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Yoga Stretches for Your Lower Back

Lower back pain is a common ailment often caused by lifestyle factors such as sitting for long hours, poor posture, or strenuous and repetitive activity. 

A healthy spine requires a balance of stretching and strengthening exercises, many of which are provided in a yoga practice. This article will explore yoga stretches specifically for the lower back, including instructions for 5 yoga postures. Incorporating these stretches into your daily routine may help to reduce pain and discomfort, increase flexibility, and maintain a healthy spine into old age.

What are yoga stretches good for?

Yoga stretches offer a simple way to counteract the negative postural habits that we pick up from working desk jobs; they can also complement other forms of more strenuous exercise. There are many benefits of yoga stretches, including:

  • Increased flexibility – improving flexibility in the muscles and joints will reduce stiffness and range of motion, including in the lower back
  • Improve posture – regular yoga practice can strengthen the muscles that support the spine, this can reduce postural imbalances that may lead to back pain
  • Promotes relaxation and stress management – those who practice yoga can attest to its stress reducing effects, however, studies also support this showing a reduction in cortisol levels and nervous system regulation (4)
  • Improved core strength – there are many yoga poses which engage and strengthen the core muscles, including those of the lower back (2)
  • Prevents injuries – by strengthening the core muscle that support the spine, yoga can help to prevent injuries related to poor posture and repetitive or strenuous movements
  • Increased circulation – yoga stretches will improve circulation to the whole body, including the lower back, this allows oxygen and nutrients to reach the muscles and promote healing

How do you stretch your lower back with yoga?

There are a number of simple yoga postures which can provide a deep stretch for your lower back. If you are a beginner, it is advisable to practice yoga under the guidance of a certified yoga teacher. However, a mindful home practice can be beneficial for a quick relief of lower back pain.

Many yoga stretches are floor-based and do not require any equipment. Be sure to have adequate space around you and practice either on a yoga mat or a soft surface such as a carpet or rug.

Consider incorporating the postures described below into a sequence that will stretch other areas of your body and create a gentle full-body workout.

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What are the best yoga postures to stretch the lower back?

Studies suggest yoga may be more beneficial than other forms of exercise for improving back pain (1).

In general, yoga postures that include a forward fold will stretch the lower back. Additionally, backward bends are also beneficial for the spine and lower back. 

If you experience chronic lower back pain or if your lower back pain is due to an injury, seek advice from your doctor before implementing these yoga stretches into your routine.


5 Yoga stretches for your lower back

These 5 yoga postures will allow you to stretch and strengthen your lower back. They can provide benefits for your lower back whether practiced on their own or as part of a sequence of yoga postures. 

1. Seated Forward Fold – Paschimottanasana

It is not unusual for forward folds to be challenging for many people due to tight hamstrings. However, when focusing on stretching the lower back, it can be beneficial to practice the forward fold with bended knees. This allows you to focus on stretching the lower back rather than the hamstrings.

  • Begin seated on the floor with your legs extended in front of you
  • Engage your abdominal muscles and begin to reach towards your toes
  • Bend your knees as much as you need to take hold of your toes or the side of your feet
  • Let your neck relax and allow your head to hang resting on or between your knees
  • Keep your abdomen engaged as your hold this stretch to allow your lower back to gently relax and open
  • Hold this posture for 6-10 breaths

2. Child’s Pose – Balasana

Child’s pose is often used as a ‘rest pose’ in yoga classes. It is a passive stretch, meaning that it is focused on relaxation rather than engaging any specific muscles. This provides a gentle and relaxing stretch for the lower back.

  • Start by kneeling on the floor
  • Open your knees out while keeping your toes together touching
  • Bring your chest down towards the floor, you may be able to rest on your forehead
  • Extend your arms out in front of you and allow them to relax
  • Close your eyes here and breathe steadily as you hold the postures for 1-2 minutes

3. Cobra – Bhujangasana

Cobra pose is a backward bend which both strengthens and stretches the lower back. 

