Millions of Americans suffer from lower back pain. In many of these cases, individuals turn to pain medications to relieve some of their suffering. While these medications may provide some temporary relief, they do not treat the underlying causes of lower back pain. Yoga, on the other hand, has been shown to not only relieve lower back pain but also treat the underlying causes.

According to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), yoga classes helped people with lower back pain improve their mood and ability to function, and eased their pain more than conventional medicine alone.

Some major factors linked to lower back pain:

  • Stress
  • Poor body mechanics
  • Injury and overuse

4 Ways Yoga Relieves Low Back Pain

1. Yoga is an antidote to stress.  A critical element of practicing yoga is deep breathing. When you breathe deeply, your heart rate slows, your mental chatter subsides, and you begin to feel a deeper, more grounded connection to yourself.

Try this: Sit quietly on the floor in a comfortable seated position (or in a chair if this is more appropriate). Close your eyes or gaze softly at one point. Slowly inhale your breath as you count to five. At the top of your inhale, hold the breath for the count of two, then exhale your breath to the count of five. At the bottom of your exhale, hold the breath out for the count of two, then inhale again to the count of five. Repeat for three more rounds. Notice how you feel afterwards.

2. Yoga enhances lower back flexibility. When your lower back and the surrounding areas, including your hips, pelvis and hamstrings are tight, you are more prone to injury. Yoga poses combined with deep breathing stretch your body in a way that helps improve your flexibility, protecting you from potential injuries.

Try this: Lay down on the ground on a yoga mat, carpet, or floor. Draw your knees into your chest as you inhale slowly and deeply. Begin to rock from left to right to give your back a massage. Continue to breathe deeply. Then extend your left leg out long on the floor as you keep the right knee hugged in. Take three long deep breaths. Next, take your right knee over to the outside of your left hip and bring your body into a twist. Take three long deep breaths. Come up slowly and repeat on the left side.

3. Yoga strengthens your core muscles.  People have who have weak core muscles tend to overuse their lower back muscles, which then causes lower back pain. Some yoga practices incorporate core-strengthening postures. If you are suffering from lower back pain, make sure to include these in your yoga practice.

Try this: Lay on your back as in the previous exercise. As you take in a deep breath, lift your legs to create a 90-degree angle with your body. Interlace your hands behind your head and then lift your head, neck, shoulders, and shoulder blades off of the ground. Pulse toward your legs to the count of 20. Rest. Breathe deeply for a few moments. Then repeat exercise two more times.

4. Yoga teaches you proper body mechanics. Many of us go through our day hunched over the computer or over the steering wheel with our necks jutted forward out of alignment with the rest of our body. We often move and make decisions from our head, rather than being in sync with our body.  Yoga puts you in touch with what physical habits are taking you out of proper alignment and teaches you the right ones.

Try this: Research your local yoga studios, gyms or community centers that offer yoga classes. Pick one and go. Make sure to tell the yoga instructor about your low back pain so they can keep an eye out and assist you where needed.


Emery, Chris. "Yoga Classes Help Ease Lower Back Pain." ABC News. Web. 22 March 2010.

Gudmestad, Julie. "Ease on Back." Yoga Journal. Web. 22 March 2010.

Paddock, Catharine. "Yoga Relieves Chronic Lower Back Pain." Medical News Today. 7 Sept. 2009. Web. 22 March 2010.

Williams, Kimberly, Abildso, Christiaan, Steinberg, Lois, et al. "Evaluation of the Effectiveness and Efficacy of Iyengar Yoga Therapy on Chronic Low Back Pain." Spine. 1 September 2009 - Volume 34 - Issue 19 - pp 2066-2076.