5 prenatal yoga practices to deal with lower back pain in pregnancy
Updated: Apr 10
One of the most common pregnancy conditions, lower back pain. We often struggle with it without being pregnant, and now add to it the impact of growing baby pulling this part of the spine forward, compressing and tightening this area of the back. No fun.. Luckily we have yoga that can help us out a bit!
Below is the list of five practices you could try when suffering from lower back pain, or when you want to prevent having it at all.
1. Correcting our posture
Going back to basics.. It all starts with the way we sit, stand or lie down – our postural imbalances have a great impact on how we may experience our lower back throughout our pregnancy (and not only, really). Sitting without alignment, especially in a sofa / car seat puts the pelvis in a position where the lower back and sacral area are not activated and over time become weakened. Finding your ‘zero balance’ when sitting, standing or on all fours will be the key to avoid lower back issues.
Teaching points for sitting in a ‘Golden triangle’ (cross legged):
Hips are slightly higher than the knees, good to use a pillow or blanket to sit on so it comes without any effort, and support under knees
Sit bones are aligned, equal pressure on both – you can circle your pelvis first to feel your sit bones, then with smaller circles come to still
Knees are no wider than the length of the woman’s thigh, making an equal-sided triangle with the pubic bone – hence, ‘golden triangle’
Shoulders are relaxed downwards, arms and hands relaxed – you can rest your hands on your knees, thighs, or interlace fingers below the navel
Teaching points for standing:
Feet hip width apart and parallel
Spread your weight equally on both feet
Ankles, hips, shoulders and ears are in a vertical line
Keep your knees slightly bent
Your chest is open so that the breathing muscles expand and contract fully
Shoulders relaxing downwards, arms and hands relaxed
Back of the neck lengthening
Teaching points for all fours:
Hands shoulder distance apart
Fingers spread with no gap under the knuckles
Knees hip width or a little wider in late pregnancy
Lower legs parallel
Tops of feet to the floor
Your back is flat like a table top, not letting the lumbar curve drop
Gaze to the floor
Add a blanket under your knees for some comfort, and roll your mat to put your hands on it if you experience any pain in your wrists
Teaching points for sitting on a chair:
Feet flat on the floor - you may need to add support under your feet or lower your chair if possible
Hips slightly higher than knees - add a cushion or folded blanket to the chair seat to give sufficient height in case you cannot regulate the height of the chair
Tip: sitting on a ball instead of a chair forces you to keep your posture neutral at all times. Only make sure that the ball is big enough, so hips are higher than your knees.
2. Rolling cat
Starting in from all fours, finding your ‘zero balance’ first, look towards the floor
Exhale rounding the upper back, look towards your baby, and bring your hips back towards the heels, as far as it is comfortable and as far your belly allows you
Then inhale, bending your elbows and without shoulders coming past the fingertips take the hips forward again with a flat back. Finishing back in all fours neutral position
Repeat that movement few times with your breath, with resting in child’s pose in between if needed
Make sure to support your knees with a blanket, and roll your mat so you can put your hands on it, if your wrists are painful
Some additional benefits of rolling cat: you are stimulating the whole spine, hence it can be highly therapeutic practice in general. It also helps with helping your baby find the most optimal position for labor. And it can help with constipation.
3. Scooping / camel and Camel walk
Birthlight pregnancy yoga is full of funny walks, and camel is probably the one that you will remember most ;)
When standing, keep your feet hip width and knees soft.
Stay on the same spot when you practice rolling your tailbone under in a round scooping movement keeping your body very soft and relaxed
Start with small scoops and if they feel good in your pelvis you can try larger scoops or stay with small ones
It helps if you keep one hand around on your pubic bone, and the other hand on your sacrum
When you get used to this, try combine it with walking – take a step and do one or two scoops (it generally is easier with two scoops on one step), feeling the movement roll up your whole spine
Some additional benefits: there is a lot! It’s not only mobilizing and releasing your lower back pain, works lightly on abdominal muscles, legs and pelvic floor! But it helps your baby with the right positioning for labor as well! And, it can feel veeeeeery releasing during labor itself, as it helps with decent of your baby. Not to mention, that adding asymmetry to scooping movement (putting your leg on a block, a chair or a low table while doing scooping), can get things moving in the right direction during labor when it’s needed..
Something to look out for: women who have pelvic pain (SPD, PGP) may need to keep the movements small and not do the walking version.
4. Adapted downward dog against the wall
Standing in front of the wall, feet hips width apart, knees soft
Place your both hands on the wall, straight arms,
Head is slightly higher than the hips, so you create an angle above 90 degrees
Staying here for few breaths, you should feel the release in lower back
5. Working with a partner – three dimensional breathing
The goal of this practice is to use your breath to soften tension in your back. Your partner’s role is to give you direction, so you are breathing into your partner’s hands..
Lean against a bean bag, a sitting ball, a large pile of pillows or any other support. Make sure that your head and shoulders are relaxed, perhaps add a blanket under your head for more comfort
For your partner:
Place your hands at shoulder height and ask to breathe into your hands. Do not press your hands on the back, only gentle touch is enough. Stay there about 2 minutes.
Then lower your hands to about half length of the back, and stay here for another 2 minutes.
As a last one, keep one hand in between shoulders, and one at sacrum for also about 2 minutes
Some additional benefits: ultimate relaxation! You will be amazed about calming effects of this practice. During labor it also brings up oxytocin levels, as being connected to your partner, and deepening your relaxation state..