFit and author of Yoga Lean—to stretch and strengthen your back and ultimately, relieve any nagging aches and pains in your back.
Lying Spinal Twist
"This position releases your lower back, especially after standing or sitting for long periods of time," Shaw says.
To get in: Lie down on the floor. Bring your knees to your chest and extend your left leg along the floor. Place your right foot on the floor and push to lift and shift your hips slightly to the right. Use your left hand to draw your right knee gently towards the floor. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths before gently untwisting and returning to the starting position, then repeat on the other side.
Seated Forward Fold
“More than 80 percent of Americans experience some lower back pain in their lifetime,” Shaw said. “Holding and breathing in forward fold will not only help you lengthen your tight hamstrings and lower back muscles, it will also relax you, combating the harmful effects of stress on your mind and body.”
To get in: From a seated position, extend your legs. Pull your toes back towards your body. Reach forward, placing your hands on your legs, ankles, feet or on the floor. Using your abs, draw through the top of your head.