10 Yoga Stretches For Lower Back: Relieve Tension Now


So many people suffer from lower back pain. According to the American Chiropractic Association, some 31 million Americans experience lower back pain at any one time.

Exasperated by sitting too much and not moving enough, lower backs get grumpy, tired, and often weak.

Yoga stretches are a great way to get lower backs moving and happy. In this article, we’ll take a look at:

someone massaging a woman's lower back

What are some of the causes of lower back pain?

Lots of things can contribute to lower back pain. Sometimes we can assume that the lower back is the problem and not the symptom. For example, it is often the periphery of the lower back that is causing the pain.

Tight hips, hamstrings, and glutes can all contribute to lower back pain. This is why yoga stretches for the lower back often deal with the surrounding area.

Weakness in these areas can also be contributing factor, so you may want to seek out advice on a strengthening routine to complement your yoga stretches for lower back routine.

We are all guilty at some point of sitting too much and activities like driving and desk work.

Sustained positions can mean that muscles get short and tight, which can, in turn, cause pain.

What helps lower back pain?

Movement is a great way to keep your lower back happy. Walking and stretching can be a great antidote to lower back pain.

Yoga is also a great tool for relieving lower back pain. Yoga helps by moving the muscles and the joints in a mindful way. Some of the poses are a great way to stretch the lower back and surrounding area.

Another important thing to bear in mind is that breathing is an important part of lower back health. 360-degree breathing keeps the lower back moving with each breath.

a man in a shirt holding onto his lower back

How do you stretch out the lower back?

When stretching out the muscles of your lower back be sure to take extra care if you have an underlying health condition or an injury – especially a recent one.

It is best to avoid sudden movements and yoga stretches are great because they are low impact.  

Stretches can be performed once or twice per day as long as there isn’t pain when doing the yoga stretches. Be mindful and present when performing stretches. Don’t push yourself, and listen to your body’s pain signals.

Be sure to breathe well in each stretch. Nothing should be so uncomfortable that you cannot breathe well. Prioritize comfortable, smooth breathing.

10 Yoga stretches for lower back

Be sure to check with your doctor before performing any yoga lower back stretches. Your symptoms could be the cause of an underlying condition.  

This sequence of stretches isn’t designed to fix lower back pain that is chronic or unmanageable, but it can help alleviate grumpy lower backs that need to move and stretch.

Hold the poses for as long as they feel comfortable.

#1: Child’s Pose

annotated image of a woman doing child's pose

This yoga stretch for the lower back creates gentle flexion in the spine and stretches the glutes, spinal extensors, and the latissimus dorsi.

The spine is in a lengthened position and the flexion in the hips provides a stretch to the back of the hips.

To perform child’s pose:

  • Start on all fours and slowly send the hips back to the heels with the top of the feet flat on the floor.
  • With your hips resting on your heels, walk the arms forward and have the palms of the hands on the floor. The knees can be close together or wide, depending on comfort.
  • Rest the forehead on the floor or on a block.
  • This is a good resting pose for you to come back to between other lower back stretches.
  • For extra comfort, try putting a blanket between the back of the thighs and the calves.

#2: Piriformis Stretch

Deep in the center of the glute is the piriformis muscle. If it’s tight, it can be responsible for discomfort in the back.

To perform the piriformis stretch:

  • Come to lie on you back with your knees bent.
  • Take your right ankle and place it on your left knee.
  • Pull your knees towards your chest and thread your right arm through the space in between the legs and your left arm around the outside of the left leg.
  • If you find it hard to draw the legs in towards you, keep then go hands-free and place the foot on a block or a book.
  • Do the other side.

#3: Knees into chest

This stretch is similar to child’s pose but is performed on the back. It helps to lengthen and flex the spine.

To perform the knees into chest stretch:

  • Lie on your back and draw both knees into the chest.
  • Hold on to the knees with your hands.
  • Make small circles or side-to-side movements with the knees.
  • If the head doesn’t come to the floor, then be sure to rest it on a cushion or folded blanket.

#4: Single leg stretch

This single-leg stretch is a great way to lengthen the hip flexors, which if tight, can pull the lower back into flexion.

To perform the single leg stretch:

  • Start by lying on your back with both knees bent.
  • Place a yoga block or a folded blanket underneath the back of the pelvis.
  • Lengthen one leg long and pull one knee into the chest.
  • Focus on breathing into the front of the long leg hip.
  • If the stretch is too intense, remove the yoga block.

#5: Cat cow

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

Cat cow is a standard go-to in the yoga repertoire, and for good reason.  It moves the spine into flexion and extension and gets it moving. As you perform this movement, ensure that you focus on the movement in your lower back.

To perform cat-cow:

  • Start on all fours.
  • Breathe out and press into your hands and round your whole spine up to the ceiling creating a humpback bridge shape.
  • Breathe in and let the spine arch towards the floor so that the belly hangs down and the chest and tailbone lift up.
  • Go between the two movements several times.

#6: Pelvic Tilt

The pelvic tilt movement is a great way to get the lower back and the hip joints moving. It’s similar to cat cow but involving only the lower back, and it’s performed on the back.

To perform the pelvic tilt:

  • Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and the soles of the feet on the floor.
  • Gently flatten your lower back to the floor by tilting the tailbone up.
  • Gently tilt the tailbone down toward the floor so that the lower back lift slightly away from the floor.
  • Be sure not to clench any muscles as you do this.

#7: Seated Spinal Twist

an annotated image of a man wearing black yoga clothes doing half lord of the fishes pose

This is a great yoga stretch for targeting the hips, back, and glutes. Twisting through the upper back can be great for relieving tension in the lower back.

To perform a seated spinal twist:

  • Sit on the floor with both legs straight out in front of you.
  • As you bend the right knee, place the foot on the outside of the left thigh.
  • The right-hand goes behind you for support.
  • Place your left arm on the outside of the bent leg.
  • Twist from the upper back.
  • It’s okay to let the left hip slide forward a little.

#8: Reclined hand to big toe stretch

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing reclined hand to big toe Pose

Tight hamstrings can pull on the lower back, and this pose targets the back of the legs.  You’ll need a yoga strap for this one or something similar.

To perform hand to big toe stretch:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent.
  • Take the yoga strap around the sole of the right foot near the heel bone and take the leg into a straightened position.
  • Hold up high on the strap with the hands so that the shoulders are as relaxed as possible.
  • Push through the heel bone to ensure you are creating length through the back of the leg.
  • Repeat on the left leg.

#9: Pigeon Pose

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing half pigeon Pose

Pigeon pose is a great way to target both the back and the front of the hip. The bent leg targets the back of the hip, and the long leg lengthens the front of the hip and hip flexors.

To perform pigeon pose:

  • From all-fours tabletop position, bring the right knee to the back of the right wrist so that the right shin is at an angle.
  • Lengthen the left leg back.
  • Stay on the palms of the hands or bring the elbows down to the floor.
  • Focus on letting the hips drop with the exhalations.

#10: Happy Baby

annotated image of a woman doing happy baby pose, ananda balasana

Happy baby pose can help to relax the muscles of the back. It can also help to lengthen some of the muscles of the hip and mobilize the hip joint.

To perform happy baby posture:

  • Lying on your back, draw your knees into your chest.
  • Place the arms on the inside of the legs and grab hold of the ankles or feet.
  • Create a soothing rocking motion from side to side as you hold the pose.

What next?

If you want to dive into hip stretches next then why not check out this Yin sequence for Deep Release and four tips to build your own.

Photo of author
Sarah is a Brighton-based yoga teacher and teacher trainer with a passion for teaching self-inquiry and rest.

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