In response to some friends who have asked me about yoga they can try at home for low back and tight hips, I thought it would be helpful to write a post so that others experiencing these concerns may try some poses to help improve range of motion and possibly alleviate some tightness causing some ongoing low back tension. I strongly urge you to visit a medical doctor before going ahead with any physical activities, including this sequence, to be sure that it is right for you and your body. Yoga can be very helpful, but is best practiced under the approval of your doctor if you have injuries or body health concerns.
This sequence of poses can be completed after a gym workout, swim or other activity which has allowed you to warm up your body. They are gentle enough to practice on their own as well and you will want to go slow and feel how your body responds to the movements. That means that it is okay to breathe through tension, but not pain. If you experience pain, you should back off. For the sequence, I recommend having 2 pillows and 2 blankets- 1 thick and 1 thinner. If you have a yoga block and mat, these will come in handy but the blanket can work in their place if you do not. Be sure to wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing so that you are not restricted in your movements. Breathe deeply and have fun!
Cat & Cow
I like to begin a sequence doing these stretches because they help you ground, become aware of your breathing and warm up the spine nicely.
Come to table top position which is on all fours with the hands shoulder width apart and hands directly under the shoulders. The knees are hip width apart and knees should rest directly under the hips. Pressing down into your hands, take a breath in as you allow your spine to collapse down as your belly comes down towards the floor and you turn your gaze to look up. On your exhale- begin to round the spine slowly by pulling the belly in and pressing down through your hands so you can press the upper back away towards the ceiling. Do the full inhale and exhale with poses for a total of 8 reps. Try to breathe deeply and slowly while keeping the inhales and exhales of equal length. Once completed, relax in table.
Still in table, begin to press your hips up and back, lifting your knees up off of the floor. The knees can stay bent or the legs may be straightened. Fan the fingers of your hands and distribute the weight evenly. Try to bring your heels down towards the floor, it is not important if they come all the way down. Hold this pose for 10 long deep breaths.
Come down into child’s pose by bringing the knees down and the hips back towards the heels. Walk the hands forward on the floor and bring your forehead towards the floor. There are two versions, you can do one or both versions as they will relax the hips into slightly different positions. The first is with the knees wide and the second is with the knees together. Stay in the pose and breath deeply for 10 breaths. Come back into downward dog to prepare for the next pose.
Lunge and Lizard Pose
While in your downward dog, step the right foot forward, if your foot does not come in between your hands when you step forward, wiggle it forward as you bring your left knee down to the floor. Your front knee should be directly above your ankle and you want to bring your back knee back further as you feel the lengthening in your left hip flexors. If you want to, try straightening the back leg while keeping the hips low. If you are able to, bring your hands to your right thigh and hold here for 10 deep breaths.
Next you will bring both hands down to the floor on the inside of your right foot. This will create an even deeper lengthening in the hips. If you wish, try lifting the knee of your back leg off the floor and straightening the leg. This is not necessary but you can give it a try! Breathe 10 long deep breaths here.
To deepen this pose, begin to bend at the elbows, lowering your body down. Stop and breathe when you feel you are as far as you can go with a feeling of stretching, it should not be too intense. If you can go to this level and wish to try a bit more, try to lower the elbows down to the floor. Again, breathe deep and go where it feels best for you today. The modifications are given as options so that as your mobility increases, you will have another edge to work towards.
Once you have reached the depth of your pose, stay for another 10 deep slow breaths before coming out and returning to downward dog. Repeat the entire posture from lunge into lizard on the other side with the left foot forward. Once complete, come back into downward dog.
Warrior 2- Dynamic Movement
Step your right foot forward in between your hands again, the the left leg so that you can lift your hands off the floor and come into standing. Your feet should be about 4ft. apart and then turn your body to the side of your mat. Feet should be a heel to arch alignment. This means that the heel of your front foot should line up with the inside of your back foot which will be turned in the same direction as your body. Begin to bend through the front knee and look at the foot as you do this to be sure you can see your big toe. This will allow the knee to be over the ankle properly. Hips are facing the side of your mat. Pull the low belly in and the chest up. Bring your arms out to the sides with palms facing down. Look over at the hand on the same side as your front, bent knee. Hold here for 5 breaths. Then do a dynamic movement of straightening and bending down into the pose, inhaling up and exhaling down 5 times. Straighten the front leg and step back up to the top of your mat. Prepare to do this posture on the other side with the right leg stepping back.
