Whether you have a job where you sit a lot or whether you are on your feet all the time: your back does all the work during the day. To keep it healthy, it is essential to stretch and strengthen your back. Yoga exercises for the back allow you to do just that and help even if your back is already aching. Here you will find some straightforward yoga exercises for the lower back, the shoulder-neck area, and more!
Yoga Exercises for the Back: Basics for Beginners
First things first: Yoga is always an individual matter. There is no “standard recipe” because what is right for one person may be unpleasant for another. This aspect is particularly important when it comes to using yoga to compensate for back pain or to find exercises for a straight back. So take your time and try out what helps you.
Exercises against back pain
You have back problems and want to do something about it with gentle yoga exercises? Then you should listen very carefully to your body during the asanas. If an exercise causes stabbing or especially severe pain, you should stop it immediately. If you have problems with your intervertebral discs, it is best to discuss which movements are right for you with your doctor.
However, if your back starts to pull or is uncomfortable during the exercises, this does not automatically mean that you should stop. This so-called stretching pain is a standard and logical body reaction; after all, your body does not know the yoga movements from everyday life and needs to get used to them first.
One last tip that you should know about yoga for frequent back pain: Avoid bending over too often from a standing position around the back. This movement is counterproductive in terms of pain relief, and it also puts a strain on the intervertebral discs.
Exercises Against the Hollow Back
One speaks of a hollow back if the stomach is curved forward, the pelvis is tilted forward, and the buttocks are also clearly stretched backward. This incorrect posture often causes pain in the lower back.
But how does the incorrect posture occur? Very simple: Mostly, the hip flexors are shortened, and the back muscles are stretched because you sit too long and in the same position all the time. With a hollow back, the back is not the only area that needs to be strengthened. The inner abdominal and gluteal muscles also need targeted training as direct opponents to stabilize the posture.
One yoga exercise that works well with the hollow back posture is the locust:
- Lie down on your stomach.
- Stretch out your arms straight forward with your thumbs pointing to the ceiling. Alternatively, you can bend your arms at shoulder height so that your hands’ palms are facing the floor.
- Stretch your legs straight back.
- Now raise your arms, legs, and head at the same time and look forward.
- Hold the position briefly, then slowly release and repeat the lifting movement 5-10 times.
Equally significant is the interplay of the cat and cow posture. We will explain how to do this in a moment, but first to one area of the body that quickly becomes unpleasant: the lower back.
Yoga Exercises for the Lower Back
The following exercises relieve the lower back. This feels very pleasant after just a few moments. Please make sure that the lower back remains connected to the mat! With this knowledge, you are already ready for the following three asanas:
- Kneel on your mat and sit on your heels. With a forward bend, you now lay your upper body forward until your belly rests on your thighs and your forehead touches the floor. Stretch out your hands forward, and make sure you breathe calmly and evenly.
- Lie on your back and keep your right leg stretched out. Bring your left knee to your chest and grasp it with your bent left arm. If you wish, you can grip the left wrist loosely with your right hand. Now consciously relax your shoulders and stay in this position for a few breaths. Then switch to the other side.
- Lie on your back and place your left foot on the mat so that your knee is bent. Now put your right foot on your left knee and grab the left shin or lower leg with both hands. Pull the left leg towards your chest, and make sure your shoulders are relaxed. Breathe in and out calmly and change sides when ready.
You can move seamlessly from these yoga exercises to the postures that strengthen the shoulder area if you wish.
Exercises for Shoulders and Neck
This section describes the shoulder bridge, eagle arms, and an exercise for stretching the neck. This does not mean, of course, that the yoga repertoire is already exhausted! If you have a little practice, you will also quickly and intuitively notice which movements are right for you in the arm and shoulder area. In any case, you can start with these three exercises:
You lie on your back and have the soles of your feet on the floor. Your arms are parallel to your upper body. Crawl very lightly with your fingers towards your heels so that your shoulders move away from your ears.
Now slowly raise your pelvis until you see a diagonal line between your shoulders and knees. It is essential in this position that the legs remain parallel.
From the supine position, sit in the lotus or cross-legged position. Take a moment to find yourself in a genuinely upright position. Now angle your arms sideways at shoulder level and then bring them together in front of your face.
Bring your right arm over your left so that your elbows are crossed. Now you can lean either the palms or the backs of your hands against each other, whichever is more comfortable. Actively pull your elbows up once more and hold your crossed arms for a few breaths before slowly releasing and changing sides.
Important: breath into the back of your shoulders. Inhale, you create width; with every exhale, you can consciously relax. If you want to stretch your shoulders and back, pull your elbows towards your navel.
Lateral neck stretching:
Stay in an upright position and place the fingertips of your right hand loosely on the floor. Reach around the head to the right temple with the left hand and slowly tilt the head to the left while the right-hand pull slightly to the right. You should feel a distinct stretching effect on the side of the neck. Repeat this exercise on the other side.
Yoga as Prevention: Stretching and Strengthening With Back Exercises
Yoga exercises for the back can provide relief when you are in pain or tense. But they are also ideal prevention, so we can only advise you to try strengthening and stretching exercises!
Example: Yoga exercise that strengthens the back muscles
Just 20-30 minutes of (back) yoga daily helps improve posture, which prevents back pain. An ideal strengthening exercise for the back and trunk, in general, is, for example, the cobra:
- Lie on your stomach.
- Place your palms on the floor at about an underarm level next to your upper body and make yourself very long.
- While breathing in, lift your upper body and lookup. The pelvis remains on the floor.
If you prefer, you can also support yourself on the elbows instead of your hands. It is also up to you whether you hold your breath briefly and lower it again on exhalation or stay in position for several breaths before going back down.
Example: Yoga exercise that stretches the back
As mentioned before, we now come to a real yoga classic: the cat-cow combination!
- Cat: Go into the four-footed position and arch your back upwards while breathing out. Press the chin towards the chest so that a real cat hump is created.
- Cow: Move in the opposite direction while inhaling and let your belly hang down while looking up.
You can do these two exercises alternately over and over again. If you like, you can also add small variations and move slightly to the left and right. There is only one rule of thumb in yoga for the back: listen to your body’s signals and precisely find the right movements for you. Your back will thank you, I promise. So give it a try – have fun!