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  • Baxter Bell, MD

A Chef with an Achy Back!

Recently, a friend of mine who has been an acclaimed chef for many years mentioned that his back often gives him trouble. We talked about the stresses on the body that exist for those who work in the food service industry: long hours on their feet on concrete surfaces, almost always bending forward while standing when prepping and cooking food, cleaning up countertops, washing dishes and cooking tools. And lots of carrying heavy boxes and containers of ingredients in and around the kitchen.

When restaurants where still open, the hours worked where often long and late, so sleep patterns can be off for many in this line of work. With the Pandemic, my friend has shifted to creating meals for delivery from his home kitchen, which has its own unique set of stressors: mass producing food in a smaller space, still having to lug around ingredients and prepared dishes, and now driving and getting in and out of the car to do deliveries! It is no wonder his back is aching! He mentioned that almost everyone he knows who has been working in this field for more than a decade seems to have issues with back pain, too.

Our conversation got me curious about the food service industry and back pain. In general, 20% of all work-related injuries involve the back, regardless of profession. And although burns are the number one reported injury in those in food service, it is likely that back injuries are not too far behind. The research to date on yoga for both acute and chronic back pain is very encouraging, so much so that the American College of Physicians in the US in 2017 recommended non-invasive approaches to low back pain as first line choices, and Yoga was listed as a one of those primary approaches!

And my almost 20 years of experience working with my students in my weekly Yoga for Back Health classes has borne out the fact that regular, specialized yoga practices can improve overall physical and mental-emotional function and lower back pain levels in those with chronic low back pain.

After our conversation, I just couldn’t help myself from putting together a collection of my home practice videos that our Chef with an Achy Back could do on his own. And I thought I’d share it with all of you today, for even you home chefs who get occasional or regular bouts of back pain. Happier Cooking!

PS: For new back pain that persists more than 6 weeks, I strongly advise you to see your doctor to rule out more serious causes of back pain.


You can do a few of the following practices or the entire practice on a daily or every other day schedule. If any particular pose or mini-vinyasa does not seem right for you, feel free to remove it from your routine.

Pelvic Rock and Roll:

Dynamic Reclined Knee to Chest Pose:

Reclining Vinyasa 1 for Back Care:

Reclining Vinyasa 1&2 for Back Care:

Dynamic Bridge Pose, Arms at Sides:

Thread the Needle, easy version, foot on floor or low block:

Fig Leaf Forward Folding/Intelligent Bending, if your knees permit:

Dynamic Arms Overhead Pose:

Dynamic New Moon Slides:

Thread the Needle Sitting in a Chair:

RESOURCES Want to learn more about research on this topic?

Chapter 8 of Principles and Practices of Yoga in Health Care, edited by Kalsa, et. al., 2016

Multiple archived blog posts on Yoga for Healthy Aging blog site on yoga for back pain


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