If your back is achy, sore or downright painful, yoga may possibly help. Even if you feel fine now, the right poses may help prevent back pain from creeping up on you in the future. Yoga also comes with a host of other benefits, such as improved strength and flexibility. The activity also brings potential risks, however, so get the all-clear from your doctor before getting started.

The Research

A study published in the “Annals of Internal Medicine” in 2011 followed 313 adults with lower back pain. Half of the participants took yoga classes, while the other half received traditional medical care; all received an educational booklet on back pain. After 12 weeks, yoga and traditional treatments appeared equally effective in treating back pain, and all subjects had similar general health scores. However, the yoga group reported better back functioning than the traditionally treated group, indicating that yoga may have an advantage.

Poses for Your Back

Warrior I pose is a simple posture that corrects asymmetry, helping to prevent and alleviate pain. From a lunge position, reach your arms above your head; bring your palms together while stretching your back and torso upward. Downward-Facing Dog is another effective choice, and strengthens back muscles for proper alignment. Start on your hands and knees, then lift your knees from the ground so that the weight is shifted to your feet. At the final position, your body should form an upside-down “V.”

Yoga as Prevention

Lack of flexibility may contribute to back pain, and performing yoga is one of the most effective ways to grow more flexible. When your body is properly stretched, you’re less likely to strain or pull a muscle. Therefore, performing yoga on a regular basis — or performing yoga poses before strenuous activities — may help keep your back pain-free for good.

Play it Safe

To help ensure you feel better, not worse, after yoga sessions, follow a few safety precautions. If you feel increased pain in your back or anywhere else during a pose, pull back or simply take a breather. Find a yoga class that’s suitable for your fitness level — if you’re new to the yoga mat, a gentle Viniyoga or Integral style is probably a better option than a vigorous Bikram session. Tell your instructor about your back pain as well as any other medical conditions, and inform her if any postures are troublesome for you.

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