  • Begin lying face down on the floor
  • Position your palms underneath your shoulders and gently squeeze your elbows towards you
  • Squeeze your abdominal muscles, glutes, thighs, and point your toes as you begin to lift your chest up off the floor
  • Aim to use more of your back strength than your arms to lift you
  • Keep your elbows close to your body, lift your chin and gaze up towards the ceiling
  • Hold for 3-5 breaths, relax and repeat

Read more: Japanese Yoga: A Deep Dive Into Mindful Movements

4. Plough – Halasana

Plough pose provides a deep stretch to the lower back. For people with particularly tight hamstrings, it can be easier to access than a forward fold. This posture also creates a deep stretch for the back of the neck. Take care, or avoid this posture if you have any issues or injuries related to your neck.

  • Begin lying on your back on the floor
  • Bend your knees bringing them towards your chest
  • Allow your hips to begin to lift up off the floor
  • Continue to lift the hips and bring your knees towards your forehead
  • Here, you can support your lower back with your hands and gently rest your weight on your elbows
  • If you’re comfortable here, you can extend the legs pointing your toes down to reach the floor behind your head
  • Keep your knees slightly bent in the plough position, this will allow the stretch to stay in the lower back rather than the hamstrings
  • Hold this pose for 6-10 breaths, imagine that you are breathing into the lower back


5. Cat Cow – Bitilasana Marjaryasana

Cat Cow rejuvenates the whole body, tunes the body to the breath, improves circulation, and lubricates the spine. It is beneficial for daily practice and can be performed at any time of day for increased energy and to relieve tension in the lower back.

  • Start in a tabletop position on the floor, align your wrists underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your wrists
  • Begin with a neutral spine, take an inhale and then exhale completely
  • On your next inhale, begin to backbend the spine, letting the tailbone lift, chest opening wide, lifting the chin and eyes looking up to the ceiling
  • As you exhale, squeeze the stomach in as you curve the spine, widening your shoulders as your open out your back, and tucking your chin into your chest with your gaze towards your navel
  • Repeat these movements, inhaling as you backbend, and exhaling as you curve the spine
  • Continue at a speed that is comfortable for your for 2-3 minutes

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How do you stretch out a tight lower back?

If your lower back is particularly tight, it is important to take care when stretching and practicing yoga so as to reduce the risk of injuring yourself.

There are a few reasons that your lower back can become particularly tight, this can include:

  • Incorrect posture
  • Previous injuries
  • Poor habits when moving or lifting objects

Another reason the lower back can become tight is when the abdominal muscles are weakened. For example, when lifting medium to heavy objects, if the abdominal muscles are not engaged, the lower back will automatically take the weight. This can cause the lower back muscles to tighten and, over time, make it difficult to allow these muscles to relax.

The yoga stretches described above can help to begin stretching a tight lower back. But consistency is key. Studies suggest that 12 weeks of yoga practice can provide a significant reduction in lower back pain (3).


  • Should I stop practicing yoga if I have lower back pain?

It is important to consult your doctor if you are experiencing long-term lower back pain. However, when practiced mindfully, yoga may be able to improve your lower back pain and also reduce the chances of back pain developing.

  • Can yoga strengthen your back?

Yoga is great for strengthening the lower back. Cobra pose, described above, is a brilliant pose to both strengthen and gently stretch the lower back muscles.

  • Is downward-dog pose good for the lower back?

When practiced in the correct alignment, downward-dog can help elongate the spine. However, the stretch will likely be felt more in the hamstrings. The yoga poses described above will provide the best stretches for the lower back.


This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. A comprehensive yoga programs improves pain, anxiety and depression in chronic low back pain patients more than exercise: An RCT (2012, ScienceDirect.) 
  2. The Effect of a Stretch and Strength-Based Yoga Exercise Program on Patients with Neuropathic Pain due to Lumbar Disc Herniation (2022, PubMed.) 
  3. Twelve Weeks of Yoga for Chronic Nonspecific Lower Back Pain: A Meta-Analysis (2020, ScienceDirect.) 
  4. Yoga, mindfulness-based stress reduction and stress-related physiological measures: A meta-analysis (2017, PubMed.)