Yoga For The Spine: Unlocking the Secrets of Yoga for a Healthy Back


Back pain is one of the most common health complaints among adults.

The Global Burden of Disease’s study1 The Lancet: New study shows low back pain is the leading cause of disability around the world | The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. (2023, May 22). has identified lower back pain as a leading cause of disability across the globe, affecting millions of people.

Inactivity leads to stiffening of the muscles and ligaments, and this stiffness can decrease your spine’s flexibility and mobility, making it more prone to injury during physical activity.

Yoga for the spine isn’t a fix but it can help.

Practicing specific postures for the spine and back is important for people of all ages to remain healthy as they age.

Yoga for the spine is not a style of yoga, but an intentionality behind why and how you may choose to get on your mat to support your spinal and overall physical health.

A spine illustration over a woman's back.

Basics Of Anatomy Of The Spine

The spine, or vertebral column is designed to provide both stability and flexibility to your body.

Understanding the basics of spinal anatomy may help you understand and appreciate how yoga can support and enhance the health of your back.

The human spine is composed of a series of bones called vertebrae, which are stacked atop one another from the base of the skull to the tailbone.

These vertebrae are categorized into four main regions:
  • Cervical spine: Comprising the first seven vertebrae, this section supports the head and allows for a wide range of motion in neck movement.
  • Thoracic spine: Made up of the next twelve vertebrae, it is attached to the ribcage and protects your heart and lungs.
  • Lumbar spine: Consisting of five larger vertebrae, this region bears the bulk of the body’s weight and is involved in lifting, twisting, and bending motions.
  • Sacral and coccygeal spine: The sacrum includes five fused vertebrae, while the coccyx, commonly known as the tailbone, has four fused vertebrae. These sections anchor the spine to the pelvis and support your body when sitting.
A doctor holding a spine model.

Benefits Of Yoga For The Spine

It’s estimated that up to 80% of the population will experience lower back pain during their lifetime.

To address and prevent lifestyle-related back problems, many health professionals recommend incorporating regular physical activity, particularly exercises that strengthen the back and core muscles, improve posture, maintain a healthy weight, and practice safe lifting techniques.

Yoga for the spine can provide many benefits:

Practicing yoga can lead to numerous benefits for the spine, including:

  • Improved flexibility: yoga for the spine helps to elongate the spine and improve the flexibility of the muscles and ligaments surrounding it. This increased flexibility can help to reduce stiffness and pain, making daily activities easier and more comfortable.
  • Strengthened core and back muscles: Many yoga poses focus on strengthening the core and back muscles, which support your spine. A stronger core reduces the burden on the back, helps maintain proper posture, and can prevent injuries.
  • Enhanced posture: regular yoga for the spine practice encourages awareness of body alignment and posture. By improving posture, yoga helps to distribute body weight more evenly, which can reduce strain on the spine and prevent the development of back problems.
  • Reduced stress and tension: Yoga incorporates breathing exercises and meditation, which can help to reduce stress and tension that often accumulate in the back muscles. Stress relief is crucial for preventing and alleviating back pain caused by muscle tension.
  • Increased circulation: The movements and poses in yoga enhance blood circulation, which ensures that the spinal tissues receive essential nutrients and oxygen. Better circulation also aids in the removal of toxins and can accelerate healing processes in the spine.
  • Promotion of healing and recovery: For those already suffering from back issues, yoga can be a gentle way to promote healing and recovery. Specific poses can be tailored to address individual needs, providing relief and aiding in the rehabilitation of spinal conditions.
  • Prevention of future problems: By addressing the root causes of back pain, such as weak muscles, poor posture, and inflexibility, yoga for the spine serves as a preventive measure against future spinal issues such as sciatica.

Incorporating yoga into one’s lifestyle can thus be a powerful tool in maintaining a healthy spine, preventing back pain, and enhancing overall quality of life.

As always, it’s recommended to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new practice, especially if you have existing back problems or other health concerns.

6 Yoga Poses For A Healthy Spine

1# Mountain pose (Tadasana)

annotated image of a woman doing yoga's mountain pose

This yoga posture is often described as the foundation of all yoga asanas.

While it might seem like simply standing, Tadasana teaches balance, stability, and grounding, as well as helps you find better spine curvature alignment from the ground up, making it a great posture to get you started with yoga for the spine.

The pose requires concentration and mindfulness, drawing attention to the present moment and the body’s position within it.