When you have finished your warrior 2 on the left leg. Come to standing and if you are using a yoga mat, you may roll it up half way or roll up a blanket. This will be used to place under your heels in malasana. This is s deep squat pose and we will start first by allowing the feet to come slightly wider than hip width. Begin to bend at the knees, keeping the knees over the ankles, so sending the seat back, as though you are going to sit down into a chair. Bring the arms out in front of you as you squat to counter balance and also pull the low belly in. You may also bring the elbows to the thighs if you wish to stay here as your pose. Or you may slowly squat down lower and lower until you bring your calves and back of the thighs as close together as comfortable. You may come down lower as you feel your hips lengthen over time. You may or may not need the mat under your heels but this is an excellent place to start. Once you come down into a full squat, bring your elbows to the inside of your thighs and hands into prayer position. Wherever you find the deepest version of this pose for you, take 10 deep and long breaths here. Slowly come up and give your legs a little shake out when you are all done.
You may use props for this pose, I have demonstrated a few options you can try to see which feels best. The first is to sit on a yoga block on its lowest level. The sit bones should be firmly on the block, bring your feet together in front of you. A thick blanket may also be folded up and used in place of the block too. If your knees come high off the floor, placing a pillow or bolster under each side will take the pressure off. Sit tall here and breathe into the pose for 15 breaths.
The next modification is when you need some height to allow the pelvis to sit upright but not quite as high as a block. Folding a thinner blanket and allowing the sit bones to rest on it may be right for you. Placing pillows or allowing the knees to gently fall to the sides as you bring your feet together in front of you will depend on your level of comfort. Try to bring the heels as close to the body as possible in this pose.
Finally, you may sit on the floor alone and bring the feet together as close to the body as possible. Sit tall, pull the low belly in and breathe deep. Whichever version you feel best doing, hold for the 15 long deep breaths. When you are done, come down to lay on your back.
Wind Relieving Pose
Check out the video to see how to do this pose. Begin by bending the knees and bringing the feet flat onto the floor. Cross the right ankle over the left knee, keeping the foot flexed. Take the hands behind the left thigh as you lift the foot off the floor. You will begin to feel the stretch in the right hip as you do this. Let the right knee gently fall out to the side as you hug the left leg in further until you feel a good stretch. On the second side I demonstrate bringing the hands around the shin to take the pose a bit deeper, which you are welcome to try. Hold for 10 deep and slow breaths. Come down and let the legs both come back into the floor. Do this pose on the other side, left leg coming over the right.
Laying on your back, take the left leg and squeeze it in towards your chest. Then take the right hand to the outside of the left thigh and bring the knee down towards the floor on the left. As your body twists, try to keep the left shoulder down to the floor. The left hand rests out on the floor away from the body. Hold here for 10 breaths. Let the leg come down and do your other side.
Happy Baby Pose
Laying on your back bring your feet to your hands allowing the knees to bend beside your body. You can take the inside or outside of the feet. Gently pull the feet down as your knees come towards the floor. Some find it nice to rock back and forth gently on the sacrum- this is the bone in the low back you will feel pressing down into the floor in this pose. Take 10 deep breaths here.
Legs Up The Wall
As a nice resting pose that still brings more comfort to the low back, bring your seat right up against the wall and allow your legs to extend up the wall. Your upper body should be relaxed and the arms gently beside you. You may close your eyes and rest here taking as many breaths as you wish to relax after your sequence of poses. If you find it comfortable to come back down laying on the floor in savasana where your arms and legs are just softly extended down beside the body, feel free to rest here for a while afterwards too.
I hope you found these poses helpful and they really do get more comfortable as you practice them more regularly. Try doing these 2-3 times a week and work your way up to as many as you can fit in. Even doing these poses before bedtime is relaxing and helps your body unwind and prepare for rest. If you have any questions or concerns, please leave a comment below with your comment or email and I can follow up with you. As always,have a beautiful week!
Obligatory Disclaimer- Please note that no part of this of practice is intended to be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any conditions. It is not meant to replace consultation with a medical professional. This information is for educational purposes and the practice is completed at your own risk. If you have any health conditions, please contact your medical doctor before engaging in this practice.