Yoga Poses That Are Rough On Your Spine And How To Avoid Injury

Yoga Poses That Are Rough On Your Spine And How To Avoid Injury

For many of us, yoga is a cure for those annoying backaches, that ensures we’re pain and tension-free. However, if you’re new to yoga, it can be very easy to hurt your spine doing these yoga poses if you’re practicing them wrong or maintaining a poor form while holding the pose.

By being aware of where you’re going wrong with your pose, you can make sure your spine goes through minimal damage while making your back fit and healthy and as flexible as possible.

Yoga Poses That Are Rough On Your Spine And How To Avoid Injury

Below is a list of three yoga poses that are the hardest on your spine and how you can correct each pose to ensure you keep your back safe.

1. Forward Folds

Rounding your spine far too much can cause painful muscle strains, a ruptured disc or a torn ligament.


One very common mistake that many yoga newbies make when practicing any forward fold poses, such as seated or standing forward fold, is to arch the spine outwards making it excessively round, and then collapsing in the front of the body. This is probably because we’re naturally tempted to pull ourselves deeper towards our toes, and the easiest way to get a little extra length is to round the spine.

However, rounding your spine far too much can cause painful muscle strains, or in certain extreme cases, a ruptured disc or a torn ligament. Also, when you round your back, you’re actually ruining the intended benefit of the pose for the other areas of your body, such as your hamstrings. When doing this pose, be mindful of maintaining correct spinal alignment by following these steps:

  • Start tilting from your pelvis, not from your spine. Sit up keeping your back straight and have your feet lying straight out in front of you. Your form should be nice and tall through your spine, almost as if you’re trying to get your head to stretch out to the ceiling. Pull the meaty area of your glutes away to find your sit bones, and ground your tailbone firmly down into the floor. The crown of your head should be aligned directly with your tailbone here.
  • From this position, start to bring your chest towards your thighs while keeping your spine straight. Resist the urge to curve your back even a little bit. You should start to feel the tilting of your body coming from your pelvis, while the rest of your torso moves forward like the arm of leve. Your tailbone will start to point backwards and outwards, away from the top of your head as you bring your forehead closer to your thighs.
  • Bring your chest as far down as possible, towards your thighs while keeping your back flat and your spine straight. When you’ve reached a point where you can’t descend further without curving, stop.
  • Keep your chest open and instead of allowing your shoulder blades to fall loose to either side and collapsing your chest inwards, pull your shoulder blades backwards, down the spine. Your collarbone will simultaneously feel as if it’s being pulled forward, towards your toes.

2. Backbends

This kind of pose is most commonly known for causing spinal injuries.

This kind of pose is most commonly known for causing spinal injuries, and is therefore, the hardest to stay safe while practicing. Backbends involve the flexion of the spine such as in poses like Wheel, Bridge, and Cobra.


The flexed curvature of the spine in these poses may result in pinching of the vertebrae or the nerves, muscle spasms, and back twinging or soreness, especially in the lumbar or the lower spine.

To prevent the pain from moving into your backbends, ensure to keep the following in mind:

  • Your movement in backbend poses should start from your pelvis, so move from your sacrum. Don’t draw your tailbone back; you want any motion in a backbend to start with pushing the center bit of your pelvis forward.
  • To ensure that we’re not sending our pelvis out without proper support from our core, pull the pelvic floor up to your bellybutton. This helps us engage our core, especially our transverse abdominals, or the two big strips of muscles that run down each side of your abdomen. Move your core forward with your pelvis as you begin your back bend.
  • As you continue to send your pelvis forward, lift through your chest. Even as you feel your spine curve back, continue to send your sternum out and up. This ensures that you’re still putting space between each vertebra as you bend backward, decreasing any likelihood of pinching.

3. Twists

In a seated spinal twist, draw your spine up straight and tall, like you would for a forward fold.

These poses are usually quite gentle and are meant to stretch and relax your spine, but there are several very important pose cues to keep in mind to get the most out of any spinal twist.

  • Keep the spine straight throughout the duration of the twist. Because these poses can be relaxing, it can be tempting to curve the spine. However, it’s important that we keep the spine straight to avoid injury and to make sure you’re really squeezing the spine in the beneficial way we’re aiming for. In a seated spinal twist, draw your spine up straight and tall, like you would for a forward fold. Keeping that straightness in the spine, twist to the side.
  • Keep the shoulders back and down, away from the ears: this is a good indicator that your back is staying straight—it’s also helpful to use a mirror to check if the crown of your head is still right above the tailbone.
    In poses that involve both forward folding and twisting, such as flying chair, the flat, straight spine is the most important part of making these poses safe.
  • It can also be beneficial to check in with your hips: make sure your pelvis is balanced. This means that both hipbones are in the same plane and neither is coming in front of or above the other. This sets our spine up for equilibrium in any twist or forward fold, and reduces risk of pulling or tweaking any muscles or ligaments.

Bonus: Be aware of your neck.

In any yoga pose, we may want to look and see what we’re doing in the mirror, what the instructor is doing, or what the rest of the class is doing. This is a major cause of tension in the neck.


If we look up, or in any way take our head out of alignment with the rest of our spine, we risk putting undue stress on our cervical vertebrae, or those in our neck. Especially in backbends, it can be tempting to take the gaze to the ceiling in an attempt to deepen the bend, but there’s nothing beneficial about this habit—the best way to keep your neck safe in these poses is to keep the head in line with the rest of the spine at all times.