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Should You Do Yoga with Hernia? Poses to Try & Avoid

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a woman is sitting in easy pose with areas of Hiatal, Inguinal and Umbilical hernia highlighted_yoga with hernia
Elyce Neuhauser post Reviewer Elyce Neuhauser post Reviewer
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Yoga Expert, E-RYT 500, Certified Meditation Coach
David O'Connell post Reviewer David O'Connell post Reviewer
Verified by David O'Connell
Certified Active Isolated Stretching Therapist, Licensed Orthopedic Massage Therapist, Corrective Exercise Specialist

Table of Contents

While yoga cannot cure a hernia, it can help prevent it or reduce hernia symptoms in combination with medical care. Gentle yoga can help your hernia by alleviating symptoms, diminishing pain, and reducing recurrence. If you are suffering, there are postures to stretch and strengthen your abdominal muscles, so get on your mat to reduce discomfort and facilitate your recovery. 

Consult your healthcare provider before beginning to practice yoga for your hernia, and read on to know which yoga poses to avoid with a hernia. 

What is a Hernia?

A hernia occurs from a weakness or rupture of the abdominal wall, which causes an internal organ to bulge through that weak spot. 

Inherent tissue weakness may be the root cause of a hernia, yet often, repeatedly strained muscles bring on this condition. 

This strain may be from obesity, pregnancy, or physical exertion like lifting heavy weights or chronic coughing. The most common types of hernias are:

  • Hiatal – part of the stomach presses into the chest cavity through an opening in the diaphragm (the large breathing muscle separating the abdomen and the chest). Symptoms include heartburn, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
  • Inguinal – the intestine pushes through a weak area in the groin muscles. There may be an uncomfortable bulge around the pubic bone that feels achy and heavy, with sensations like burning or pressure. 
  • Umbilical – part of the intestine presses through a weakness in the abdominal wall near the belly button. The first symptoms are usually a bulge or discomfort in the navel area. 

Is It Safe to Practice Yoga with A Hernia?

You must wait at least two weeks before starting yoga if you have undergone hernia-repair surgery and longer if you have had other major surgery.

Practicing yoga complements medical care and can aid in reducing symptoms, including pain and pressure. 

Scientific evidence shows that yoga positively affects the physical, mental, and emotional body and can reduce stress. [1] 

Knowing what kind of hernia you have is imperative to inform your regimen. A gentle yoga practice can strengthen the abdominal muscles and reduce hernias. [2] 

Restorative poses can enhance relaxation and aid in deep breathing. While not for everybody, a more dynamic vinyasa practice can help stretch and tone while offering a cardiovascular component for weight loss and heart health. 

Every hernia does not need to be fixed surgically, and every case is different, so always consult your healthcare provider before starting a post-surgical yoga practice. If you develop symptoms like nausea, constipation, redness above the hernia, worsening pain, fever, or any other suspicious symptoms, seek medical help immediately. 

Yoga postures can take pressure off the abdominal wall, strengthen the core muscles, stabilize the spine, improve gut health, and deepen body awareness. Consider adding yin yoga to your movement regime, where you’ll find postures that can be easily modified. Warm up before you practice yoga when you’re diagnosed with a hernia with simple dynamic movements like walking, and add props for your practice as necessary. 

Deep breathing is an excellent yogic tool to strengthen your abdominals and invites ease and relaxation. [3] [4] 

Yoga After Hernia Surgery

Yoga practices after hernia surgery should include simple seated postures, such as Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana) and Hero Pose (Virasana). Consider These meditative postures focus on breathing, which aids in relaxation, always an appropriate companion to good health, wellness, and recovery. 

Yoga for Hiatal Hernia

Hero Pose (Virasana)

a woman is practicing Hero Pose (Virasana)_yoga with hernia

Adapt Hero Pose to suit your comfort level using a yoga block underneath your seat. It will facilitate an anterior pelvis tilt and help avoid collapsing into the lower back. 

How to Practice:

  • Begin on hands and knees.
  • Separate your feet and place a block or firm cushion between your ankles. 
  • Slowly lower your seat to the prop and place your hands on your thighs. Your feet will frame the hips, and your toes will be pointed back.
  • Extend the spine and lift the head as you engage your abdominal muscles.

You may also like: Kneeling Yoga Poses

Seated Staff Pose (Dandasana)

a woman is practicing Seated Staff Pose (Dandasana)_yoga with hernia

Dandasana strengthens the abdominal muscles as well as deeper muscles in the pelvis. It helps improve posture, stabilize the whole body, and helps to prevent straining, which causes many hernias.

How to Practice:

  • Sit on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you, feet flexed, and heels pressing into the floor.
  • If your back or hamstrings are tight, sit on a firm cushion and bend your knees.
  • Lengthen your spine and engage your abdominal muscles as you hold this pose.

Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)

a woman is practicing Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)_yoga with hernia

This posture also provides pain relief for inguinal hernias, [2]  reducing symptoms of fullness and heaviness, especially in the early stages of diagnosis.

How to Practice: 

  • From Dandasana, extend the torso and hug your belly to your spine.
  • Fold forward from the hips, placing your hands on the ground and framing your legs.
  • If your hamstrings or lower back are tight, bend your knees or wrap a strap around the feet’ balls and gently draw yourself forward.
  • Keep your chest lifted and the stomach muscles engaged; don’t be concerned with how far you come down. Don’t strain or force.

Wind Relieving Pose (Apanasana)

a woman is practicing Wind Relieving Pose (Apanasana)_yoga with hernia

This multi-purpose pose reduces abdominal pressure by releasing excess air from the body as it massages the abdominal organs. It’s a great warm-up for any practice and relieves lower back pain.

How to Practice:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • As you exhale, bring one knee into your chest, then the other.
  • Continue to breathe slowly and deeply as you gently keep the knees as close to the chest as possible; relax the shoulders and facial muscles.
  • You may rock side to side to massage the lower back.

Camel Pose (Ustrasana)

women are practicing Camel Pose (Ustrasana)_beginner and advanced variation_yoga with hernia

Practice a modified variation of Ustrasana by keeping your hands on your hips or lower back (instead of your heels) to gently stretch your abdominal muscles, groins, hip flexors, and quadriceps. 

How to Practice

  • Begin kneeling on your mat. 
  • Engage your gluteal muscles (buttocks) without gripping and place your hands on your hips or lower back as you lengthen your spine.
  • Keep the legs engaged, and the chest lifted as you gently press the hips forward. 

Yoga for Inguinal Hernia

Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)

a woman is practicing Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)_yoga with hernia

This seated pose relieves symptoms of abdominal distress, stimulates digestion, and creates more space and flexibility in the hips and groins. 

How to Practice:

  • Start in a comfortable seat on the floor. 
  • Bend the knees and bring the soles of the feet together, allowing the knees to drop open to the sides. 
  • Sit up well, lifting from the crown of the head, with shoulder blades on the back and the collarbones broad.
  • Feel free to rock or circle the torso if you feel stiff or stuck and explore the range of motion.
  • Move your feet closer or away from you to alter the intensity of the stretch.
  • Stay in the pose for 5-10 breaths, then bring the knees together to release the pose. 

Seated Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

a woman is practicing Seated Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)_yoga with hernia

Also known as the Lord of the Fishes pose, this posture enhances digestion and blood flow, strengthening the reproductive and urinary systems. Modified variations are recommended for yoga after hernia surgery, including extending one leg.

How to Practice:

  • Start seated with both legs extended in front of you.
  • Sit up nicely as you establish length in your spine, lifting through the crown of the head. 
  • Bend the right knee and place the right foot on the floor inside the left leg. 
  • Gently turn your torso to the right, placing the right hand on the floor behind you and the left on the outer right knee.
  • Stay in the pose with a long spine for 3-5 breaths before you unwind and switch to the other side.

Leg Lifts (Urdhva Prasarita Padasana)

a woman is doing leg lifts_(Urdhva Prasarita Padasana)_yoga with hernia

Practice the modified version of this abdominal strengthener by alternating one leg at a time. It strengthens the core and lower back while toning the abdominal organs and improving posture.

How to Practice: 

  • Lie on your back with your arms down by your sides.
  • As you exhale, bring your right knee into your chest.  As you inhale, extend the right leg on the diagonal without straining. Stay here and exhale.
  • Engage your abdominal muscles, drawing the navel towards the spine. Inhale slowly as you lower the leg and exhale slowly to lift it to a 60-degree angle. 
  • Repeat 3-5 times with the right leg, following the same pattern with breath and movement.
  • To finish, bend the right knee and place the foot on the floor. Repeat with the left leg.

Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana)

women are practicing shoulder stand with yoga props_Sarvangasana_yoga with hernia

This inverted yoga pose is a modified variation of the Shoulder Stand and a practical option before hernia surgery to release pressure on the abdominal wall. The trunk must remain at an angle of 45 degrees while performing the exercise.

How to Practice: 

  • Lie on your back and bend your knees, standing your feet on the ground, with legs parallel. 
  • Press the feet into the ground and lift your hips without straining.
  • Slide a block underneath you and lower the hips, so the lumbar spine rests on the block. 
  • You may stay here or bring one knee into the chest and the other, lengthening your tailbone onto the block. 
  • Lift one leg up to the ceiling and the other, allowing your pelvis to rest heavily on the block. Breathe smoothly for 3-5 breaths.
  • When you are ready to exit, slowly bend one knee and the other; return your feet to the floor, lift your hips, and remove the block, slowly lowering your spine to the ground. 

