Back pain? Be gone with 7 yoga poses from physical therapists |

Back pain? Be gone with 7 yoga poses from physical therapists

Paula Ashbaugh
Special to the Daily
Sphinx yoga pose (Salamba Bhujangasana) for back and spine health.
Phil Lindeman / |

Healthy back workshop with Paula Ashbaugh

What: A special yoga course taught by Paula Ashbaugh, local physical therapist with Avalanche Physical Therapy, with poses made for back and spine health

When: Sunday, Feb. 19 from 2:30-5 p.m.

Where: Peak Yoga Studio, 256 Dillon Ridge Road in Dillon

Cost: $49

The course covers a variety of postures for back pain, along with tips for proper alignment and how anatomy impacts back and spine health. For more info about the course, see

If you have suffered from low back pain, you are not alone.

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, the majority of Americans will experience back pain in their lifetimes. Back injuries are the most common reason for missing workforce after “the average cold” and the single-leading cause of disability worldwide. In the U.S., more than $50 billion is spent each year trying to treat people who have pain associated with the spine.

Back pain can make or break life in Summit County. One in three adults across the country says back pain impacts everyday activities, and with our highly physical lifestyles up here in Summit County, back pain can even prevent us from leaving our homes if we can’t shovel out! Without intervention, 60 to 80 percent of people experience the same back issues within two years of first having a problem.

The yoga connection

Don’t worry — back pain isn’t a death sentence. Complementary and alternative medicine, known as CAM, refers to an array of healing practices and medicines that exist outside of conventional treatments like physical therapy. CAM treatments are becoming more popular, and this is partially due to the rising costs of health care and insurance. But it’s also due to awareness.

Across the globe, yoga is currently ranked third among CAM treatments for chronic back pain. As a result, yoga has been increasingly studied over the past 10 years as a way to solve back and spine issues. This research has found that, across the board, yoga can reduce pain, improve mental and physical function, decrease depression and improve quality of life. It can also be safely practiced by those who suffer from spinal problems. In comparison to many other long-term treatments, yoga is usually more cost-effective because it comes in a group format or at home.

Back pain poses

As the health care system shifts from caring mostly for those with acute illness to caring for those with chronic disease, yoga is gaining popularity as an intervention activity: Health care providers now suggest preventative strategies like yoga to guard against modern, chronic illnesses.

Yoga poses are one of eight components that make up this ancient discipline of physical, mental and spiritual health. Below are seven yoga poses to help those who suffer from back pain. Always check with your physical therapist to determine if these movements work for your specific diagnosis.

1. Sphinx pose (Salamba Bhujangasana)

Lie on your belly, resting on your elbows with your legs together.

Keep you elbows aligned under your shoulders.

While breathing, pull the shoulders away from the ears as you find the chest coming forward.

Relax your belly on the mat.

2. Supine single-limb stretch (Supta Padangusthasana)

Lie on your back with your right leg straight and right arm pressing onto your thigh.

Lift your other leg toward the ceiling, keeping it bent with a strap around your foot.

Slowly straighten the lifted leg, keeping your arm straight.

Pull both shoulders toward the mat.

3. Locust pose (Salambasana)

Lie on your belly with your arms at your side and your thumbs facing downwards.

While reaching your hands and shoulders toward your feet, spread your legs toward the corners of the mat.

Lift the arms and legs off the mat about 2-4 inches, keeping your arms by your sides.

The back of your neck should stay long as you are looking at your mat.

Hold this lifted position while breathing.

4. Child’s pose (Balasana)

Sit back onto your heels while reaching your arms forward. Sit on a pillow if your knees cannot take the pressure.

Relax and breathe while holding the position.

5. Bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

Lying on your back, bend your knees so the middle fingers graze your heels. Keep your knees and feet at hip-width apart.

Squeeze your shoulders together behind you as you press the palms of your hands into the mat.

Gently engage your core and inhale as you lift your hips up.

Continue to breathe as you press the arms into the mat.

6. Lunge Pose (Anjanay Asana)

Come into a low, deep lunge with your back knee down and your front ankle under your knee.

Gently engage your core and bring your belly button to the spine, pulling your ribs toward your hips.

Lift your arms up with the palms facing, as if holding a beach ball.

Reach the fingers toward the sky while lifting your chest/sternum up, keeping the back of your neck long.

7. Supine spinal twist (Supta Jaṭhara Parivartānāsana)

Lie on your back and bend one knee, crossing it outside of the opposite foot.

Use your hand to put slight pressure on your bent knee to bring it to the floor. Keep both shoulders flat on your mat.

Extend your opposite hand out and look at it, feeling the stretch through your back and spine.

For a deeper stretch, slowly straighten your bent knee.

Paula Ashbaugh has a doctorate in physical therapy and is a certified athletic trainer with Avalanche Physical Therapy in Frisco. She also works with the U.S. Paralympic Snowboard Team. She completed her 500-RYT in yoga and teaches at Peak Yoga Studio in Dillon.

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