7 Yoga Poses To Help You Recover From Low Back Pain

Yoga Poses for Runners
The first portion of this blog series focused on rehabilitative postures to lengthen and open places that cause pain in the low back. When your muscles and fascia have open and aligned sufficiently to release compression, the phase of recovery is directed at maintaining that healthy position while introducing movement. This trains your body to maintain this space and healthy positioning as you resume your regular activities. These postures are still restorative, but include simple movements in and out of the posture while introducing core strength to maintain space in the low back and support extension and length of the entire spine.

The Scoop

Purpose: Preparation for core work through engagement of the deep stabilizing muscles of the transverse abdominus and pelvic floor. How: Lying on your back with knees bent and heels on the ground, begin with a Kegel hold, drawing that engagement into your low pelvis to activate the support of the low pelvic floor. Now draw belly button and low ribs downward towards the spine. Your belly should draw downward, towards the spine, rather that lifting up towards the ceiling. Hold for three breaths, then release. Repeat 5 times. Work to bring this same action into all of your core work. Scoop Yoga Pose for Runners  


Purpose: Maintain good spinal alignment and support through the core, while introducing the instability of shifting weight to one leg. Strengthens hamstrings and glutes. Introduces a healthy curve to the low back. How: While lying on your back, lift into a bridge pose. Pressing strongly through your left heel and maintaining left knee above left ankle, lift your right leg with a bent knee to bring the foot about three inches away from the floor. Repeat five times on each leg, while maintaining the feeling of the scoop described above. If you feel that you are losing the activation of the pelvis and abdominals, rest for ten seconds and try again for fewer repetitions. Repeat for three to five sets. Marching Yoga Pose for Runners  

Core Lifts

Purpose: Trains the deep stabilizers of the core to work together with the action glutes, lengthening the low back and building strength in the glutes and hips. How: Returning to your full Bridge Pose, drop your bottom down until it is about two inches off of the floor. Drop down half and inch, return up half an inch. Continue to work that small range of motion for 16 -20 repetitions. Hold at the bottom of that range of movement for three breaths, return to the top for three breaths. Release and rest. Work up to three sets. Core Lifts Yoga Pose for Runners  

Dead Bug

Purpose: Alignment of the thoracolumbar fascia, increasing the strength and supportive action of the erector spinae and quadratus lumborum muscles. How: Return to your back and engage the scoop described above. Lifting both legs above the hips and both arms above the shoulders, lower the left leg towards the floor and lower the right arm overhead at the same time. Alternate on the other side. Repeat for five repetitions and three sets on each side. Deadbug Yoga Pose for Runners  

Reclined Cobblers Pose (variation, with movement)

Purpose: Opening for the groin and sacral joint. Introduction of movement, using adductors and abductors to support knee and low back alignment. How: Lying on your back, bring toes and heels together with knees towards opposite walls, allowing the knees to open away from each other. Breathe In. As you exhale, slowly move your knees one quarter of the way to the top. Breathe in and come up to halfway. Repeat until you are lying down with knees together and feet on the floor. Reverse this by bringing yourself back to cobblers pose over four breaths. If you are doing this correctly, your legs will tend to shake a little bit due to the recruitment of the stabilizing muscles in the thighs and groin. Reclined Cobbler Yoga Pose for Runners  

Cat/Cow Vinyasa

Purpose: To gently move through a healthy range of motion of the low back and pelvis, reintroducing mobility into entire spine. How: Kneeling on all fours with knees under hips and hands under shoulders, inhale allowing belly to drop down and shoulders to open while head lifts (cow pose), exhale while arching spine upwards, drawing belly muscles in towards the spine, and allowing head to drop. Note that you are looking to work with your natural motion rather than substantially increase flexibility. Move without straining or forcing, simply allowing the breath to assist the spine in moving. Cat Cow Yoga Pose for Runners  

Down Dog/Child’s Pose

Purpose: Recovery and lengthening the spine while engaging the core during transitions. How: Begin on all fours. Exhaling, press into your hands and heels lift your bottom towards the ceiling. Engage the muscles of the arms, abdomen, and legs to lengthen the low back. Try to rotate the muscles of your inner thighs towards the wall behind you, opening the low back. Arms and legs should be at shoulder and hip distance, but you can bring them wider if you struggle to maintain that position. Inhale and as you exhale, bend both knees dropping your bottom down and stretching your fingertips forward. Try to engage the belly to support your movement through this transition. Inhale, returning to all fours. Repeat this sequence five times. Child's Pose Yoga Pose for Runners
  When you are initially stabilizing and supporting the low back, you can do this sequence daily or every other day. As you become stronger, you will get benefits from this yoga practice once or twice each week, especially combined with the remaining yoga practice to be described in Part III, focusing on continuing to build strength and healthy mobility in the low back and supporting muscles.  
  About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.