6 Yoga Poses That Strengthen Your Spine

By Brittany Risher |

Move through everyday activities with confidence—and without pain—using this simple sequence.

Tip: You can adjust the speed or quality of the video by selecting the Settings (gear) icon in the bottom-right corner of the video.

Our spines are remarkable structures, designed to be strong and help us go about our days with confidence. However, if you experience back pain, you may think your spine is weak and that you need to limit movement. As counterintuitive as this may sound, inactivity will only make things worse. Stay active, and you’ll help alleviate and prevent pain in the long run.

“By strengthening and freeing up the postural and core muscles that surround your spine, we can allow it to do its job more effectively and support our movement in daily activities,” explains Terecita “Ti” Blair, the 2017 SilverSneakers Instructor of the Year.

Her recommendation: Perform yoga poses that mimic everyday movements, such as those in the video above and listed below.

For best results, weave these poses into your daily routine. You can do all six back to back, or perform them separately as needed to counteract daily postions. For example, if you’ve been looking down at your phone for a while, the spinal extension can help open up the front of your body.

Ready to get started? Here’s your step-by-step guide. As always, safety is key. The yoga poses here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition (including osteoporosis), balance issues, or injuries, talk to your doctor about safe exercise. And if you’re a beginner, be sure to check out the tips to make each move easier.

Pose #1: Spinal Extension

This pose is similar to reaching for something overhead. It opens your chest and the front of your body, creating more space for breathing.

How to do it: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and hands on your hips. Draw your elbows behind you. Inhale, lifting your chest, and stretching the front of your body. Exhale back to the starting position. Repeat three to five times, or hold the stretch for three to five breaths.

Make it easier: Do this seated, grasping the seat or arms of a chair.

Make it harder: Extend your arms behind you and clasp your hands behind your back for a deeper stretch.

Pose #2: Spinal Flexion

This movement is similar to bending forward to blow on hot soup or blow out birthday candles. It opens the upper, middle, and lower back. It’s beneficial to perform for short periods of time, but if you deal with back pain, try to avoid exercises that require sustained forward flexion, such as cycling.

How to do it: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and hands on your hips. Draw your elbows behind you. Inhale, lifting your chest. As you exhale, round your back, drawing your navel in toward your spine, tilting your pelvis, and scooping out the front of your body.

Inhale back to the starting position. Repeat three to five times, or hold the stretch for three to five breaths. You can also alternate: spinal extension on your inhale and spinal flexion on your exhale.

Make it easier: Do this seated, or place your hands on the tops of your thighs for more support.

Make it harder: Extend your arms in front of you and grab one wrist with the opposite hand for a deeper stretch.

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Pose #3: Lateral Bend Right

This movement is as simple as bending to one side to scratch your knee. It lengthens your side body and waist.

How to do it: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and hands on your hips. Inhale as you lift your left arm to the sky, reaching as tall as you can. On your exhale, gently lean toward the right as far as comfortable. Repeat three to five times, or hold the stretch for three to five breaths.

Make it easier: Do this seated, keeping your hips, knees, and toes facing forward.

Make it harder: Lift both arms up, grasp your left wrist with your right hand, and then lean.

Pose #4: Lateral Bend Left

Now repeat the pose on your opposite side. Lateral movement exercises help with real-life activities like reaching for an object on a shelf.

How to do it: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and hands on your hips. Inhale as you lift your right arm to the sky, reaching as tall as you can. On your exhale, gently lean toward the left as far as comfortable. Repeat three to five times, or hold the stretch for three to five breaths.

Make it easier: Do this seated, keeping your hips, knees, and toes facing forward.

Make it harder: Lift both arms up, grasp your right wrist with your left hand, and then lean.

Pose #5: Spinal Rotation

Twisting from one side to the other translates into everyday movements like looking over your shoulder to back out of a parking space.

How to do it: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and hands on your hips. Inhale as you lengthen the crown of your head up toward the sky. Keeping your hips facing forward, exhale and twist to the left from your belly button to your head.

Inhale back to center and repeat, this time twisting to the right. Continue alternating sides for three to five breaths per side.

Make it easier: While sitting or standing, gently cross your arms over your chest and then twist.

Make it harder: Lift your arms overhead, and then bend your elbows 90 degrees to bring your arms out to your sides like a cactus. Maintain this position as you twist.

Pose #6: Add Them Together

Since movements in life don’t typically happen in isolation, this exercise combines the previous five poses. It challenges your coordination while also offering all the benefits listed above. Focus on moving gently and with control.

How to do it: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and hands on your hips. Keeping your hips, knees, and toes facing forward and your lower body stable, roll your spine through its range of motion, like stirring a pot.

You’ll move through spinal extension, lateral bend left, spinal flexion, and lateral bend right two times. Finally, twist to each side. Return to center, and repeat in the opposite direction. Do this three to five times in each direction. It’s a good idea to watch the video above for a demonstration of this movement.

Make it easier: Do this seated.

Make it harder: Free up your arms, and try reaching, grasping, and moving them in whatever way feels comfortable to you.

Want to Do Yoga with Us?

SilverSneakers offers free access to gyms and fitness classes—including SilverSneakers Yoga and yoga classes through SilverSneakers FLEX. Check your eligibility or find a location here.

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