Students always have something that draws them to the practice of yoga. You may be looking to find a way to add peace into your or try out a new kind of fitness. Often, students find their way onto the yoga mat to find relief – whether is be from stress, tightness in the body, or a variety of pains. Back pain is, perhaps, the most common complaint I receive from students who are looking for relief. This sequence is designed to primarily release lower back pain, but it is a great sequence for increasing gentle flexibility in the spine.
Spine health is vitally important. In fact, protecting the spine is not just crucial to avoid pain, but to also protect the nervous system. According to the Chiropractors Association of Australia, “protection of the central nervous system allows it to function optimally via the spinal cord, housed within the spine, which controls the function of every single cell, tissue and organ in the body.” Let’s take care of our spines!
The yoga sequence in this PDF is designed to offer gentle practices to increase mobility in the spine. We will be focusing on a number of forward folds and low lunges that allow the spine to fold forward. These are going to be wonderful moves for pain in the low back. Additionally, one of our final moves in the sequence has the legs up while lying flat on your back. I would suggest doing this against a wall at least once a day if pain is a daily occurrence.
This sequence is designed to release pain in the back and flexibility in the spine.
Yoga Sequence for Lower Back Pain
This is a basic seated pose with crossed legs. Sit comfortably with the spine long, pressing the tailbone into the floor and lifting the top of your head towards the ceiling. Hands can rest palms down or palms up on the knees.
Easy Pose with Hands Over Head
From easy pose, take a deep inhale as you lift the hands up over head. Bring the palms together, but pull the shoulders down and away from the ears. Continue to lift the chest and, if it feels okay, gaze up at the hands.
Easy Pose with Twist
Starting in seated pose, twist over to the right side, bringing your left hand to the right knee and your right fingertips to the floor behind you. Continue to lift through the top of the head, keeping the spine tall. Optional bind – reach the right hand around to the top of the left hip crease.
From tabletop (hands and knees), make sure the shoulders are stacked above the hands and the hips are stacked on top of the knees. On the inhale, move into Cow Pose by arching the tailbone towards the ceiling, lifting the chest forward, and gazing upward with the head. On the exhale, move into Cat Pose by tucking the pelvis underneath, rounding through the spine by drawing the bellybutton upward, and roll the head downward. Repeat back and forth 8-10 times.
Stand at the front of the mat with the feet about hip distance apart. Spread the toes wide and press all four corners of the feet into the mat. Activate the legs, tuck the pelvis slightly under, and pull the bellybutton in towards the spine. Arms should be by your sides, palms facing forwards, allowing the shoulder blades to pull down and back, expanding the chest. The top of the head presses up towards the ceiling as the feet press into the floor, lengthening the spine.
Standing Side Stretch
From mountain pose, reach both hands overhead, keeping the shoulders down away from the ears. On an exhale, grab the left wrist and pull it towards the right side of the room while actively pressing the hips to the left. Do not reach too far, as you should be able to breathe easily in this pose. Return to center on and inhale and repeat on the other side.
Standing Wide-Legged Forward Fold
From standing, turn to face the long edge of your yoga mat and step or hop your feet wide and parallel, about 3 feet apart. Turn the toes inward and the heels out. Place the hands on the hips and start to hinge forward from the waist, keeping the back as straight as possible. When you have gone as far as you can with a straight back, release the head down and allow the back to round, bringing the hands to the floor or the ankles. Hold here for 5-10 breaths. To come back up, bring the hands back to the hips and rise with a flat back.
From wide-legged forward fold, walk the hands to the right side while bending into the front knee. Place each hand on the outside of the right foot and pivot onto the left toes. Staying on your left toes, press into the left heel to straighten and strengthen the back leg. Center your hips forward by pressing your left hip towards the front of the mat. Lift the chest forward and pull the shoulder blades back.
From lunge pose, lower the left knee onto the ground and slide the left foot back until you have a comfortable stretch in the hip and groin, keeping the right knee stacked over the ankle. Walk the right foot out to the edge of the mat, bringing both hand to the inside of the right foot. Stay here if it is enough of a stretch or lower down to one or both elbows, using yoga blocks if you have them. Try to relax into this deep stretch and keep your breath strong.
Half-Forward Fold with Reaching Hands
From a forward fold at the top of the mat, keep the back flat as you lift the chest to be parallel with the floor. Reach the arms out in front, keeping the shoulders pulled back and away from the ears. Engage the core to stay floated in this position. If this is uncomfortable on the shoulders, bring the hands to the hips.
Standing Forward Fold
Start standing in Mountain Pose. On an exhale, hinge forward at the waist with a straight back and bring your hand towards the ground. Depending on flexibility, bring your hands to the shins, floor, or yoga block. You can also keep a slight bend in the knee. Allow the hand and shoulder to relax downwards.
From a seated position, bring both legs straight out in front of the body, pressed together. The hands should press into the mat down by the side of the hips. The entire body is active in the posture. The crown of the head lifts towards the sky, lengthening the spine. The chest opens as the shoulders pull back and the hands firmly press into the ground. The legs are engaged as you press through the heels, pulling the toes back towards the face. Gaze is directly out in front of you.
Seated Spinal Twist
From staff pose (seated with your legs straight out in front of you), bend into your right knee, placing the right foot on the mat next to your left thigh. Continue to lift through the top of the head and you begin twisting the upper body to the right. Right fingertips can come to the mat behind your hips. The left arm can hug the right knee into the chest, or use the left elbow against the outside of the right knee to press further into the twist. Continue opening the chest and lengthening the spine in within the twist.
Seated Head-to-Knee Pose (& Half Head-to-Knee)
Start seated with both legs straight in front of you (staff pose). Bring one foot to the inside of the opposite thigh, allowing the knee to open out to the side. Fold forward over the straight leg, trying to keep the belly button towards the center of that leg. Bring your hands to your foot or your calf to help gently pull yourself forward. Keep the back flat and arch the chest forward for 3-5 breaths. Then, allow the head and the shoulder to relax into the posture and round into the pose for an additional 3-5 breaths.
Laying on your back, pull both knees in towards the chest. Use your hand to wrap around or hug the knees to draw them closer towards the chest. Allow the shoulders to remain relaxed onto the floor and the head neutral.
Legs Up! (Option to use wall)
Start laying on your back, bring your legs up onto the wall and scoot your tailbone as close to the wall as is comfortable. Allow the arms to rest out to the side, palms up. This allows the shoulders to rest back. Option – Use this pose as your final Savasana. Relax into this posture. Allow the weight of the body to be fully supported by the ground and wall. Release control of the mind, the breath, and the body. Enjoy this pose for as long as feels good (suggest more than 10 minutes).
If you don’t want to do your final resting pose with your legs up – don’t skip this one! This may not seem like it, but it is the most difficult yoga pose that you can accomplish. Laying flat on your back, bring the arms to your side with the palms up, allowing the shoulders to roll back. Allow the toes to fall out to the side and tuck the chin in slightly to make sure the back of the neck is straight. Relax the body as much as you can and rest here for 3-5 minutes.
Ready to release back in the back and feel more flexible? Keep this routine nearby you by printing out this one page PDF.
Questions about the routine or requests for other PDFs? Comment below and let’s keep the conversation going!