Skip to main content

Adjusting your Iyengar class practice for back pain

A more classical sequence adjusted for back pain.

Contents

Introduction

Here’s a sequence focusing on standing poses and some inversions with the aim of relieving back pain. The class is intended to show a range of poses that can be used during practice or class to help take some pressure off the muscles in the back whilst getting the benefit of a longer sequence.

​​We start off using some block supports in our starting poses: Uttanasana with concave back, hands placed on upright blocks, Adho Mukha Svanasana with a block placed high up between the upper thighs and Virasana forward with a block supporting the torso from navel to sternum.

This is followed by Adho Mukha Vrksasana & then half-Uttanasa with palms placed upwards against the wall. Next we come into Pincha Mayurasana using a block & belt for support then release down to Virasana Forward before taking a chair and belt for foot support in Utthita Hasta Padanghustasana 1 and 2.

Now set up for Trikonasana & Parsvakonasana with back foot to the wall and with a block for hand support. Turning then and placing the front foot up the wall for Virabhadrasana 1 with hands to the wall & a block under the back heel for support.

This is followed by Ardha Chandrasana with the back foot to the wall and a block for the front hand before turning our mats to hug the wall and setting up for Parivritta Trikonasana.

The standing poses conclude with Parsvottanasana back foot to the wall & hands supported on blocks and Prasarita Padottasana concave spine with a block under each hand.

We move into Sirsana (headstand) with back to the wall & a block between the thighs to help extend evenly up through the legs. After returning to the floor, we set up for supported Halasana with the front of the thighs resting on a bolster on the chair.

We conclude the sequence with simple cross leg resting the forehead to the chair and we finish with Savasana with the calves placed on the chair seat to fully relax the back muscles.

View sequence

Uttanasana
Standing Forward Bend
Starting in Tadasana, exhale and reach down towards your feet. Let your spine release downwards. You can bend your knees or place your hands on blocks if you lack the necessary flexibility.
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Downward-Facing Dog Pose
Press evenly into your hands and feet. The main aim is to elongate the back of your body and lift your hips up as high off the ground as possible without losing the stable foundation created by your hands and feet. If you lack the hamstring flexibility, bend your knees a little.
Virasana Forward
Downward-Facing Hero Pose
Join your feet together under your buttocks and keep your knees far enough apart for your ribs to fit in between your legs as you fold forward. You can rest your forehead on the floor or on a block.
Adho Mukha Vrksasana
Handstand
Open your hands into the floor and strengthen your arms as you lift your body up, one leg at a time, into an inverted balance. Use the wall for support if necessary. If pushing yourself up proves to be too difficult, you can walk your feet up the wall.
Uttanasana
Standing Forward Bend
Starting in Tadasana, exhale and reach down towards your feet. Let your spine release downwards. You can bend your knees or place your hands on blocks if you lack the necessary flexibility.
Half Uttanasana
Half Forward Bend
Stand in front of a wall. Keeping your back and legs straight, tip from your pelvis until your chest is parallel to the ground. Push your hands into the wall and stretch your hips backwards.
Pincha Mayurasana
Feathered Peacock Pose
Spread your weight evenly across your forearms, activate your shoulders, and lengthen your spine as you lift yourself into this inverted balance. Use wall support if needed. You can also wrap a belt around your arms to keep them steady.
Virasana Forward
Downward-Facing Hero Pose
Join your feet together under your buttocks and keep your knees far enough apart for your ribs to fit in between your legs as you fold forward. You can rest your forehead on the floor or on a block.
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana Both Hands To Foot
Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose with Both Hands to Foot
Stand up in Tadasana. Grab one foot with both arms and stretch it right in front of you. Work on keeping your back straight. Incorporate a bend in your knee or use a belt if necessary.
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1
Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose 1
Grab your foot by the toe and straighten your leg, maintaining your Tadasana line. Lengthen through the crown of your head and keep your body from tipping over. Use wall support if you lack the balance. You can also use a belt if you lack hamstring flexibility.
Utthita Trikonasana
Extended Triangle Pose
Keep the toes and kneecap of your left leg pointed forward and, keeping your spine straight and long, stretch over your leg. Place your left hand on your ankle or on a block next to your foot. Look up towards your extended right arm.
Utthita Parsvakonasana
Extended Side Angle Pose
Bend your front leg and place your hand by of your foot as you stretch your other arm up and over your head. Pull your waist away from the floor, keep your back straight. Place a block under your hand if necessary.
Virabhadrasana I
Warrior I Pose
Angle your back foot outward slightly and straighten your back leg. Lift from your navel up, bring your arms up, and lengthen through the crown of your head. Make sure your front knee and toes are aligned and pointing straight forward.
Ardha Chandrasana
Half Moon Pose
Get rooted through your left foot, point your toes and kneecap forward. Then, place your left hand on the floor or a block in front of you as you stretch your other right leg back in line with your straight back. You can use the wall for support if you lack the balance. If possible, lift your right arm up.
Parivritta Trikonasana
Revolved Triangle Pose
Start off with your legs spread out as for Triangle Pose. Then, take your left hand to your right foot and twist.
Parsvottanasana
Pyramid Pose
Place your feet one leg-length apart, your back foot angled out slightly. Keep your legs straight as you start to fold over your front leg, maintaining a concave spine for as far into the bend as possible.
Prasarita Padottanasana (Concave Spine)
Wide Legged Forward Bend with Concave Spine
Spread your weight evenly between your feet and keep your back straight as you tip from your hips, placing your hands on the floor, blocks, or chair seat, depending on your flexibility.
Adjusting your Iyengar class practice for back pain
Hero Pose
Fold your legs under you with your heels on either side of your buttocks. Keep your back straight, avoid sinking forward or back. This pose is to be avoided if you lack mobility in your knee joints due to injuries. Cross your legs instead or assume the Baddha Konasana position.
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Downward-Facing Dog Pose
Press evenly into your hands and feet. The main aim is to elongate the back of your body and lift your hips up as high off the ground as possible without losing the stable foundation created by your hands and feet. If you lack the hamstring flexibility, bend your knees a little.
Virasana Forward
Downward-Facing Hero Pose
Join your feet together under your buttocks and keep your knees far enough apart for your ribs to fit in between your legs as you fold forward. You can rest your forehead on the floor or on a block.
Salamba Sirsasana Wall Support
Headstand 1
Activate your shoulders and upper back muscles as you lift your body up into inverted balance. Use the wall for support if necessary.
Virasana Forward
Downward-Facing Hero Pose
Join your feet together under your buttocks and keep your knees far enough apart for your ribs to fit in between your legs as you fold forward. You can rest your forehead on the floor or on a block.
Halasana
Plough Pose
Use support under your shoulders. Keeping your shoulders open, lift your hips up high above your head, dropping your feet down behind you. Place your hands on your back to help keep it from rounding.
Simple Cross Legs Forward
Sit with your legs crossed. Keep your sit-bones pointing down as you stretch your arms forward to capacity, lengthening your spine.
Savasana
Corpse Pose
Lie down on the floor. Spread your arms and legs slightly at your side. Relax and concentrate on your breath.