Interestingly enough, many of the basic yoga positions are already commonly practiced by various physical therapists and other physical rehabilitation professionals. For patients who have already had physical therapy for back pain, many yoga stretches and poses will feel familiar.

Common Poses Used in Yoga Exercise

The following briefly describes three poses commonly used in yoga exercise:

  • Cat yoga pose - Situate in an all-fours position, with hands and knees on the ground. Calves and feet should be relaxed, with 90-degree angles at the knees, hips, and shoulders. Inhale and drop the belly to the floor and look up and over your head; exhale while pushing into your hands, taking the spine to the sky and looking to the belly. Whenever possible we want to link the movements with the breathing. Hold each position for 5 to 10 seconds.
  • Cobra yoga pose - Lay flat on the stomach, with palms down on the ground underneath or slightly wider than the shoulders. Elbows should be pointing back and out - the body should be relaxed. From this position, push downward with arms, while the lower portion of the body is relaxed, causing the back to arch. Elbows may be used in place of hands for a more gentle stretch. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, stretching the abdominal muscles and relaxing the back muscles, before slowly bringing the upper torso back down to the ground.
  • Knee to chest yoga pose - Lay flat on the back, with body relaxed. Slowly and deliberately, bring one knee up towards the chest. Place hands underneath the knee (on the back of the leg) and gently pull towards the chest. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, feeling the stretch in the hamstring, before slowly lowering the knee back down. Repeat with the other leg.

    Also see Specific Hamstring Stretches for Back Pain Relief

Yoga poses should not cause any pain, numbness or tingling, and if these sensations occur while moving into or holding a pose it is advisable to move out of the pose gently.

Adapt Yoga Exercises for Comfort

Simple modifications for many yoga poses can help patients with a back condition. For example, when laying flat on one's back, a blanket or pillow can be placed beneath the back of the knees to reduce strain on the back. With a good yoga teacher, it is possible for almost anyone to benefit from regular yoga practice - even for those who suffer from a considerable amount of chronic back pain or have had back surgery, there are some yoga movements that can be helpful.


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