Low back pain is not uncommon in today’s sedentary world as we lose flexibility and mobility in the back through sitting and poor posture. To help relieve some of this pain and improve overall mobility of the spine, these 8 yin yoga poses will help stretch all the areas that contribute to a healthy back: shoulders, chest, abs, obliques, hamstrings, glutes, and hip flexors.
Traditionally, yin yoga poses are held for 2-5 minutes to stretch the body’s connective tissue. Props such as bolsters, blocks, or blankets can be used to meet your body’s needs and abilities while helping you stay more comfortable in a posture over a longer period. As you relax into these yin yoga poses, you will allow your back to release and melt away tension in your lower back.
1. Supported Child’s Pose
From a kneeling position, place a bolster or stack of blankets between your knees. Lower the torso onto the bolster or blankets and rest your cheek on it. You can place your arms on the ground or wrap them around your prop(s). A gentle stretch should be felt in the lower back.
2. Reclined Butterfly Pose
Begin by lying on your back with knees bent. If you need some extra support, lay back with a blanket beneath your back. Allow the thighs to gently open towards the ground as the soles of the feet come together. Arms can rest out to the side at a 45 degree angle with palms up, or on the lower stomach. A yoga block can be used under each knee if you need extra support to relax into the pose. You should feel a gentle release in the lower back.
3. Melting Heart Pose
Begin in tabletop position. Begin to walk the hands forward and allow the tailbone to move up towards the ceiling while keeping the hips lined up over the knees. Let the forehead rest on the floor as you stretch the arms towards the top of the mat. Let the chest sink down towards the floor, feeling a gentle arch and stretch in the back.
4. Sphinx Pose
Lie face-down on the floor with legs extended, hip-width apart. Press the tops of the feet into the mat and spread the toes. Bringing the arms forward, rest your elbows directly under the shoulders with forearms on the floor, parallel to each other. Pressing the forearms into the floor, lift your head and chest off the floor. Keep the pubic bone pressed into the floor and legs engaged while you roll the outer thighs slightly toward the floor to help lengthen the low back. Keep the elbows tucked into your sides, drop the shoulder blades down your back, and draw the chest forward.
5. Thread the Needle
Beginning in tabletop position, slide your right arm underneath your left arm with your palm facing up. Let your right shoulder come all the way down to the mat and rest your right ear and cheek on the mat. Keep the left elbow lifting and hips raised. Let the upper back broaden while softening and relaxing the lower back.
6. Supported Bridge Pose
Lie flat on your back with arms by your sides and palms down. Bend your knees and place your feet hip-width apart with heels close to your sitting bones. Press down into your feet and hands and lift your hips off the mat. Place a block below your sacrum (the triangular bone at the bottom of your spine) to minimize stress in your back. Hands can stay by your sides or be clasped underneath the body to release extra tension in the shoulders.
7. Supported Caterpillar
Begin in a seated position with legs extended. Place a bolster, pillows, or folded blankets on top of your legs. Bring your arms straight up over your head, reaching toward the ceiling. Inhale and draw your spine up long. As you exhale, begin to come forward, hinging at your hips. Rest your torso on the bolster, pillow, or blanket and relax the arms along the side of your legs.
8. Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose
Begin by sitting sideways next to a wall, with the wall on your left. Gently swing your legs up the wall as you roll onto your right side and then your back. Use your arms to adjust your position and keep your buttocks against the wall. Allow your arms to relax down on either side of you with palms facing up. To release even more tension in the low back, you can add a heavy block or light sandbag to the top of your feet by bending your knees (keeping your feet flexed) and placing the block or sandbag on the soles of your feet before carefully straightening your legs again.