This mental engagement can reduce stress levels, further benefiting your spinal health by relieving tension held in the back muscles.

2# Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing cobra pose

Cobra Pose, or Bhujangasana, is a beneficial upper body focused backbend because it strengthens the muscles in the lower back, increases flexibility and flexion in the spine, and helps improve posture.

Using this pose can also alleviate stiffness in the lower back and upper back and improve circulation in the spinal and abdominal regions, which supports better digestion and organ function.

If you sit for long periods, Cobra Pose offers a way to counteract the negative effects of prolonged sitting by stretching the front body and encouraging the shoulders to roll back.

For a less intense variation, or a cobra pose warm up, try Sphinx Pose, with your forearms resting parallel on the yoga mat.

3# Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing seated forward bend Pose

Seated Forward Bend, or Paschimottanasana, stretches the entire back of the body and with consistent practice can help improve flexibility.

By stretching the spine and the hamstrings, this shape helps correct posture and mitigate the effects of long periods of sitting, which can lead to back pain and stiffness.

This yoga for the spine pose also stimulates the abdominal organs, aiding in digestion and helping to relieve minor digestive issues.

4# Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing bridge pose

To practice this gentle backend, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, then lift your hips towards the ceiling. This action engages the muscles in the lower back and buttocks, strengthening the spine’s support system.

The pose also stretches the chest, neck, and spine, counteracting the forward bending motions that dominate daily life, such as sitting and bending over devices.

This pose may alleviate stiffness and improve spinal flexibility, which can contribute to a healthier posture and reduced back pain.

Consider placing a block right under your tailbone for a more restorative exploration of this yoga for the spine posture.

5# Legs up the wall (Viparita Karani)

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing legs up the wall pose

This is a restorative yoga posture that offers several benefits for the spine and overall body relaxation.

Lie on your back and extend your legs up against a wall, allowing your body to form an L-shape.

This gentle inversion helps to relieve pressure on the spine and allows gravity to gently stretch the back muscles.

The benefits of Viparita Karani include improved circulation, as elevating the legs facilitates blood flow back towards the heart.

It can also help reduce swelling in the legs and feet and decrease the strain on the back from standing or sitting for long periods.

This yoga for the spine pose allows for a mild stretch in the hamstrings and lower back, which can alleviate tension and promote spinal health in return.

6# Supine Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing reclined twist Pose

By gently rotating the spine, the spinal twist helps to stretch and relax the spinal muscles. This action can relieve stiffness and discomfort, especially in the lower back.

The twisting motion also encourages healthy circulation of spinal fluid2 Cleveland clinic. (2019, August 21). Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) Leak: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatments. Cleveland Clinic., which can aid in the nourishment and detoxification of the spine.

To make the Supine Twist more accessible or comfortable, bring a block under the knees.

A Yoga For The Spine Practice

There are many classes of yoga for the spine that you can try in person as well as online with your favorite yoga teacher.

Try this guided beginners yoga class for spine health:


Whether you’re looking to alleviate discomfort and pain, improve posture, or simply maintain a healthy back, yoga for the spine postures can be a great tool to improve well-being.

With consistency and mindful yoga practice, always listening to your body, yoga for the spine will help you maintain a healthy strong spine as well as help you take care of your entire body and your mind.

If you’re someone with back pain and want to learn more about how yoga can be of support, read this piece next:

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Laia is an Afro-Catalan accessible and inclusive yoga & meditation teacher. She has trained in hatha, vinyasa, trauma-informed yoga, yin yoga, and restorative yoga and holds E-RYT 500 and YACEP accreditations with the Yoga Alliance. Additionally, she is a freelance writer and translator, publishing in Catalan, English, and Spanish. As a former professional athlete who lives with a chronic illness, Laia has gained valuable insights into the benefits of self-care and the importance of pausing and slowing down. She is dedicated to sharing accessible and sustainable practices of yoga and meditation to help people create a more harmonious life. Being a black and chronically ill individual, her mission is to empower non-normative yoga teachers to find their unique voices and develop tools to make wellness practices accessible to the communities they serve, thereby taking up space and creating a more inclusive and diverse yoga industry. Furthermore, as a writer and creative, she is passionate about supporting other creatives and innovators. She fosters a genuine community dedicated to finding balance while staying productive and inspired. Laia has developed unique techniques that intertwine yoga and meditation with writing, journaling, and other accessible methods to help each other stay creative and mindful.

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