3 Easy Poses To Save Your Back

Even the fittest among us are susceptible to pain as we age, but there are a few key asanas to help condition and protect your spine.

October 16, 2015
sore back


As we age, most of us are likely to experience low back pain at one time or another. File it under one of the less glamorous facts of life. According to the National Institutes of Health, Americans spend at least $50 billion each year to fix low back pain. It’s the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading reason for work absences. And it can strike whether you’re stuck in a chair all day or an exercise fanatic, so there’s no need to beat yourself up about it. 

Back pain occurs because the disks that act as nice, soft cushions for the vertebrae dry out as we age. This makes them more susceptible to bulging or rupturing, which can put pressure on the nerves and send pain signals to the brain. (Brains are worth exercising too! Join us for our live online 21-day New Year, New You meditation challenge, starting January 1!)

But here’s the good news: While it may be tempting to stay flat on your back during a flare-up, exercise will set you on the path to feeling better, faster. And studies have shown that a gentle stretching routine can keep you pain-free longer (up to six months) than other forms of exercise. 

Try the following three poses as a regular self-care routine for preventing and alleviating minor back pain. (If you’re in the midst of an acute or chronic flare-up, be sure to talk to your doctor first.)

Related: The Acupressure Point Every Gardener Should Know

For each pose, stay for five to ten deep breaths on each side.

downward dog
Downward-Facing Dog


Down Dog is an iconic yoga pose because it can serve so many different purposes—it can strengthen your arms and legs and stretch the entire back side of the body. To help stave off back pain, focus on lengthening the spine and side body to get a sense of traction between each vertebra.

How To: Come to your hands and knees, with knees below your hips and your wrists a few inches ahead of your shoulders. As you exhale, lift your hips up and back as you straighten your legs. It’s okay if you can’t straighten your legs all the way. What’s more important is that you’re in an inverted V shape with your hips up high.

Refine It: To create space in your spine, squeeze your upper arm bones in toward each other and focus on pressing your thighbones back. 

Modification: If your hamstrings are tight, you can do a puppy version of this pose instead by pressing your hands into a wall at hip height.

Marichyasana III (Sage or Mariachi Pose)


Twisting helps facilitate circulation and is a wonderful way to stretch the muscles that run up and down the spine.

How To: Sit with your legs outstretched in front of you. Bend your knee and place the sole of your right foot next to your inner left thigh. Take a deep breath in and elongate your spine. Then exhale as you twist to the right. Place your right fingertips on the floor behind you; your left arm can hug your right leg. Take your gaze behind you.

Refine It: If you feel like you have space to go deeper, press your upper arm against your right thigh. Press the arm and thigh against each other to create leverage to help you twist.

Modification: If it’s hard for you to sit up tall before you twist, you might need some support under your sit bones. A pillow or a blanket should do the trick.

bridge pose
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)


Tight muscles along the front of your hips can pull your pelvis out of alignment, which can create back pain. Bridge Pose stretches the hip flexors and encourages the natural curve of the lower back.

How To: Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor. As you exhale lift your hips up. Lift your chest and shimmy back and forth on your shoulders until you can clasp your hands underneath you. 

Refine It: No clenching your glutes here—that will take your pelvis out of optimal alignment. The idea is to strengthen your hamstrings as you get a nice stretch along the front of your body. 

Modification: If you can’t clasp your hands underneath you, hold a strap between your hands or grab onto the sides of your mat.