How to strengthen your back with yoga

Is your back weak? I would guess that most of us have weak back muscles. As an anatomy and physiology geek, I immediately think about how weak muscles make us more susceptible to back pain and injury. Beyond that, strengthening your back mindfully through the practice of yoga can transform your life.

With a better posture and less discomfort, you may feel more confident. You may feel more energetic and satisfied with a strong back.

Basic Anatomy

Poor posture can cause weak back muscles, especially the erector spine (muscles along the spine that keep us upright), the trapezius (“traps,” the upper back and shoulders muscles), and the latissimus (aka “lats”)

You stretch your back muscles whenever you bend your spine forward. Cat/Cow is an example. When you engage your back muscles when you turn on (aka spinal extension), you are doing an active backbend. You can feel this in the cat/cow position. You can strengthen your back with these yoga poses.

Back Strengthening Yoga

In a low cobra pose, lower your body. Try to lift your hands just a few millimeters above the floor using only your back muscles. Be careful not to shrug your shoulders upwards toward your ears. You will feel it most in the mid and upper-back. Rest for a few minutes.

The next pose will strengthen your lower and middle back, especially the SI joint (sacroiliac joint), which is the place where the pelvis meets the base of the spine. Next, return to cobra pose, but this time, keep your hands pressed into the floor. Lift your legs as high as you feel comfortable. Even a few millimeters can be very beneficial.

Now inhale to spread the legs wider than hip-distance. Inhale and bring your feet together. Repeat the opening and closing 5 to 8 times. Between each set, take 5-10 deep breaths. Do three sets.

As a counter-pose, assume a child’s pose and breathe deeply.


Safety is paramount. Only one body, one back. You want to feel your back muscles working and stimulated by all these poses. Stop or slow down if there is any sharpness or pinching in your back. Pain is subjective, of course.

Your body is the leading expert in the world. I think that we all know our limits if we only listen to our bodies.

You can always ask your doctor and a trained yoga specialist, such as a yoga therapist, for advice if you’re not sure what you should do. It is more important to consider how a posture feels physically, emotionally, and even spiritually.

It is important to remember that the study of asana does not involve mastering posture. It’s about understanding and transforming yourself through posture. -Iyengar

Go forth and strengthen your back safely with yoga. A strong back will help you to handle life’s challenges with greater ease and resilience.

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