Yoga Poses for Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis is a condition when a vertebra slips forward over a lower vertebra due to a congenital defect or fracture. It usually affects either the fourth or the fifth lumbar vertebra in the lower back. In some instances, this may lead to spinal cord or nerve root compression, back pain, and numbness or weakness in the legs. The low back pain that results from Spondylolisthesis can be reduced by first by gently stretching the hamstrings and then by slowly strengthening the back muscles and abdominal muscles. You also want to choose postures that focus on good spinal alignment. End with a long shavasana with bolster under knees and/or a folded blanket under the low back to support the low back.

Caution: Back bends are contraindicated and postures that combine twisting and forward bending are not recommended. In forward bends, keep the back flat and long. If a yoga pose causes any pain, tingling, or numbness, stop immediately. Move into the poses slowly and gently; use long hold times and practice slow deep breathing in the poses. Any movements that increase your symptoms should be avoided.

Click on an image or posture name for detailed instructions, contraindications and modifications. [/ihc-hide-content]

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Comments 6

  1. I have grade 1 spondylolisthesis (spondy), for one year bothering me, and I am looking to reverse it.

    1)Would chair backbend be OK? I would think the lower back is protected.
    2)I do some partial inversions with the inversion table, and it seems to help, presides strengthening my core muscles.
    3)Could you look into modified assanas that reverse the condition? I saw an interesting article/comment on reversing a much higher grade spondy at http://www.yogajournal.com/health/844. If anyone would go to Kabir Baug for treatment, will you enlighten us how some basics is done?

  2. miahsmilton – I’m not sure what exactly you mean by chair backbend, but all backbends are contraindicated with spondylolisthesis. If you have a lot of experience with yoga and are very aware of your body you might be able to very carefully move into a mild backbend, but I would not advise this. Anything that will create length (axial extension) of the spine would be good to do – that is probably what the inversion table is providing you.

  3. I am suffering from spondyolisthses since 1.5 months. I want to recover by yoga. This is grade 1 spondyolytic with sponyolisthesis.plz help me

  4. I ha e mobile grade 2 (40%) spondyolisthesis with x-rays showing greater displacement with forward bends than with backward bending. I have practiced Brigham for 15 years and now, after a long time out, and returning. I write to questions your statement about all back bends being contraindicated… I want to restore and increase internal musculature surrounding the spinal column. If you are careful, wouldn’t both front and back be ok ( and, given my xrays, perhaps backbends safer than forward bending)?

    Thanks.

    PS. My neural surgeon (have not had surgery but have seen a surgeon) told me to stay away from acupuncture yoga and chiropractors (aka quacks), whereas my pain management MD said accupuncture and yoga were fine (I had already gone to an acupuncturist whatever the surgeon said, and this helped pain a lot)

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Lisa, unfortunately we cannot prescribe any medical advice. I would recommend you consult with a physical therapist or a trained yoga therapist for specific recommendations with your current condition.

  5. I am a spondy with 20% slip in my spine. Probably from 2 different accidents, one earlier in life, one in my early 60s. I took up yoga at 50 and in our remote village, after our Iyengar teacher moved away, I was asked to be the teacher! After 17 years of learning to take the class I work on my back daily and do not stint on forward bends or twists. I start the day with gentle back bends in bed. I will never be as advanced in backbends as other asanas but none the less I can put in a careful proficiency for my nearly 70 years. After diagnosis [and not much follow-up assistance] I was not keen to give up teaching my once a week class and was astonished that after every session I felt better after demonstrating and teaching! Yoga is an inner journey but the outer journey of communication through yoga is also a healing process.

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