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If you’re feeling back pain or stiffness, try a back yoga routine. Some people conjure images of splits or headstands when they think of yoga, but a lot of beginner routines exist. So, fear not, if you are new to yoga. I will share my three favorite beginner-friendly routines to alleviate back pain.
Back pain is no stranger to me. I experienced it pretty regularly with our former mattress, but even after switching mattresses, being contorted in unnatural positions with my youngest child often strained my back. I also stand for extended periods some days or do more laborious chores.
Nightly restorative yoga really helps to allay my back pain. It’s not a permanent fix where I continuously repeat the actions that cause my back strain, but it at least keeps further problems or discomfort at bay.
Doing a nightly back yoga routine seems to hit the “reset” button on my back, where my back feels much better that night and the following day. Even if I don’t feel back pain or aches the next day, I still do a routine at night to prevent new pain or stiffness.
The routines I list below are targeted back routines, but are relaxing overall. Thus, even if you don’t have back issues, you should still try them out.
For anyone newer to yoga, I’ll first give a brief introduction to yoga, it’s benefits, and popular styles.
Benefits of Yoga
Health Benefits Generally
Yoga has documented physical and mental health benefits that include the following: increased muscle strength, energy, respiratory performance, circulation, metabolism, weight loss, and stress relief.
Practicing yoga regularly can also lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. Yoga’s cardiovascular benefits are notable where stress and cardiovascular issues increasingly prevalent. (Heart disease is the current leading cause of death in the United States!)
Mental Health Benefits Generally
Even on an anecdotal level, we tend to sleep better after practicing yoga. Thus, if you suffer from insomnia, you should try a relaxing or restorative bedtime yoga routine.
Many yoga routines encourage you to focus on your breathing (i.e. the Ujjayi breath) to help your body relax. I know it may be hard to focus if you’re really stressed or anxious, but doing a yoga routine can take you one step closer to relaxation. Make it a habit. (Protip: If you’re that stressed, spending time outside is proven to destress.)
Physical Benefits Generally
One main physical benefit of yoga is increasing your flexibility. Yoga routines can target the connective tissues and nervous system reflexes that otherwise limit your range of motion and flexibility.
For back pain, this is particularly helpful to not only strengthen your back, but also to target key supporting muscles and connective tissues. In fact, the American College of Physicians recommends yoga as a noninvasive (and non-pharmacological) treatment for acute and chronic back pain.
According to one survey the 3 most popular yoga styles are Vinyasa, Hatha, and Restorative (discussed below). Which style you prefer could vary per day, but you should give each a try at some point.
I do yoga not only to stretch, but for strength workouts. Because the benefits are so numerous, I see no downside to doing more yoga. Also, most yoga requires very little equipment.
Vinyasa Yoga tends to change positions with your breath, in a rather synchronized fashion. Many poses and transitions encourage strength and flexibility (like downward/upward dog and warrior poses).
Hatha Yoga uses similar poses to Vinyasa Yoga. However, hatha tends to be slower and focuses more on stretching. The original focus of Hatha Yoga was mediation and spirituality versus the more physical focus today.
Restorative Yoga focuses on release and relaxation, so often incorporates props like yoga blocks or blankets to enhance relaxation. You also tend to hold poses longer.
Similar to Iyengar Yoga, this yoga style can feel quite therapeutic on a stressed back.
How Often You Should Do Yoga
I do a restorative practice nightly to relax and stretch my body before body, and to help me sleep better. On average, my nightly routine is about 30 minutes.
Some days, I will do a Vinyasa routine during the daytime to work on strength and flexibility.
No official guideline exists on how often you should do yoga. It largely depends on the intensity of your routines and your capabilities. If you’re completely new to and sore from a power yoga routine, for instance, you may want to add rest days.
Yoga Equipment You May Need
We have two of these yoga mats, which are fantastic for beginners:
They are not only thick and very grippy, but also have lines to help you align your feet during routines. Although restorative yoga may not require precise feet placement, most other yoga styles do. Thus, this mat is especially good for beginners.
We have these yoga blocks below:
Some routines incorporate yoga blocks to increase stretching or relaxation (see my first recommended back yoga routine below). Also, yoga blocks are useful if you are less flexible or new to certain poses, like extended triangle pose (Utthita Trikonasana). The blocks will give you the extra height to reach your hand or head to the ground.
We have this yoga strap below:
If you are new to yoga or less flexible, holding a yoga strap allows you to bridge the gap if you can’t reach your hands around your feet in seated or reclined positions. Another common use is to help you clasp your hands behind your back (Gomukhasana pose).
However, I’ve always found that a firm scarf or other fabric works just fine if I don’t have a yoga strap handy.
My Top 3 Recommended Back Yoga Routines
Free YouTube Options
Here are two of my favorite back yoga routines that you can find for free on YouTube. Since my time is limited at night, I like how both are short, yet effective.
I love this 15-minute lower back yoga routine by Paula Lay. You should definitely use a yoga block for this routine, because that part is key to relaxing my lower back. My back always feels better afterwards.
2. Yoga with Adriene
This 15-minute lower back yoga routine by Adriene Mishler is also very good. I prefer Paula Lay’s routine when my lower back is particularly achy, but like this routine when my back is less achy and for a change.
1. Rodney Yee’s Ultimate Power Yoga
This DVD collection includes a 20-minute routine called “Broadening Back Bends,” which is fantastic for building back strength and flexibility. Because it’s a power yoga routine, the poses are more complex, but still fine for beginners.
It’s not as relaxing for a bedtime routine, but makes your back (and overall being) feel nice afterwards. I honestly don’t do this routine as frequently as I should, since accessing YouTube is way more convenient for me than our DVD collection, but it is one of my go-tos for a more complex back yoga routine.
Please tell me how you like the above yoga routines if you try them, or if you have any other yoga favorites.