Now that yoga has spread in a huge way to Western culture, it’s not only hipsters and cool yogis rejoicing. Chronic pain sufferers have found plenty to be happy about when practicing yoga, including some incredible relief from aches and pains in joints and muscles. One study published in Annals of Internal Medicine reported that a weekly yoga class increased mobility more than standard medical care for a group of 313 chronic lower back pain sufferers. But are there parts of the practice that those looking to alleviate lower back pain should actually avoid? For starters, here are four yoga poses that can alleviate lower back pain, and then four that could do some serious damage.
- Child’s Pose. Simple and comforting, the child’s pose allows for a gentle stretch of your spine in all the right places that allows it to align and elongate.
- Sphinx Pose. Slowing working your way into sphinx pose helps you get a natural, gentle curved stretch in your lower back. Don’t push yourself much with this one, take it slow.
- Reclined Supine Twist. The slight back-and-forth movement of your knees in this floor-based pose lets you stretch your back with a good amount of control, so there’s little risk of you causing more injury by accident.
- Downward Dog. When done correctly, the downward dog is great for letting gravity stretch and lengthen your achy back. You need to keep your spine “neutral” — not over-rounded or over-arched. Which brings us to…
- Downward Dog. Sure, it might be cheating a bit to have the downward dog pose on both lists, but it really is a double-edged sword. If you lack the proper strength in your legs and arms to help support yourself, or you’re not confident in your spine’s stability, then skip it.
- The Seated Twist Pose. Your lower back isn’t designed to withstand a lot of twisting, and unfortunately, it’s all too easy to twist too much with your lower back instead of your mid-back in this pose. Also, it’s difficult to quickly and safely untangle yourself from should you hurt something in your back mid-pose.
- Bow Pose. When in bow pose, the majority of your weight and muscle use rests in your core and your lower back. It also puts a strong curve in your lower back, so it can be especially harmful and uncomfortable for pain sufferers to hold.
- Cobra Pose. The more dramatic cousin of the sphinx pose, the cobra pose is simply too much bending and pressure for lower back pain sufferers.
Remember that any yoga pose can be potentially ineffective or even damaging when done wrong. The details of your personal case matter, as well. Whenever possible, follow your doctor and chiropractor’s advice, and follow yoga practices carefully and thoughtfully.