As individuals, the majority of us spend a large proportion of the day sitting still and hunched over screens. And with many of us continuing to work from home as a result of the pandemic, getting away from the computer is proving even more challenging. It’s therefore unsurprising that many of us experience back and neck pain, ranging anywhere from mild discomfort to chronic pain and often resulting in loss of mobility.
The good news is yoga can be a fantastic remedy for back and neck pain. Even just a few stretches can make a difference, helping to reverse bad posture, release tension and build strength.
So, to ease those aches, pains and strains, we’ve compiled a list containing the most effective yoga poses for back and neck pain. All you’ll need is a comfortable yoga mat however, blocks can also be a useful addition for certain postures.
Downward facing dog
Downward dog is one of the most widely used postures in yoga, and for good reason. As well as lengthening the spine and opening the shoulders, downward dog also provides a great stretch for the calves and hamstrings, making it a fantastic full-body stretch.
To enter downward dog, start on your hands and knees in a table-top position. Take a deep breath and as you exhale, slowly lift your hips and transfer your weight into your heels. Whilst you should try to encourage your heels down towards the ground, don’t worry if they don’t quite reach the floor.
Your back should be long and flat, however, if you have tight hamstrings you may find you may need to bend your knees a little to stop your back from rounding. Hold this pose for several breaths and relax as much as you can.
Two-knee spinal twist
Gentle twisting is great for maintaining a healthy spine, which is why this pose is a firm favourite among yogis.
Begin by lying on your back and shift your hips to the right slightly. Then using your right hand, bring your left knee towards your chest and gently pull it down over your right knee, allowing your spine to twist as you do so.
To open up the chest and neck, you can extend your left hand out to the side and turn your head in the same direction. However, if this is too much, just keep your head in a neutral position or look towards the right. You can hold this pose anywhere from a few rounds of breaths to several minutes. Once you’re ready, come back to centre and repeat on the other side.
Upward facing dog
By simultaneously stretching and strengthening the spine, upward facing dog is great for maintaining a strong and supple back.
Start in a high plank position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your toes tucked. Then gently bend your elbows and lower your body towards the floor. As you do this, untuck your toes, straighten your arms and lift your chest up, but keep your hips low. This will create a gentle bend in the spine.
If it feels comfortable, tilt your chin upwards to open the chest further but be careful not to crunch the neck.
Seated twists are great for improving spinal mobility and maintaining good posture. Start by sitting cross-legged with a straight back and focus on lengthening your spine. A good tip is to imagine someone pulling on a string attached to the crown of your head. With this in mind, allow yourself to grow tall but keep your shoulders down and relaxed, don’t let them bunch up by your ears.
On an exhale, place your right hand on your left knee for leverage and slowly twist your torso to the left, placing your left hand on the mat behind you. Take 3-5 deep breathes, inhaling to lengthen the spine and exhaling to deepen the twist. Then come back to an upright seated position and repeat on the other side.
Locust pose is great for building strength in the lower back and if practised regularly, can greatly improve posture and reduce back pain.
To start, lie face down on the ground with your arms by your sides and your palms facing upwards. As you inhale, slowly lift your chest and legs off the ground, so your torso and thighs are the only part of your body touching the floor. Engage your core and keep your shoulders back and away from your ears.
In strengthening postures, it’s easy to tense up but try to relax and remember to breathe. After a few breathes, lower your chest and legs back to the floor and repeat several times.
Fish pose targets the upper back and opens the chest, making it another great pose for anyone looking to improve their posture. Start by lying flat on your back and place your hands under your seat bones with your palms facing down. On an inhale, lift your chest up and slowly tilt your head back. This will create a slight backbend, whilst also working your upper back muscles.
If you have a block, you can deepen the stretch by positioning the block between your shoulder blades and allowing your body to sink further into the posture. This restorative pose can work miracles for anyone that spends too much time hunched over a desk, as it gets deep into the muscles in the shoulders, helping to release any tension you’ve been holding throughout the day.
Ready to give it a try?
There are plenty more poses and sequences you can do to reduce back pain, but we hope by highlighting some of the most effective postures you now have a good starting point.
If you don’t have a yoga mat or blocks, or you want to upgrade your mat for a new eco-friendly alternative, then be sure to check out our range of sustainable yoga products, including cork yoga mats, blocks, reusable water bottles and more.