Do This, Not That: 10 Yoga Poses to Avoid if You Have Back Pain




A regular yoga routine helps prevent, and even cure, back pain. But only if the routine is full of all the right poses.

If you have a back injury or have had one in the past, some yoga poses cause stress and irritation to the discs and muscles in your back. And yoga is supposed to help, not hurt your body!

This is why, here at myYogaTeacher, we encourage you to do your research before investing in a group yoga class or a private yoga instructor.

An inexperienced yoga instructor may give you the wrong advice or take you through a flow that makes back pain worse.

If you haven’t checked out myYogaTeacher yet, you should! Grab your 2-week free trial here. You’ll have access to tons of online yoga classes, including mine, Yoga for Back Pain. I wanted to make sure you have access to high quality yoga instruction for back pain and back issues.

Just in case you wonder which asanas are prohibited for back pain patients, though, here are 10 poses you should avoid if you have back pain.

1. Bow Pose (Floor)

When done right, bow pose is an excellent way to work your glutes, stretch your shoulders, chest, and thighs and open your heart. But this pose is too intense for people with sensitive backs or back issues.

Plus, it’s too easy to overstretch your back to deepen the pose instead of using your glutes and thighs.

Bow Pose

2. Camel Pose

Honestly, any variation of camel pose can be hard on your neck, shoulders, and sacrum. I encourage you to avoid even the easiest variations of this pose if you have any back or neck issues.

If you choose to do any of the modifications for this pose, though, be sure to squeeze your glutes and thighs to help support your lower back and spine.

Camel Pose

3. Upward Facing Dog

This is such a beautiful and beneficial pose, that I hate to tell you not to do it.

With the appropriate guidance and instruction, upward facing dog strengthens your glutes and thighs, stretches and lengthens your core, and tones your upper back.

However, it’s easy to do this pose wrong, particularly when it’s part of a vinyasa flow so it’s best to avoid it if you’re having any back pain or have known back issues.

Upward Facing Dog

4. Crescent Lunge Twist

I usually encourage spinal twists to ease lower back pain due to menstrual cramps, sore muscles, or to safely increase one’s range of motion. However, if you have bulging or herniated discs, this – and almost any other twisting pose – is dangerous.

Yogis tend to muscle their way into balancing poses such as this one instead of allowing their body to naturally move and stretch to its furthest extent. Muscling your way into any pose is bad and can create even more problems, which is what practicing yoga is supposed to prevent!

Crescent Lunge Twist

5. Boat Pose

Any pose where you’re balancing on your glutes will put at least some pressure on your sacrum and lower spine. Boat pose is no different.

Also, if you don’t have a strong core, you’ll have a tendency to slouch instead of maintaining good posture. This puts even more strain on your lower back region. This pose can be modified by putting your toes or even both your feet flat on the ground.

Or just skip it all together if you’re having back problems.

Boat Pose

6. Bridge and Full Wheel

Bridge is often a precursor to doing Full Wheel. Either way, both poses put pressure on the spine and neck. Full Wheel is an advanced pose and requires more extension of the back and more strength in the legs, glutes, and arms.

Bridge can be done safely with back issues, but it doesn’t alleviate back pain. So it’s best to avoid this one as well if you have back pain of any kind.

Bridge and Full Wheel

7. Fish Pose

Ahhhh. The beloved Fish pose!

This pose is awesome if you have mild back pain due to menstrual cramps or overworked muscles. It’s a really nice restorative pose and provides a good upper back stretch.

However, for more serious back issues, you may want to stick to savasana. Fish pose is still a backbend and provides very little support for your hips and sacrum.

Fish Pose

8. Shoulder Stand

It may be obvious to you that shoulder stand is a no when you have back issues, but it’s actually a counter pose to many of the poses I’ve listed here.

Shoulder stand can put a lot of undue stress on the cervical spine, which affects the lower spine. This is not the pose for yogis with back issues, weak core muscles, or tight shoulders.

Shoulder Stand Pose

9. Dancer’s Pose

Any version of dancer’s pose is an intense back stretch. It is basically a standing backbend. It’s not entirely off limits if you have mild back pain, but if you feel any pinching at all, stop immediately.

If you do choose to proceed with this pose, be sure to lift from your thighs and glutes, not by pulling more on your foot. You can also use a strap to ease the tension of this pose.

Or skip it all together if you have any sort of back injury.

Dancer Pose

10. Big Toe Pose

If you’ve performed big toe pose before, you’ll understand why I say this is not the pose to do if you have any kind of back problem or pain.

This pose compresses your side body and can cause your pelvis to tilt backwards, both of which puts a lot of strain and pressure on your lumbar spine. Even doing a modified version of this pose isn’t good for lower back issues.

Big Toe Pose

If you suffer with a back injury or other back issue that continues to cause pain and discomfort, I encourage you to seek out a professional yoga instructor who can help you address those issues in a way that is helpful, not harmful.

Not sure where to start? Please, come see me in my Yoga for Back Pain class! We have students in there who are all ages, from all walks of life, who have had back issues that are now a distant memory! If you’re not a member of myYogaTeacher yet, go ahead and grab your free 2-week trial here! You’ll not only get access to my class but 35+ other group classes every day!

We’re here to help you live your best, fullest, most harmonious life!


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