There are things we do every day that weaken our back muscles, from sitting too long at a computer or driving our vehicles. If you’ve ever experienced back pain, you know how debilitating it can be. Often, relief only comes after treatments such as physiotherapy, massage and visits to the chiropractor. But there is a way to get ahead of the problem that has little risk and big rewards.

Adding yoga into your fitness routine strengthens your back and counteracts some of the negative things we do every day.

If you’re already suffering from chronic back pain, combining yoga with therapy helps manage your pain.

Here are three ways yoga benefits your back:

Keep your spine supple

Yoga movements put the spine through exaggerated versions of our natural range of motion through flexion (rounding the spine forward), extension, rotation and lateral flexion (side bending).

These are the movements we use all the time to stay functional, whether that’s looking up at something, bending to tie shoes or reaching into the back seat of a car to grab a purse or bag.

Some yoga poses that target these motions include cat, cow and seated spinal twist. Your yoga instructor will show you how to properly perform these poses.

Stretching with purpose

If you’re experiencing muscle tightness, yoga stretches the muscles supporting the back, as well as the surrounding muscles that often contribute to back pain.

For example, tight hamstrings can pull down on the pelvis and be a factor in lower back pain.

During your yoga class, you’ll learn how forward folds stretch hamstrings, downward dog or eagle stretches your upper back and pigeon stretches gluteus muscles.

Backwards thinking is good

We’re a very forward-facing society and don’t work on our backs too much. That’s a mistake.

Yoga helps strengthen the muscle groups that you need for your back to work properly.

Spinal balance and locust poses focus on the muscles that run down and support the spine on either side. If those muscles are weak, the structure of our body changes and we begin to flex at the spine and round our shoulders and back.


Which yoga is right for you?

Now that you know the three reasons why yoga benefits your back, it’s time to decide which type of class is right for you.

If you’re just starting yoga or have chronic back pain, you want to choose a gentle type of yoga. Something like hot yoga or power yoga may be too assertive and could aggravate the problem.

GoodLife Fitness offers some basic classes that fit the bill.

  • Gentle or Hatha yoga are good introductions to poses, breathing and relaxation techniques.
  • Yin yoga holds poses for longer periods of time. It creates space between the joints and works on the fascia surrounding the joints, which can get really tight.
  • BODYFLOW lets you sample yoga as part of a class combining yoga, pilates and tai chi.

Ideally, two to three yoga classes per week should help prevent and manage back pain.

If you’re doing yoga at home, 20 to 30 minutes three to four times a week is recommended. Some of the poses can even be done at work!