A yoga instructor shares a 12-minute beginner-friendly workout that also reduces back pain

 Woman performing quad stretch on yoga mat in light and bright studio wearing activewear shorts and crop top.
Woman performing quad stretch on yoga mat in light and bright studio wearing activewear shorts and crop top.

Try a yoga for lower back pain routine that’s suitable for beginners. The short workout, exclusively curated by Patrick Franco from YogaRenew, only takes 12 minutes and can be done anywhere, anytime.

You’ll just need one of the best yoga mats for home workouts and a quiet space that allows you to settle into your practice without distractions. The routine is equipment-free, but we recommend using props like yoga blocks or straps to help support your body, especially if you’re working with an injury.

If this is your first yoga class, we strongly advise following along with the YogaRenew's demonstrations. Clear any illnesses, injuries, or similar with a qualified yoga instructor or physician before starting a new exercise regime, especially if you’re experiencing pain.

Watch YogaRenew's 12-minute yoga for lower back pain routine

There are a few things I wish I had known as a yoga beginner, and one of them is the understanding that using props isn’t a weakness, and it doesn’t make you any less of a yogi. If you have tight hips or hamstrings, place a yoga block underneath your bum as this adjusts the angle of your pelvis and can make sitting on the mat easier.

Franco uses a bolster, popularly used during yin yoga, beneath the legs at the end of the session for the final breathing exercises to create space in the lower back. If you don’t have one, a cushion or pillow works just as well, or you can skip it out and rest your legs on the mat instead; I sometimes adopt Supta Baddha Konasana (reclined bound angle pose) at the end of class to help open my groin and hips.

Tight hips, hamstrings and glutes are all contributing factors toward lower back pain, so stretching these muscle groups regularly can also help protect you from potential injury and pain.

The Southern California Hip Institute says “dysfunctional” hip flexor muscles can be down to prolonged sitting, faulty mechanics, or poor posture; this routine targets the hips, but we’ve included other yoga routines below to help you build a well-rounded program for your lower body.

The session has been curated with lower back pain in mind, and Franco adds that “spinal twisting is just great to keep the spine healthy and rejuvenated.” There are some gentle twists throughout the session, so if you know twisting is off the table for you, don’t force your body into any postures that cause you pain.

Woman performing chair pose with arms raised in a half squat position on yoga mat in studio
Woman performing chair pose with arms raised in a half squat position on yoga mat in studio

The session takes you through flexion and extension of the spine, moving you gently through soft back bends and some of the postures you’d expect during a typical yoga class, including downward dog and cat-cow.

The goal is to improve posture, reduce pain and boost flexibility. It’s not designed as a fast-paced vinyasa or more challenging yoga style like Ashtanga, so we advise managing your expectations around intensity; instead, you’ll spend just over 10 minutes stretching, mobilizing the spine and moving from posture to posture with controlled breathing.

Focusing on your breath can feel alien if you’re new to yoga,  so we recommend adding this five-minute breathing exercise at the start of the session, just before you hit play. It’ll help you deepen your inhale and exhale, center your mind and calm your nervous system, especially if you’re heading into the session straight from work or a busy day.

Some postures, like bridge pose and cobra, are used in physical therapy. But what works for some might not work for others, so we advise checking in with your body throughout the session and stopping if you experience sharp, persistent pain.

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