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Yoga for a Healthy Back

Posted by on Sep 5, 2018

I get low back pain. Being a PT and a yoga teacher does not mean I don’t occasionally overdo it, or that I have somehow miraculously evaded the effects of aging. However, I do feel confident in how I move my body when my back starts its little twinges. I do not hesitate to take immediate action to keep the twinges from becoming full on back pain.

I have a few favorite exercises for my low back. The first one, commonly known as bird dog or alternate arm and leg lift, is my all time favorite.

I start with a few gentle cat/cow movements on hands and knees to warm up my spine in a small, pain-free range of motion and then move into bird dog slowly and steadily. I find my neutral spine, then slowly lift my right arm forward, take a breath or two, then add the opposite leg. The most important part of this is the movement with the breath, and the slow, steady, controlled motion. Going fast does not do the trick for this exercise. I alternate from one side to the other 4 times.

After bird dog, I like to strengthen with chair pose:

I place a block between my thighs to gently squeeze and activate my adductor muscles, then I lower my hips and reach my arms forward (rather than up). I find that my back pain is often relieved with the strong engagement of the gluteal muscles and quadriceps for several repetitions.

My final pose is a supported bridge. In this pose, I place a low block under my sacrum so that my hips are higher than my heart. I then breathe into my low back to relieve tension. I stay in this position for up to 5 minutes, until I feel completely relaxed. To come out of the pose, I gently lift my hips, remove the block and settle back on my mat with my knees bent.

I allow my knees to rest against each other, feet wide, while I take another 2-3 minutes to relax my back.

I hope these poses are helpful to you. I will be teaching these poses along with many others in my upcoming Yoga For a Healthy Back series that starts Monday, September 17th. See you there.

– Andrea Trombley PT, DPT, E-RYT


  1. why is it necessary to activate adductors in chair pose?
    should tailbone be tucked under or lifted up in chair pose?

    • Hi Becki,
      I guess we should check the blog comments more often. Thanks for writing to us. Adductors are needed in chair pose to help to keep the knees in line. Very often the muscles on the outsides of the thighs can be overactive and counter activation of the adductors is needed. Like everything, these muscles need activate in balance with one another. We generally try to keep the pelvis in neutral in chair pose. Activation of the abdominals helps to reduce over contraction of the back extensors that occurs in many people but keeping spinal neutral keeps the back happy.
      I hope that helps.