10 Yoga Stretches That’ll Ease Lower Back Pain And Open Up Tight Hips
If you spend a solid chunk of your time seated these days, chances are you’ve got tight AF hips — and a scrunched-up lower back. Uncomfortable, yes, but also a major hurdle to tackle if you want to hit a new squat personal best or stay injury-free throughout training for your next race.
Though it’s easy to get tight all up in your lower back (one of the many effects of sitting a lot), finding fluidity in your spine helps create better mobility throughout your entire body. The Spark Notes: A happy lower back means a bendier, fitter, happier you.
That’s where this flow of yoga poses comes in. Each stretch or movement below will encourage your spine to unwind (and relax tight hips, which are a huge part of the problem) in an effort to ease lower back pain and help you move more freely.
As you breathe through this sequence, just make sure not to over-stretch. Use your breath to relax your body into the poses, but honour where you are flexibility-wise right now. Swapping one pain point for another (hello, yoga butt!) isn’t part of the workout plan.
Time: 15 minutes
Good for: Lower back and hips
Instructions: Focus on your breath and relax as you move through the following poses and stretches. Hold each position for the prescribed amount of time, and then move on to the next. If you spend hours a day sitting or experience lower-back pain or hip tightness, do this flow daily.
1 Forward Fold
Targets: hamstrings, spine
How to: Start standing with feet together and arms at sides. Hinge at the hips and lower head toward floor and torso to hang in front of thighs (bending at knees if needed). Grab opposite elbows with hands and let upper body relax. Breathe and slowly straighten knees to stretch backs of legs. Hold for one minute.
2 Low Lunge
Targets: hips flexors
How to: Start standing at the top of a mat with feet together and arms at sides. Hinge at the hips and lower torso down to place hands on mat on either side of feet. Bend right knee and step left foot back so that left leg is extended straight and toes are tucked and planted on mat. (Stomach should be resting on right thigh.) Lower left knee to the floor, untuck left toes, and allow hips to sink toward mat. Engage lower abs and glutes to tuck tailbone under. Hold for one minute. Then, repeat on the other side.
Targets: hips, spine, shoulders
How to: Start on hands and knees with elbows and wrists below shoulders, knees below hips, and toes untucked. On the inhale, drop stomach and arch back to lift tailbone and chest towards the ceiling. Look up. On the exhale, pull navel to spine, and tuck chin and pelvis towards navel to round the spine. (Initiate the movement generate from tailbone and allow spine, neck, and head to follow.) Repeat for one minute.
4 Pigeon Pose
How to: Start in low lunge position with right foot forward. Shimmy right foot to the outside left hand and lower right knee to the floor behind right hand so shin rests on the floor, parallel to top of mat. Untuck left toes and extend left leg straight back on the floor. Walk hands back toward right foot and thigh and lift torso straight up. Hold for one minute. Then, repeat on the other side.
5 Sphinx Pose
Targets: chest, shoulders, hips
How to: Lie on stomach with elbows bent, upper arms close to ribs, and hands planted on either side of rib cage. Lift chest an walk hands forward so forearms rest on floor parallel to each other, with elbows beneath shoulders. Press forearms and hands into the floor and tuck tailbone in to engage lower abdominals and support spine. Lengthen from tailbone through crown of head. Hold for one minute.
6 Seated Forward Fold
Targets: hamstrings, spine
How to: Sit on the floor with legs straight so knees are extended but not locked. Sit up tall, reach arms overhead, and inhale. On the exhale, reach arms forward towards feet or ankles. Tuck chin relax neck to allow upper body to round slightly and chest to drop toward thighs. Breathe deeply but gently. Hold for one minute.
7 Seated Spinal Twist
Targets: spine, hips
How to: Start seated with legs crossed. Plant left foot outside of right thigh, lifting knee as needed. Extend arms up overhead and twist torso to the left, placing right elbow against the outside of left knee and left hand on the floor behind (but close to) back. On the inhale, lengthen spine. On the exhale, gently twist lower back, middle back, and then upper back to the left. Hold for one minute. Then, repeat on the other side.
8 Reclining Pigeon Pose
How to: Lie on back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Cross right ankle over left knee and reach hands forward to wrap around left shin, lifting it into air. Keeping back flat on the floor, gently pull left knee towards left shoulder. Hold for one minute. Then, repeat on the other side.
9 Supine Twist
Targets: spine, hips
How to: Start lying on back on a mat. Extend arms straight out to sides in a “T” shape, and then bend elbows so arms form 90-degree angles and hands rest palms-up overhead. Bend left knee, lift left leg, and cross left knee and ankle over torso and right leg. (Inside of left foot should rest on floor outside of right knee.) Turn head to gaze over left shoulder. Hold for one minute. Then, repeat on the other side.
10 Happy Baby Pose
Targets: hips (plus spine massage)
How to: Lie on back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keeping feet flexed, and legs bent, pull knees toward shoulders and wrap arms inside legs, grabbing back of heels with palms. Gently pull knees down towards the outsides of rib cage. Keep lower back and tailbone released toward the floor and relax hips to deepen the stretch. Breathe deeply and slowly for one minute.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com