Yoga With a Herniated Disk


—Randy Jellen, Lisle, Illinois

Roger Cole's reply:

First of all, your yoga program should be tailored to your individual needs by an experienced teacher; some postures that are wonderful for one person may bad for another. That said, most of the postures you practice should probably be modified with props—your teacher can show you how to use blankets, blocks, bolsters, straps, and other props to put gentle traction on your spine.

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Here is some general advice for protecting your back after disk injury:

  • While your back pain persists, do not bend forward past 90 degrees with straight knees.
  • Avoid all seated forward bends.
  • Avoid rounding your back.
  • If a pose causes any pain, tingling, or numbness, stop immediately.

Bear these cautions in mind as you practice this list of asanas that many people with disk problems find helpful. They may be practiced in the order presented, but it is not essential. You can start out with just one or two postures, then gradually add more over several days or weeks. You can consult B.K.S. Iyengar's book Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health (London: Dorling Kindersley, 2001) for photos and detailed descriptions of many of the poses.

Editor's Note: Please be aware that by clicking on the links below, you will not find the fully modified versions of the poses described. They are simply to be used as a guideline. To correctly modify the poses for disk problems, be sure to follow the detailed instructions described in this article.

Roger Cole, Ph.D., is a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher and a research scientist specializing in the physiology of relaxation, sleep, and biological rhythms. He trains yoga teachers and students in the anatomy, physiology, and practice of asana and Pranayama. He teaches workshops worldwide. For more information, visit