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Is Pilates Good for Low Back Pain? Our Thoughts & Top 5 Exercises

Low Back Pain Yoga

There’s two ways to answer this question actually.

The short answer is: yes, in general it is.

However, the long answer is: it’s very personal. Pilates helps building awareness of the position of the spine and it focuses on strengthening all the muscles around it. For this reason, it might feel a bit uncomfortable if you start with the exercises, but hey, that’s with everything that you’re not used to doing, right? You’re just getting to know your own body a bit better and making it stronger from inside outwards. Pilates is designed to build a strong core, and with that, a strong body. It doesn’t only target sixpack muscles, but focuses specifically on the deep core muscles: the ones that keep you upright and moving all day basically. Whether you get rid of low back pain depends on the cause of the sensitivity or pain that you feel. For this, reason, we always advise to first see a physician or physical therapist if you have been suffering from low back pain for a while. Just to be sure that there is no underlying cause that you wouldn’t want to ignore, and to receive clearance for exercising. It can also be handy to get personal recommendations for certain movements and exercises that you shouldn’t do, as this too can be very personal.

Looking for exercises to strengthen your deep core muscles? Here are the 5 best Pilates exercises

  1. Cat & Cow

Cat and Cow

Cat and Cow

  1. Come on All Fours: hands underneath shoulders, slight bend in the elbows, knees underneath your hips
  2. If your knees hurt, bring a blanket underneath, or fold your mat inwards
  3. Activate your core by pulling the navel to your spine, and sending the tailbone back
  4. Check if your core is active by placing a hand on your belly
  5. Start to link your breath to your movement by arching and rounding your spine
  6. You’ll notice quite quickly which part of your breath fits which movement best
  7. Do this for at least 10 rounds of breath.Try to make the movement in your spine bigger with each breath, and play with the sensation of pulling the abdominal muscles in as tightly as you can

2. Bird Dog

Bird Dog

  • Start in All Fours
  • Activate your core, pull the navel in – really practice this activation, and check regularly whether you feel the core muscles really work. This is the basis of Pilates
  • Stretch one of your legs back and up, try to go for hip height so your hips stay leveled
  • Found balance? Stretch the opposite arm forward
  • Pull your navel up and in, and double-check whether your abdominal muscles are active
  • Hold this position for 5-15 second, depending on your level, and the time available. Wait to switch if you feel that you haven’t reached that point of balance yet
  • Switch sides
  • Repeat this 2-4 times

3. Leg Slides

Leg Slides

  • Laying on your back, bend your knees and walk your feet a bit in so you can put your feet fully down
  • Feel the natural shape of your back, and specifically notice your low back: you will notice a slight curve in the low back. This is what we call a neutral position. You want to keep this shape in your low back, not arching it more, and neither pushing it flat down
  • Draw your navel up and in, activate your core
  • Keep your hips leveled and your arms aside your hips. If you feel that your hips start to shift, place your hands on your hips to balance them out
  • Start to slide one leg out, and then slide it back – linking the movement to your breath

4. Dead Bugs

Dead Bug

  • Lower your whole back down, focus again on a neutral position of your spine
  • Bend your knees and bring them straight over top of your hips into a table top position. Reach your arms up, so the arms are straight over top of your shoulders
  • Breathe deeply in and pull your core muscles inwards
  • As you exhale reach your left leg forward, and your right arm overhead
  • Inhale, back to center
  • Switch sides
  • Repeat 10 times, 5 times on each side

5. Bridges

Bridge Pose Yoga

  • Bring your whole back down
  • Bend your knees, place the soles of the feet into the mat, hip distance apart, and find a neutral spine
  • Inhale first, activate your core
  • Exhale, push into your feet and lift your hips
  • Try to keep your spine straight, bringing the knees forward, activating in the glutes and the legs
  • Make sure the hips stay leveled and the tailbone is tucked underneath
  • Hold at the top for a moment
  • And inhale, come back down
  • Repeat 10 times, focusing on slow, precise movements. Bring a yoga block or a book in between your knees – try to keep the distance hip width – and squeeze this while you move to make sure that your glutes and thighs are well contracted.


Good luck with the exercises and I’d love to know how it feels!

Every experiencing a stiff upper back or neck? Try these stretches

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