Better Your Back
The poses listed here are based on suggestions from physicians Loren Fishman and Mary Pullig Schatz and Viniyoga expert Gary Kraftsow. While each pose is generally helpful for the type of back trouble noted, you need to pay close attention to how your body responds when you do it. Back pain varies a lot, so you may need to modify the poses. (If you're new to yoga and need more instruction on pose basics, check out the pose finder.)
Any time you have acute or longstanding pain, see a doctor for a diagnosis before you start yoga. That will help you and your teacher choose the right poses.
Notice how you feel afterward, too: If you frequently find yourself sorer after practice than before, check in with an experienced teacher for some guidance.
To Lengthen the Spine and Reduce Joint Compression
Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I)
Benefits: Stretches and aligns the spine by correcting asymmetry.
Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)
Benefits: Strengthens the hamstrings, inner thighs, and the muscles stabilizing the spine.
For Posture-Related Muscle Soreness
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)
Benefits: Strengthens shoulder and back muscles to hold joints and spine in alignment.
Bharadvajasana I (Bharadvaja's Twist)
Benefits: Best gentle stretch for the spine and hips.
To Extend the Spine and Help Herniated Disks and Pinched Nerves
Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
Benefits: Opens lumbar and thoracic joints and decreases pressure on the spine by stretching the abdomen and front chest.
Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)
Benefits: Lengthens the spine to clear space for the nerves exiting the spinal cord.
To fully stretch the spine
Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)
Benefits: Increases the flexibility of both the lumbar spine and the hamstring muscles.
Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose)
Benefits: Stretches hip joint flexors and increases flexibility in the lower spine.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
Benefits: Strengthens the entire back, increases range of motion, and opens chest.