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13 Lower Back Stretches


The lower back can be a sensitive spot for many people. There are many causes of low back pain, a weak core and poor posture from sitting all day (and consequently shortening hip muscles that then pull on the lower back) are two really common contributing factors to lower back aches and discomfort.


Yoga is one exercise modality that can target both of these things - weak core and poor posture. It's always important to figure out what's causing the pain so you can address it and prevent it from happening again. In many situations, doing gentle stretches can help relieve tightness and give your lower back some relief.


Here’s everything you need to know about how to use yoga to give your lower back some love.


How can I reduce lower back pain with yoga?

Movements and isometric (movement-free), and holds used in yoga can help build both strength and mobility, both play a role in reducing low back pain.


"Yoga is great for working on flexibility, core stability, correcting posture, and breathing; which are necessary for a healthy back.


Daily yoga is generally safe to do. It's important to make sure you're in tune with your body and to stop doing anything that makes discomfort worse.


Never stretch into a position of pain. Pain is how our bodies tell us something is wrong. If it actually hurts, ease up on the stretch. That means you should feel a combination of muscle tension and release, but if there’s any pinching, sharp pain, or brief numbness, ease way back on the stretch.


Is it okay to do yoga with lower back pain?

If you have any history of lower back injuries, problems with discs, or experience pain that lasts more than 72 hours without improving, I suggest seeing a physical therapist before doing any exercises. If you have an issue that requires medical attention, it's best to address it before it becomes worse.


If lower back pain is more of a general achiness or discomfort it's worth trying some yoga stretches to address any tightness and alignment issues. Stretches like child’s pose and downward dog are particularly good because they provide a sense of relief in the lower back and throughout all your back muscles—alleviating any tight spots.


How to use lower back stretches (yoga poses) to help reduce back pain:

The stretches below are helpful on their own, but they’re especially beneficial as a flow.


For lower back pain relief, choose five or six poses from the list below as a flow, and hold each pose for 10 seconds to 1 minute, make sure to take deep breaths throughout the hold.


If your lower back feels relief with that sequence, you can work up to holding each pose for longer, up to 3 minutes. In terms of frequency, you can do yoga daily, but if you’re a beginner yogi it's recommended to start with a couple times per week.


Many people find it useful to break up these lower back exercises into mini-sessions when their back feels particularly tight - ie. first thing in the morning or after sitting at work all day.


Recommended lower-back stretches / yoga poses:

  • Child's Pose

  • Cat/Cow

  • Downward-Facing Dog

  • Standing Forward Bend

  • Sphinx Pose

  • Knees to Chest With Slow Rock

  • Reclined Pigeon Pose

  • Reclined Supine Twist

  • Upward-Facing Dog

  • Crescent Lunge

  • Plank

  • Thread the Needle

  • Happy Baby


Child's Pose

Child's pose takes the pressure off lower back by elongating and aligning the spine, which decompresses it and gives a nice stretch.

  • Kneel on mat with knees hip-width apart and feet together behind you. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale lay torso over thighs.

  • Lengthen neck and spine by drawing ribs away from tailbone, and the crown of head away from shoulders.

  • Rest forehead on the ground, with arms extended out in front of you.

  • Hold 1–2 minutes.


Cat/Cow

This is probably my personal favorite stretch for my back. It allows for a nice flexion and extension of the spine, promotes mobility, and helps to relieve any tension in the lower back.


Cat/Cow helps you get familiar with what your neutral spine is—not too arched and not too rounded—which helps improve posture.


  • Start on all fours with shoulders over wrists and hips over knees.

  • Cat Pose: Take a slow inhale, and on exhale, round spine and drop head toward the floor.

  • CowPose: Inhale and lift head, chest, and tailbone toward the ceiling as you arch your back.

  • Do this for 1–3 minutes.


Downward-Facing Dog

Sometimes, we feel lower back pains because the backs of our legs are so tight. Down dog is a great way to stretch out hamstrings and calves. If you're extra tight, you can bend knees a little bit to make the stretch more comfortable.


  • From Child's pose, keep hands on the floor, sit up on knees, and then lift butt and press back into downward-facing dog.

  • Spread fingers wide. Work on straightening legs and lowering heels toward the ground.

  • Relax head between arms, and direct gaze through legs or up toward belly button.

  • Hold  30–60 seconds.


Standing Forward Bend

This pose stretches out the backs of legs and lengthens the spine, both relieve the lower back. Modify by keeping knees slightly bent if straightening legs hurts your back.

  • From downward-facing dog, slowly step forward to the top of mat. Stand with feet shoulder width apart.

  • Straighten legs out as much as you can and let torso hang down.

