Some of the best yoga poses for lower back pain include Child’s pose, Cat/Cow, Downward Facing Dog, and Standing Forward Bend, as SELF previously reported.
2. Builds body awareness
When you ground your body to hold all the poses, you recruit a bunch of both big and small muscles. Yoga also focuses on proper form—you need to activate the right muscles—which creates a better understanding of how your muscles, joints, and tissues work together. This can help ensure you move safely, Courtney says.
“Yoga is an alignment-based practice. We learn to stack and align joints to most efficiently utilize our muscles and release active energy,” Dr. Yang says. “More importantly, it builds awareness in our bodies so that we can participate in our lives with more physical freedom and less discomfort.”
For example, when you’re doing Tree pose, which involves balancing on one leg, you’re actively firing your inner thighs, quads, and core to help you stand upright and avoid falling over. This also makes you more aware of the placement of your ankle, hips, and shoulder joints, and how they are supported by tendons and tissues to help you maintain alignment and balance.
3. Fights fatigue
When you move—like by doing some yoga stretches during the day—your heart pumps more oxygen-rich blood to the muscles and organs in your body. This can help reduce fatigue and tiredness, according to the International Sports Science Association.
According to a small August 2017 study in the Journal of Science in Medicine in Sports, practicing Bikram yoga is linked to better energy and stress levels. When sedentary and chronically stressed adults followed a 16-week Bikram yoga program, they reported improved perceived stress, energy, and fatigue levels and better overall health-related quality of life. Researchers also found similar fatigue-fighting benefits to hatha yoga.
Inversion poses—where your heart is at a higher level than your head—may be particularly helpful at increasing energy, says Courtney. These include poses like Forward Fold and Downward Facing Dog.
4. Promotes balance
Balancing yoga poses, such as Warrior III, Chair, Eagle, Tree, and Crow, help challenge your stability, since removing a base of support (say, by standing on one leg) requires you to activate certain stabilizing muscles. This helps improve your balance, which is particularly important as you get older.
As people age, they tend to lose mobility due to inactivity, arthritis, and other age-related diseases. But research shows that doing some yoga-based exercises is associated with better balance and mobility in adults over the age of 60.
Better balance can mean a reduction in injury risk and an improvement in athletic performance, says Dr. Yang. That’s because when you have better balance, you have better awareness to fire up the right muscles to help you maintain stability. Think of doing a single-leg deadlift: If you’re able to fire up the correct muscles—your core, lats, and the glutes on your working leg—you’ll be able to complete the move more efficiently, helping you build strength .
5. Eases you into regular exercise
If you’re new to exercise—or are easing back into a workout routine after a break—vigorous exercise may not seem to be the most appealing. That’s why many people looking to get started exercising turn to yoga: It’s a low-impact workout that’s easy on the joints, is accessible for most fitness levels, and requires no special equipment.