Yoga isn’t just about meditation

Quick Notes:

  • Yoga helps you feel more in tune with your body.

  • Four simple instructor-approved yoga poses to ease tension in your lower back.

If you have a job that requires you to sit at an office desk for long periods of time every day, you might notice significant lower back pain. The lower back is one of the most sensitive areas in the body, and a poor sitting posture can cause more discomfort. But there are plenty of simple ways to relieve the pain and muscle tightness, including yoga. But what yoga poses are the most effective?

How yoga can help

Some people think yoga is an easy workout that only improves your mental health, but that’s not always the case. Instead, yoga allows you to be in tune with your body and relieve any discomforts. It stretches your muscles and directly addresses the tightness and alignment issues.

“Yoga is great for working on flexibility and core stability, correcting posture, and breathing—all of which are necessary for a healthy back,” said Sasha Cyrelson, clinical director at Professional Physical Therapy in Sicklerville, New Jersey.

It’s always important to try something new and see if it works. If you have lower back pain from sitting for long periods of time, try yoga. But you might be wondering: Which poses should I try first? Luckily, New York City-based yoga instructor Shanna Tyler shared her best recommendations to get started with an easy yoga routine.

Child’s Pose

Child’s Pose is the easiest yoga pose. According to Tyler, “Child’s Pose takes the pressure off your lower back by elongating and aligning the spine.” You can feel an immediate relief because the pose decompresses the spine, allowing you to have a nice stretch in the back.

To begin, kneel on your yoga mat with your knees hip-width apart. Keep your feet together and take a deep breath in. As you exhale, lay your torso over your thighs. Try to lengthen your neck and spine by drawing your ribs away from your tailbone and the crown of your head away from your shoulders. Keep your arms extended in front of you while resting your forehead on the ground. Hold the pose for one to three minutes. Repeat, if desired.

Downward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog is probably the most famous yoga pose, but it’s also effective for stretching your hamstrings and calves. “Sometimes, we feel lower back pains because the backs of our legs are so tight,” Tyler explains. But the “Down Dog” pose stretches your muscles back out.

Army Medicine/Flickr

Starting in Child’s Pose, keep your hands on the floor and sit up on your knees. Then, lift your butt and press back into Downward Facing Dog. Spread your fingers wide and work on straightening your legs and lowering your heels to the floor. Relax your head between your arms and direct your gaze through your legs. Hold this pose for one to three minutes and repeat, if desired.

Reclined Supine Twist

According to Tyler, the Reclined Supine Twist is one of the best stretches for the lower back, as it provides excellent pain relief for your tight muscles. If you’re feeling super tight, you can put a towel underneath your knees to help you ease into the stretch.

To start, lie on your back. Hug your knees into your chest and drop both knees over to one side as you twist your torso in the opposite direction. It’s important to keep your knees and hips in line with each other as you draw them to the floor and keep your chest lifted to the ceiling. Hold this stretch for one to three minutes and repeat on the other side.

Cat/Cow

This is Tyler’s favorite pose to stretch the back. It allows for flexion and extension of the spine and it promotes mobility. Tyler adds, “It also helps to just relieve any tension in the lower back.” In addition, Cat/Cow helps improve your posture by making you aware of a neutral spine.

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikaley Towle

Start on all fours with your shoulders over your wrists and hips over your knees. To form the “cat” posture, slowly inhale and, on the exhale, round your spine and drop your head to the floor. Inhale and lift your head, chest, and tailbone to the ceiling as you arch your back, forming the “cow” posture. Repeat this stretch for one to three minutes.

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