Can Yoga help with your Back Pain?

Grandchildren massaging their grandparents with their feet gives more than a hint A it can

Have you accepted that persistent dull ache at the small of your back yet? Or could it be that you’ve found the perfect pain killers to keep the pain at bay? A good number of adults, more women than men, suffer from lower back pain.

According to the American Chiropractic Association (2020), back pain is the number one cause of disability worldwide and prevents people from not only working but from doing everyday simple activities.

While there can be a ton of causes of lower back pain, a weak core and poor posture from sitting all day (consequently shortening the hip muscles that then pull on the lower back) are two really common contributing factors to lower backache and discomfort. You just have to work in an office to know how prevalent back pain is. It is everywhere!

As I write this, I am reminded of my childhood in Lobatse where my late grandmother and other older women in the neighbourhood would often ask us to give them ashiatsu (back massage using feet) or nkgata ngwanaka in Setswana. It was very therapeutic for both the ‘therapist’ and the receiver of the massage, in my experience. More often than not, the older woman would fall into asleep in the process. If you were really good, you would be compensated for your efforts and get recommended around the neighbourhood.

In modern times, and with the COVID-19 pandemic escalating, it may not be a good idea to have a child give you a back massage using their feet. The good news is that you can DIY through the practice of yoga, that gentle practice that is ideal for maintaining strength and flexibility.

How Does Yoga Help?

Yoga can be especially helpful to muscles that support the back and spine. These are the paraspinal muscles that help you bend, the multifidus muscles that stabilise your vertebrae, and the transverse abdominis, which also helps stabilise your spine. But the benefits of yoga go beyond muscles. The slow movements and the continuous focus on proper breathing can improve the emotional aspect of back pain by helping to lower stress and alleviate anxiety and depression.

A three-year British study involving 313 participants and multiple instructors delivered a programme to people with chronic back pain. With the exception of general health, the yoga participants fared much better than the control group in all areas, i.e. pain and pain self-efficacy.

Every time I teach yoga, I am transported back in time. Those groans when you hit the right knot remind me of those carefree days when I used to give my grandmother ashiatsu. Bliss!

Yoga is an ancient practice with very many health benefits. There are tons of free videos on YouTube to get you started. Please visit to learn more.