Best Yoga Pose for Low Back Pain: Part 1

By Jennifer Dixon MBA ERYT 500

Does your back hurt?  Maybe it’s the low back, and every time you bend over to pick something up, it feels like the ground just keeps getting lower and lowerOr, maybe it’s the area between your shoulder blades that feels like a big old golf ball has somehow gotten lodged up in there, where every time you stand up you feel a sharp knife stabbing you without relenting?  Of course, that totally isn’t even bringing up the headaches that are caused by the stress in the shoulders that goes straight up the neck…

Back pain is REAL.

According to the NIH (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke), over 80% of the adult population suffers from back pain.  Back pain alone is the single largest cause of missed work. Back pain doesn’t discriminate; it goes after men and women alike.

Causes of Back Pain

There are many causes of Back Pain–from heredity, to exercise levels, pregnancy, and aging–the fact is, unless you are a very lucky rare minority, you will probably experience back pain at some point in your life, and hopefully, this post will arm you with enough information to help mitigate some of the pain and its duration.

I suffer from a low back injury, a herniated disc in my L5, something that happened when I was less than 30 years old (although to be fair, back pain does run in my family.)  I went through several rounds of epidural steroid shots to help with the pain but didn’t find real relief until yoga. I wish I could say one yoga pose fixed me for good, or even one sequence of yoga poses fixed me—it didn’t.  In fact, if I am not careful, that old injury can flair its ugly head and leave me limping like the scary old characters in a Dickens’ novel.

Every time my injury is inflamed, I turn to a handful of very important yoga poses to help me recover.  I also turn to a couple of strengthening poses to help keep the old injury from popping up as much. Today, we are going to talk about my favorite, relaxing yoga pose for low back pain.

Best Yoga Pose for Low Back Pain

Wind removing pose, or Pavanamuktasana, commonly found in “Hot 26 or Bikram” classes, is a great pose for helping to relieve some stress and tension in the low back.  Among other amazing benefits, this pose helps to lengthen the hip flexor muscles (which are notoriously tight in walkers and runners & folks that sit all day.)   

The “hip flexors” are a group of muscles that include your iliacus, your iliopsoas, & your rectus femoris (part of your quadriceps). Collectively, the job of this muscle group is to help lift your leg to your chest, and to help you move forward.  That explains why this particular group of people would suffer the most from a shortened Hip Flexor muscle group.

Here’s the thing, when the hip flexors are tight, it puts more pressure on the low back.  The low back is already under tremendous pressure, so basically, it’s a recipe for disaster, right?  Enter my Top low back pain relief yoga pose; the Wind Removing pose.

This pose is performed while laying on your back.  You bring one knee into your chest while keeping the opposite leg extended out (as flat as you can get it.).  You squeeze that knee in as tight as you can and lengthen out through the opposite leg. If you start getting REALLY good at this pose, you can bring your knee down to the outside of your rib cage, in the direction of your underarm.  One day, that knee may hit the ground beside your chest….#goals! #yogaisawesome

Performing this pose is…awesome.  Just like this, flat on your back, stretching the hip flexor of the extended leg, and maybe stretching the hamstring of the leg you’re holding up.  You’re also building mobility in the bent knee and in the hips. The added pressure of the bent knee into the abdomen can also help….”aid in digestion…” if you catch my drift.  Do you want to make it mega awesome??

How to make Wind Removing Pose Even Better

Do you have a yoga block at home?  (never fear, if not, you can still do this pose!)  Grab your yoga block and get ready to feel AMAZING.

  1. Place the Yoga Block just underneath your sacrum.  The sacrum is basically the flat spot at the top of your glutes.    The block is going lengthwise along with your hips (so not going up your back, but more side-to-side along with the hips.)
  2. Bring both knees into your checks and try to get the block where it feels good; too high will have the block digging into your spine and too low basically puts the block digging into your butt something fierce!
  3. Extend one leg out–maybe it touches the ground, maybe it doesn’t.  
  4. Keep squeezing the opposite leg into the chest–this may draw the extended leg up off the mat, even more, that’s ok.  Over time, the extended leg will hit the mat.

The extended leg will be feeling this, I PROMISE.  When you elevate the hips–even that smaller 3-4 inches, the extra height may be just what you need to really create some space in the front of the body, to help relieve the back body.  You continue to squeeze that bent leg into your chest while extending that leg out towards the ground.

So what happens if you don’t have a yoga block at home? Never fear!  You can still do this pose, either flat on the ground…OR, even better, you can perform this pose off the side of your bed or couch.

How to Perform Wind Removing Pose on the side of a bed or couch.

  1. Laying down on the side of your bed, couch (or even your dining room table if it’s stable enough!  I just don’t recommend this if you have a bar height table for obvious safety reasons.) 🙂
  2. Shimmy your way over to the edge.
  3. Let the one leg hang over the edge of the bed.  
  4. You may have to press the inside foot down into the bed or couch for added stability (or grab a friend!)
  5. Keep reaching the hanging leg down as you allow gravity to pull that hip flexor open.  

It feels really amazing, doesn’t it?

Want to REALLY juice up this Hip Flexor stretch?

  1. Grab a partner.
  2. Have your partner steady your inner leg by holding down on your thigh or hip.
  3. Your partner then presses down on the leg that is hanging off the side of the bed, couch, table or even block.
  4. You thank your partner and ask him/her to do it again for the other side.

Hold this pose for as long as you like–I like to do these poses in my yin classes as well–so 3 minutes or so.  It really gets deep into the Hip Flexors and helps to stretch out these overworked muscles. You’ll find almost immediate relief in low back muscle tension, especially if the tension is related to weakened abdominal muscles due to prolonged sitting, or lots of Walking or running.  

Do you know what?  My old chiropractor told me to do this pose!  YES! Of course, he didn’t use the name “wind removing pose” and he sure as heck didn’t know Sanskrit, but he was giving me some PT for my chronic low-back pain when i was very new to yoga, and I said, Dr. S, that’s a yoga pose!!  

Isn’t it funny how yoga pops up in so many different healing modalities?  That’s not a coincidence..it’s because yoga really can help!

Let me know what you think about this pose, and the modification covered in the below video.  I absolutely love how open my back feels after stretching the fronts of my legs, and I think you will too!  Check out a recent Youtube Video I did demonstrating this posture, and give it a go at home, I promise you won’t be disappointed!

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out anytime by sending me an email at jennifer@thriveyogaandwellness.com.  Also, don’t forget to follow us on youtube!

If you don’t have a yoga block, you can pick one up really cheap through our affiliate link on Amazon.  Remember, when you shop through our affiliate links (even if it isn’t for this yoga block for instance) you can help support your Thrive Yoga and Wellness Community in all our outreach programs.  I can’t wait to see you on the mat soon!