Safe Yoga For Back Pain Sufferers

Why Yoga Is Good For Back Pain

It encourages strength in the muscles that support the back – the paraspinals, multifidus and transverse abdominis. Paraspinals help you to bend; multifidus stabilises the individual joints in your spine and transverse abdominis in your abdomen helps to provide a ‘girdle’ of strength around your middle that supports your back.

When you move your spine, you need individual joints to move but not too much so that you strain or sprain the surrounding muscles or ligaments. Those joints protect the discs so it is important that they function optimally and that the local muscles are strong enough so that you do not over stretch the joints.

Yoga mat rolling
Start out slowly!



Often when you come to us with back pain, we say to you that you need to exercise or do yoga or pilates or something in order to improve the strength of your back. Not only does yoga help your muscles and way you move but it also helps you to relax and de stress, Being stressed and worried contribute to back pain so learning to breathe and relax are both going to help your recovery.





The Problem with Yoga and Back Pain

Research showed in a study published in the November 2016 Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine that between 2001 and 2014, the rate at which yoga injuries was reported increased eightfold among those age 65 and older. The most common injuries were strains and sprains of the back – just what we are trying to prevent!

How do you know an exercise is safe to do?

All exercise including yoga is a series of physical movements and of course, anything that we do physically can adversely impact joints, ligaments, muscles and discs if your body is not sufficiently prepared to perform that exercise.

The main problem seems to be that people do not follow instructions properly and they adopt or ‘drop into’ a yoga pose too quickly without gradually lengthening into it. Any jerking of your body when you lift or doing fast reps when you don’t really think about your body while you are doing them or running too fast on a treadmill without steadily increasing your pace – all of these can injury to your joints or the surrounding tissues and cause pain.

yoga complete flexion
Don’t overdo things – you may never be able to do this – it’s not a competition!


Exercises need to be done carefully and you need to concentrate on what you are doing. In order to perform any exercise, you need to have a solid foundation to move from – which means activating your core first. You then move arms or legs in a controlled way that slowly lengthens and stretches your body. That way if you feel any part of you is becoming uncomfortable or ‘something is about to give out’, you can stop and change your movement and try the exercise again with better stability.

The big thing is to listen to your body and only hold a position for as long as is comfortable. If you want to do a spinal twist, you must do it slowly – not as fast and as far as possible. Yoga is about lengthening the spine as you twist – something you control all the way so you can stop if it does become uncomfortable – not wait until that discomfort becomes pain, which means you have probably already overloaded it!



Yoga Tips To Avoid Overdoing It

  1. Do not twist at the same time as you extend your spine – this puts a lot of strain on joints that may already be worn or irritated.
  2. Support your body if you need it – using exercise balls, or foam rollers or cushions.
  3. Do not think that touching your toes is going to be OK if you have not done so for years – your muscles all need to be sufficiently supple to allow that much mobility and your joints need to be able to move freely – not restricted by degeneration or injury.
  4. Stop when something feels ‘wrong’ and either get help with how you are doing it or make sure you are bracing your core properly.
  5. Move slowly.
  6. Do not perform forward bends repeatedly if you have a disc injury.
  7. Be mindful all the time you are doing yoga – don’t think about other things at the same time.

Take Instruction from a Qualified Yoga Teacher

Of course there are lots of self help books out there. If you follow the instructions then you should be safe but there is nothing better than performing yoga with an expert who can watch what you are doing and correct your movements before you make a mistake.

yoga standing pose
Adopt a pose slowly and think about your whole body when you do

Yoga should never be a competition. Your body and how it feels should be your guide to whether what you are doing is going to be good for you or not. Bending farther than the person next to you should not be something you aim for!

Heather, at Aerodynamic Yoga in Bedford Place, underneath the Avenue Clinic is an excellent teacher of yoga with 27 plus years of experience in the field of health and stress management and 12 years’ experience as a yoga teacher. She is a Registered Senior Yoga Teacher with Yoga Alliance Professionals UK and her experience means that she understands what issues our patients have. Call her for help or advice if you are considering yoga as a way of helping improve your strength, relaxation and flexibility. Heather has a ‘Back STR8 and Recovery and Repair’ class and there are never more than 8 people in her classes at any one time, so she can monitor and assist every student throughout their practice.

Contact Heather at or call her on 0771 7188845