The Home Stretch: Yoga for Back Strength and Relaxation

Mallory Stuchin

We’ve all felt the burning twinge of lower back pain. Whether your day is spent traversing subways and city streets or holed up in small quarters behind a desk, you are probably familiar with the bustle of knots that form at your lower spine.

Fortunately, there is a number of simple yoga stretches that will alleviate some of your body’s basic wear and tear while also providing you with an espresso shot’s worth of energy. Daily back-bending allows for greater flexibility throughout your midsection and helps support a stronger core during any type of workout (hello, bathing suit season!).

Remember that your back is like a rubber band, and when it’s pulled all the way to the right, it will fling itself directly back to the left upon release. In the same vein, any back-bending exercises should be immediately followed by gentle forward bends, like touching your toes or knees while keeping your legs straight or resting on the ground in child’s pose. 

To see an illustrated gallery of these poses, expand the box below or click here.

The Back Pack

Hold each of these back bends for five deep breaths and then release. If it’s more comfortable, place a mat or towel under your back for additional support.

Bridge Pose
Lie flat on your back and bend your knees so that your feet are planted on the floor. Inhale deeply as you roll your shoulders towards each other and let your hips begin to lift off the floor. Clasp your hands together under your back and raise your hips towards the ceiling while trying to keep your thighs parallel to each other. After five deep breaths, release your hands and slowly roll your spine onto the ground.

Camel Pose

Kneel on the ground with your knees a two-fist distance apart. Gently press your palms into your lower back with your fingers facing down towards your feet. Take a deep breath in and lift your chest up towards the ceiling as you draw your shoulder blades together and down your back. Continue to arch your back and draw your belly button in towards your spine. Relax your head and neck, trying to look towards the back of the room. After five breaths, come back to your starting position, sit down on your heels and stretch your arms forward in Child’s Pose.

Legs Up the Wall Pose

While not exactly a backbend, this basic inversion is unbelievably effective at reducing back pain and any kind of inflammation in the feet, ankles and knees. It’s also an incredibly relaxing exercise so if you’re practicing at work, try not to fall asleep at your office.

Lay flat on the ground with your legs going up a wall so that you are forming a giant L. Walk your fingers towards the wall and allow your hips to move closer in as well until they are completely flat (or as close to flat as possible) against the wall. Flex your feet towards you so that your toes are pointing in the direction of your head. Breathe. Hold this position for a few minutes.

Mallory Stuchin studied Ashtanga Yoga in Mysore, India and has taught classes at PURE Yoga and New York University. She is also a natural foods chef and a vegetable butcher at Eataly.

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