  • Tuck chin in toward chest, relax shoulders, and extend the crown of your head toward the floor to create a long spine.

  • Hold  30–60 seconds.


Tip:

Try thinking about keeping butt sticking out during this move so the bend comes from your hips, not your back.


Sphinx Pose 

Sphinx pose creates a nice natural curve of the lower back. It engages abs a bit, which is helpful for supporting the lower back.

  • Lie on stomach, legs together and straight out behind you.

  • Place elbows under shoulders and forearms on the floor, lift chest up off the floor.

  • Press hips and thighs into the floor; think about lengthening spine while keeping shoulders relaxed.

  • Sit up just enough to feel a nice stretch in lower back. Don't hyperextend, and stop immediately if you feel any discomfort or pain.

  • Hold this position 30–60 seconds.


Tip:

Tuck tailbone under and pull belly button in toward spine to minimize any hyperextension of the back.


Knees to Chest With Slow Rock 

I like to add a slow rocking motion to this basic stretch because it gives a nice, natural body weight massage.


  • Lie on back.

  • Hug both knees into chest.

  • Slowly rock torso back and forth while firmly holding onto legs.

  • Do this for 1–2 minutes.


Reclined Supine Twist

This is a great stretch for the lower back and can provide pain relief if you're tight. For some people, twisting movements can irritate the lower back. If this pose starts to hurt, stop doing it. You can put a towel underneath knees to help you ease into it if you're super tight


  • Lie on back.

  • Hug knees into chest; drop both knees over to one side as you twist torso in the opposite direction.

  • Try to keep knees and hips in line with each other as you draw them toward the floor, and keep chest as square to the ceiling as you can.

  • Hold this stretch 30–60 seconds and repeat on the other side.


Reclined Pigeon Pose

This move, aka figure 4, stretches hips, butt, and inner thighs.


  • Lie on back.

  • Cross right foot over left quad, and bend left knee.

  • Hold the back of left leg and gently pull it toward chest.

  • When you feel a comfortable stretch, hold 30–60 seconds.

  • Switch sides and repeat.


Upward-Facing Dog

If you experience back pain when bending forward, this is an especially helpful move since it stretches your low back. This pose works to activate the muscles around the spine, which better supports painful areas.


  • Start with low plank, which means come into plank pose as if you’re about to do a push-up, then lower halfway to the floor, keep elbows in close to the body.

  • From there, drop hips down to the floor and flip toes over so the tops of feet touch the floor.

  • Tighten core and straighten arms to push chest up. Pull shoulders back, squeeze shoulder blades, and tilt head toward the ceiling, to open up chest.

  • Hold the stretch 30 seconds to start and work your way up to holds of 1 minute or longer.


Crescent Lunge

A beneficial pose to take pressure off the lower back. That’s because it targets hip flexors and quads, allowing them not just to stretch, but to strengthen for better support.


  • Take a big step forward with left foot to start in a staggered stance, with feet almost mat-length apart.

  • Bend front knee and keep back leg straight and heel lifted off the floor. Try to bend front leg so that thigh is parallel to the floor. Square hips toward the front.

  • Extend arms toward the ceiling on either side of head and stretch up as you press into the mat and feel the stretch in your hips.

  • Hold 30–60 seconds and repeat on the other side.


Plank

Although this isn’t exactly a stretch, it’s great for core strength; which helps support the spine and take pressure off the lower back so it’s less painful.


  • Start on all fours, with knees under hips and hands flat on the floor directly underneath shoulders.

  • Lift knees off the floor and extend legs out behind you. You should now be on your toes and hands, with body forming one long line.

  • Keep palms flat on the floor, hands shoulder-width apart, shoulders stacked directly above wrists, and core engaged. Keep neck and spine in a neutral position by looking down at the top of mat.

  • Hold this position 30 seconds, although you may need to work up to that duration. The more often you do plank, the longer your hold will become.


Thread the Needle

Rotation throughout the upper body and thoracic spine is important for having a healthy back, and this gentle yoga stretch is ideal for doing that safely.


  • Start in a tabletop position with shoulders stacked directly over wrists and hips over knees.

  • Reach right arm underneath left and across your body with palm facing up.

  • Bend left elbow as you gently lean into right side; feel a stretch in the back of right shoulder.

  • Hold this pose for 1 minute and then repeat with the left arm.


Happy Baby

Similar to child’s pose, this is a gentle way to help your back while giving supporting muscles some love. In this case, hip adductors will get the stretch.

  • Lie faceup with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor.

  • Lift feet off the floor and grab the outside edges of feet with hands.

  • Gently pull feet toward chest and let knees lower toward the floor on either side of body. Keep back flat on the floor.

  • Hold 1–2 minutes.


ENJOY