Is Yoga Bad For Your Back? 7 Poses To Avoid When You're Feeling Super Sore

When it comes to muscle aches, while gentle yoga and stretching are often part of the doctor's orders, I've definitely found that certain types of poses exacerbate my pain rather than relieve it. While yoga is generally my exercise of choice, I've wondered whether yoga is bad for your back when you're really aching and feeling super sore. Is yoga something you should avoid altogether when you're dealing with back pain?

As with so many things, it really depends on the circumstance. When your back (or any part of your body) is in pain, it's always best to start out by letting your body be your guide as to what you can and can't do. If your back is crying out for rest, then rest, dammit! There's no need to push yourself, especially when you're just not feeling it. Knowing when to go easy on yourself is just as important in your workout routine as pushing and challenging yourself on your best days.

If you do manage to find yourself at a yoga class while you're nursing sore shoulders or some serious tension in your lower back, keep in mind that there are definitely some poses and movements you'll want to avoid to make sure you're keeping your muscles safe. Here are a few you should hold off on until you're feeling better.

1Boat Pose

VENTUNO YOGA on YouTube

This can be a pretty intense pose for your core, but if you're experiencing lower back pain (and you're still working on engaging and strengthening that core without relying on other muscle groups, like your back), boat pose might be a good one to avoid for now.

Instead of boat pose, try simply sitting cross-legged and doing some simple side stretches or spinal twists to relieve the tension in your back.

2Fish Pose

Howcast on YouTube

This one necessitates a lot of flexibility and strength along the spine, as you can see, and there isn't a lot of extra support for the lower or mid-back here. Furthermore, you're pretty much relying entirely on your back to support the weight of your head.

Instead, maybe try a forward spinal flexion, or simply laying on your back with your knees bent.

3Handstand

Yoga avec Mayon on YouTube

Does this kind of go without saying? Maybe. But if you love inverting your bod and getting into a handstand, you'll want to sit this one out if you're having some back pain, even if you're doing it up against a wall. The whole back needs to be in good working order for a proper handstand, both to get yourself into the pose, and to have the flexibility and strength along the spine to keep you up there!

What about a restorative child's pose instead, or perhaps some deep breaths in downward dog? Give your spine the break it needs, girl.

4Bow Pose

KinoYoga on YouTube

While this is a great pose to stretch and strengthen your back, it can be quite intense on the body. So if your back muscles are feeling vulnerable, try sticking to just lying on your belly and turning your neck side to side for a nice stretch along your upper body.

If your back is cool with it, slowly lift up into a nice, restorative cobra pose.

5Lunge Twists

expertvillage on YouTube

If you're going to do twists with back pain, it's best to do them supported on the ground. Adding a lunge can make your back a bit more vulnerable, and it also makes pulling or exacerbating those already aching muscles a lot easier.

Try a twist on your knees instead if that feels OK, or just face forward on both knees and alternate lifting each arm over your head for a supported stretch.

Remember, no matter what poses you're doing, always let your own pain or tenderness be your guide, and ask your teacher (or research online if you're practicing at home) how to best take care of your back to avoid injuries in the first place.

6Camel Pose

Yoga With Adriene on YouTube

This is another pose that asks a lot of the lower back, as it requires a pretty decent amount of stretching and strengthening, especially since it's offsetting the weight of that big, heavy brain of yours.

How about trying a gentle round of cat-cow instead?

7Full Wheel

Howdini on YouTube

OK, so this one can be a really intense pose even when you don't have any back pain, especially since it's one where misalignment can happen really easily (for example, if you splay your knees out or keep your feet too far from your body, both of which can possibly strain your lower back).

Try flowing into a supported bridge (using a block for assistance) as an alternative.

Oh yeah, and when you're done with your practice, maybe you can treat yourself to a nice back massage. You definitely deserve it.