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Yoga Poses to Ease Lower Back Stiffness and Pain

This yoga sequence is designed to stretch and strengthen the back, hips and hamstrings to alleviate tightness in the lower back.

Did you know that 80% of the population will experience back pain at some point in their lives? According to the American Chiropractic Association, poor posture, inactivity and high stress are some of the factors that contribute to back pain.

Early in my career, I noticed my lower back would ache after work. I could tell that hours of sitting at a desk behind a computer was taking a toll on my body. My spine was being compressed and my hips and hamstrings were tight, further contributing to lower back stiffness.

With the help of yoga, I was able to release tension in my hip flexors, lengthen my hamstrings and activate my glutes, which eased the pain in my lower back. If you’ve got 20 minutes during the day, try this yoga video to stretch and strengthen the areas that will help release your back. Make sure you are cleared by a doctor before exercising.

If you don’t have time to do the full video, I’ve listed the poses below so you can move through them at your own pace. Even a few minutes of movement every hour can help!

Child’s Pose (Balasana)

  • Kneel on the floor with your knees hip-width distance apart (you can have your knees closer together for more rounding of the spine or farther apart for a deeper hip stretch)

  • Touch your big toes together

  • Sit your hips back toward your heels

  • Reach your arms forward. You can tent your fingertips and lift your upper arm bones off the mat for a more active variation

  • Rest your forehead on the mat or a block

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths

Cat/Cow (Marjariasana/Bitilasana)

  • Begin on all fours in a table top position (bharmanasana) with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees

  • As you inhale, drop your belly, open up through your chest and reach the crown of your head up to extend your spine for cow pose (bitilasana)

  • As you exhale, round your spin and gently let your chin come toward your chest (marjariasana)

  • Repeat several times

Thread the Needle (Urdhva Mukha Pasasana)

  • Begin in table top (bharmanasana)

  • Inhale and reach your right arm up toward the ceiling, twisting open from the mid part of your spine

  • Exhale and thread your right arm through the space between your left arm and left knee

  • Rest your right ear and cheek on the mat

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths

  • Return to table top (bharmanasana)

  • Repeat on the second side

Bird Dog/Balancing Table (Dandayamana Bharmanasana)

  • Begin in table top (bharmanasana)

  • Extend your right leg behind you. Turn your toes down toward the mat and flex your foot

  • Extend your left arm in front of you. Turn your thumb up to the ceiling

  • Engage your core by hugging your belly button in and up

  • As you exhale, bring your right knee and left elbow toward the center of your body. Round your spine

  • As you inhale, reach your right leg behind you and your left arm in front of you

  • Repeat 3-5 times on that side

  • Return to table top

  • Repeat on the other side

Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

  • From table top (bharmanasana), spread your fingers wide, making an “L shape” with your thumb and index finger

  • Walk your feet back a few inches and tuck your toes

  • Lift your hips toward the ceiling

  • Lengthen your spine

  • Release tension in your neck

  • You can keep your knees bent as much as you need to keep the length in your spine. As your hamstrings and calves open, you may be able to let your heels lower closer to the ground

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths

Locust Pose (Salabhasana)

  • Lower down to your belly

  • Plant your palms by your chest and squeeze your elbows in

  • Engage your core by hugging your belly button in and up

  • Plant the tops of your feet on the mat, hip distance apart

  • Squeeze your glutes

  • Lift your chest and hands off the mat and stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths

  • Lower down to the mat, stack your hands and let your forehead rest on the backs of your hands

  • You can shift your hips from side to side

  • Repeat. For a more challenging variation, reach your fingers toward your heels and lift your chest, arms and legs up off the mat

Sphinx Pose (Salamba Bhujangasana)

  • Align your shoulders over your elbows

  • Plant your forearms onto the mat

  • Engage your core by hugging your belly button in and up

  • Plant the tops of your feet on the mat, hip distance apart

  • Squeeze your glutes

  • Lift the chest and let your shoulders melt down your back and away from your ears

  • Make sure your neck is in a neutral position

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths

  • Rest in child’s pose after for a counter stretch

Bridge Pose Variations (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

  • Transition onto your back

  • Bend your knees and plant your feet on the mat hip distance apart

  • Reach your arms toward your feet

  • Walk your feet close to your fingertips

  • Gaze up at the ceiling and rest your head on the mat

  • Firmly press your feet into the mat as you lift your hips

  • You can hold bridge pose for 3-5 breaths or you can move with your breath, lowering your hips as you exhale and lifting your hips as you inhale. You can also add your arms for a shoulder opener by lifting your arms up as you lift your hips and lowering your arms as you lower your hips

  • When your hips are lifted, you can clasp your hands behind your back and roll your shoulders underneath for a deeper chest opener

  • If you have a block, you can place a block between your knees to engage your inner thighs

  • If you want to build strength, you can lift one leg into the air, then lower it and repeat on the second side

  • You can also slide a block underneath your lower back (sacrum) and rest your weight on the block for a more restorative variation

Reclined Figure 4/Reclined Pigeon Pose (Supta Kapotasana)

  • Lay on your back

  • Bend your knees and plant your feet on the mat hip distance apart

  • Cross your right leg over your left leg

  • Flex your right foot to protect your knee

  • If you want to deepen the stretch, pick your left foot up off the mat and thread your arms through the center of the “4” shape. Clasp your hands around the back of your thigh

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths

  • Release the clasp of your hands and uncross your legs

  • Repeat on the left side

Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)

  • Lay on your back and hug your knees into your chest

  • Grab hold of the outsides of your feet (or your knees) and open your hips

  • Let your tailbone melt toward the mat

  • Drop your shoulders away from your ears

  • Relax your head and neck on the mat

  • Hold the pose for 3-5 breaths

  • Hug both knees into your chest when you are finished

While these postures can be helpful, I recommend avoiding spinal flexion (rounding) or spinal extension (arching) if you have slipped or pinched disks, as these movements can make the injury worse. Additionally, it’s important to keep the integrity of the spine when twisting by initiating the movement from the thoracic vertebrae (mid region) and not the lumbar vertebrae (lower region).

I hope this yoga sequence helps you find more space and comfort. Let me know if you learned something new by leaving me a comment below. If you liked the video, share it with others and make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for more yoga tips.

With gratitude,


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