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

a woman is practicing Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)_yoga with hernia

Stabilize the hip flexors and stretch the groins with this energetic standing posture.

How to Practice: 

  • With stomach muscles engaged, step out about three feet wide, with the feet parallel to each other.
  • Turn your right foot out 90 degrees, so the heel aligns with the left arch.
  • Bend your right knee, stacking it over the right ankle. Ensure that the knee does not collapse inward.
  • Keep the left leg extended without locking the knee.
  • Reach your arms parallel to the ground, and gaze over your right hand.
  • Keep the stomach muscles engaged and lift through the crown of your head.

Yoga for Umbilical Hernia

Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana)

a woman is practicing Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana)_yoga with hernia

This basic seated pose can be practiced with any hernia and is a great recovery posture. Pair it with a pranayama practice to enhance relaxation. 

How to Practice:

  • Start on hands and knees.
  • Sit back onto your heels and place your hands on your thighs.
  • Extend through the spine and lift the head.
  • Engage the abdominal muscles and breathe smoothly.

Cat Pose and Cow Pose (Marjaryasana and Bitilasana)

a woman is practicing Cat Pose and Cow Pose (Marjaryasana and Bitilasana)_yoga with hernia

These poses stretch and strengthen all the muscles around the spine. Cat and Cow are also great for stress management, as the movement meditatively follows the breath.

How to Practice:

  • Start on hands and knees.
  • As you inhale, extend the spine, lift the head, and broaden the collarbones with the tailbone up.
  • As you exhale, round the spine, bow the head and curl the tailbone under.
  • Allow your movements to follow the breath.

You may also like: 6 Yoga Poses For Shoulder Strength

Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

a woman is practicing Chair Pose (Utkatasana)_yoga with hernia

This posture not only strengthens the legs, hips, and back, but it can stimulate the diaphragm, the muscle that plays a critical role in breathing.

How to Practice: 

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  • Keeping your torso upright and the spine long, bending the knees, creasing from the hips, and moving your seat back like sitting on a high chair. 
  • Engage your abdominal muscles as you put weight back into your heels and reach your arms forward and up.
  • If lifting the arms is too intense, you may keep your hands on your hips.
  • Keep your chest lifted and gaze forward.

Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)

a woman is practicing Legs Up the Wall with a bolster (Viparita Karani)_yoga with hernia

This restorative pose provides deep relaxation and stress relief, a perfect antidote to any ailment, including a hernia. Practice this inverted pose for improved circulation, mental health, and a strengthened immune system.

Use a yoga bolster to make the pose more restorative

How to Practice:

  • Sit with your left side next to a wall, your knees bent, and your feet on the floor.
  • Swivel your hips so your legs go up the wall and your spine rests on the ground.
  • If your hamstrings are tight, slide further away from the wall so that your legs are at an angle rather than straight up the wall.
  • Relax your arms by your sides.

Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)

a woman is practicing Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)_yoga with hernia

This reclined posture helps strengthen your core and keeps your torso flexible. 

How to Practice:

  • Lie on your back and extend your arms to a T.
  • Bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Engage your abdominal muscles and lift the feet, one at a time, bringing your knees over your hips and shins parallel to the floor.
  • Press your arms down and inhale as you lower your knees as far as possible towards the right without straining. Hold the pose for three breaths.
  • Exhale to bring your legs back to the center and repeat on the other side.

Yoga Poses to Avoid with Hernia

As all cases are different, and the location and severity of hernias vary from person to person, it’s best to use caution when exercising or practicing yoga for hernias, and it’s always recommended that you speak to your doctor and follow their specifications. 

Although some hernias are not painful, many can cause discomfort while bending, lifting, or coughing. Simple yoga postures can effectively strengthen the abdominals. Specific movements such as bending from the waist, overstretching the stomach muscles, abdominal crunches, and strenuous postures are not advised. Additionally, avoid these yoga poses that put pressure on the abdominals, such as:

  • Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
  • Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
  • Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
  • Boat Pose (Navasana)
  • Locust Pose (Salabhasana)

Wrapping Up

As we’ve established, you can practice yoga with a hernia if you follow a sequence recommended for the type of hernia you have.

  • Practice gentle yoga poses for hernia care. Even if you are an established practitioner, consider finding modified variations of more advanced postures. 
  • Regularly stretch the abdominal muscles and strengthen them with movements that engage the core muscles. 
  • Restrict lifting heavy weights that can cause overworked muscles.
  • Avoid any posture that causes straining, which will exacerbate a hernia.
  • Shift to a fiber-rich diet and a healthier lifestyle to prevent a hernia. Yoga helps to reduce stress while keeping the body strong and flexible – consider it one of the best pathways to wellness. 
  • Consult your healthcare practitioner and customize your practice using Yoga-Go, a safe and reliable yoga app.
Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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