Yoga for low back pain during pregnancy

I’m so excited to report that I have TWO family members who are pregnant right now – my sister Heidi (with her second son), and my brother’s wife Sarah (with her first, also a son)! Two nephews will be arriving sometime in April. As another April baby, can I say: best birthday present ever! I am trying to get them both to have the boys on my birthday, wouldn’t that be awesome! Haha.

Anyway, I hear that pregnancy can be pretty miserable, and Heidi and Sarah have both asked me how to relieve some of their low back pain during pregnancy. I put together a list of my favorite stretches, sequences, and strengthening exercises for Heidi and Sarah and thought, why not post it here?

Oh, by the way, not only pregnant ladies get back pain. So if your lower back hurts, try some of these exercises. They work for everyone!

Modifications for pregnancy

At around 36 weeks, pregnant women are advised to stop doing inversions. The baby is moving into the birth position at this time, so you don’t want to do any poses that may alter his or her position in a negative way. During your third trimester, you should stop doing inversions like legs up the wall or downward facing dog. To be safe, after your second semester, don’t perform any pose where you are lying on your back for an extended period of time.

In addition, don’t do any pose that becomes uncomfortable. Let me finish up by saying that I am not a doctor, nor have I ever been pregnant. Although I believe all these poses to be safe for pregnant women in small doses, to be safe, please check with your doctor before performing any of these exercises.

How to get started

Just pick one of the exercises listed below, do it for five minutes, and see how you feel. Pick another and do for another five minutes! I have found that even 5 minutes, three times a day will make a HUGE difference with low back pain.

Set the mood! Relax, breathe, close your eyes, dim the lights! Really try to take a few minutes to be in your body while you do these exercises.

Yoga for low back pain during pregnancy

Legs up the wall

legs up the wall
Image: Yoga with Nadine

Get your butt right on the wall and swing your legs up. You really want your butt touching the wall so you can relax. Let as much of your lower back touch the floor as possible (no arch in your back).

If that doesn’t feel good then put your legs on a chair. Focus on tucking your pelvis so your low back is flat on the floor, take all the arch out of your back.

Downward facing dog at the wall

Wall dog modifications for downward facing dog
Left: start here. Right: eventually draw the hips back and bring the head and torso parallel to the ground.

Start standing about 3 or 4 feet from a wall, facing the wall. Place your hands on the wall, arms straight out from your shoulders with your index fingers pointing straight up at 12 o’clock. Press through the base of the index finger and the thumb. Stand with your feet hip width apart or wider, nearly the width of your mat. Draw the hips back and start to lower the head and torso.

Maintain the natural curves in your spine (don’t try to “flatten out” your back and don’t let your lower back become rounded) and keep your legs straight. If this doesn’t feel possible, then move closer to the wall and move your hands up the wall so your arms straighten.

If you feel a stretch here, then this is a good place to start. Gently draw your lower belly in and up, and practice deep, full breaths for 2-3 minutes in this position. If you don’t feel a stretch, step further back from the wall and move your hands lower. While you are in this position, wiggle your hips back and forth, try some gentle twists, move around and see what feels good.

Childs pose

Image of me in child's pose and puppy pose

This is a great way to open up a crunched up low back.

  • Left: rest in child’s pose with wide knees and big toes touching. Wider knees make space for your belly. Draw your hips toward your heels. They don’t have to touch the heels, just work toward that direction to open up the lower back.
  • Right: puppy pose has a more open angle of the knee, easier for those with tender knees. Knees are directly under the hips, feet and lower legs go straight back from the knees.

If your head doesn’t easily reach the mat, put a block under your forehead, rest your head on your hands, or stack your fists and rest your forehead there. Basically, bring the mat closer to you!

Some video exercises to help

Six stretches for hip mobility

Tight hips are often the source of low back pain. Follow along to this video with one of my teachers, Lisa Meer, to open your hips and relieve your back.

How do you relieve low back pain?

Do you have a stretch that works for you that I didn’t list here? Any other tips on relieving low back pain during pregnancy? Post them in the comments!

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I'm Amber and this is my blog about yoga, body acceptance, and making friends with yourself in the process! Like what you're reading? Subscribe via RSS or receive posts by email. Want to be the first to know when I do something awesome like teach a class or publish an eBook? Then the email newsletter is for you. Or, just follow me on Twitter.

7 thoughts on “Yoga for low back pain during pregnancy”

  1. First up, congratulations on becoming a twice up Aunty! All the fun, with none of the work. I am a fan of being an aunty.

    Second, thank you SO MUCH for including me in this group of awesome peeps. Illustrious company indeed. Mwah.

  2. All great for low back pain! When I was pregnant with my daughter, I found cat/cow to be really great (also during labor)- and squatting was also pretty beneficial when I was pregnant (and also now for low back pain)

  3. Thank you for this post! I have chronic back pain and have recently begun yoga and meditation to try to help it. I’m definitely going to try these. I just finished a gentle morning practice and finished with ten minutes of legs up the wall. I noticed after a few that my lower back was irritated from trying to keep it flat on the floor. I’m thinking maybe of a rolled up towel under that part? Would you agree?
    thanks again. Love your blog!

  4. Hola! I’ve been following your site for some
    time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out
    from Houston Tx! Just wanted to tell you keep up the good job!

  5. I just wanted to say thank you. I am 20 weeks along with my second child. At 32 my body isn’t as in as good of condition as when my first was born almost 12 years ago. I work as a dispatcher and sit for 12 hours a night. It really takes a toll on the back. I just tried the Legs Up the Wall position after having a lot of lower back pain all night. It has REALLY helped. I will keep doing it and try some of the others as well. I also have shared a link to this site to my facebook friends who are also expecting. Thanks again.

  6. Thank you so much for posting this info! Am 5 1/2 months pregnant and have had very bad back pain for the last several days and these have already started to help. Especially the hip stretches.

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