If like me you are winding down from the weekend and preparing for Monday morning and another week sat at your desk then maybe, like me, you also have lower back issues. The BAD NEWS is it may be your desk job causing these issues… the GOOD NEWS is you can do something about it.
Over the next few weeks I’ll post a series of blogs looking at how to counteract sitting all day with some easily accessible yoga poses that can stretch and strengthen the hip flexors. This can help to better align your pelvis and start to ease those pesky back niggles.
When we sit all day our hip flexors shorten, this can affect the position of the pelvis, which then affects the position and movement of the lower back.
How do our hips work?
There are several muscles that cross the front of the hip to create hip flexion pulling the thigh and trunk toward each other creating your standard sitting position. The most important of these muscles is the iliopsoas, which is actually two muscles, the iliacus and the psoas, which lie deep in the back of the abdomen.
Yoga Journal summed this up really well saying: “If you looked at the front of a body with the internal organs removed, you would see the psoas lying alongside the spine, attached to the sides of the lumbar vertebrae. The iliacus originates on the inner bowl of the pelvis. Both muscles cross the floor of the pelvis, emerge at the outer edges of the pubic bones, and finally insert on the inner upper femur (thighbone).”
Why does sitting cause back problems?
It is often a lack of hip flexibility that causes problems. By sitting all day we leave the muscles in a contracted position for a long time, so they get shorter limiting your ability to fully extend (straighten) your hip.
If the iliopsoas and other hip flexors are tight they pull down and forward on the pelvis, which tilts the pelvis forward and compresses the lower back. This can cause overarching of the lower back or ‘swayback’ which can cause increased pressure on the lower spine resulting in discomfort and worse cases an increased risk of arthritis in those joints.
Yoga poses to counteract sitting
There are numerous yoga poses that can help. Over the coming weeks I’ll take a more detailed look at how to do the five poses below.
This pose is a great preparation for Warrior 1, it is also an intense hip flexor stretch. Crescent lunge allows you to go as deep into the hip-flexor stretch as you feel comfortable. Having your hands overhead also gives you the added benefit of opening the heart and chest – another area that gets tight from lots of computer work.
Find out in detail how to do Cresecent Lunge pose.
Warrior 1 – Virabhadrasana I
When done correctly warrior 1 is a very slight backbend which opens the hip flexors and strengthens the legs. As with Crescent Lunge it also opens the heart.
Find out in detail how to do Warrior 1.
Boat pose – Navasana
This is an abdominal and deep hip flexor strengthener. It can be incredibly intense so use a modified version if you find it too much for your lower back.
Find out in detail how to do Boat pose.
Reclining hero pose – Supta Virasana
This is an intermediate pose. DO NOT perform this pose unless you can sit your buttocks relatively easily on the floor between your feet and without any discomfort in your knees.
Bridge pose – Setu Bandasana
Yoga poses that focus on the lower back such as the Bridge Pose can help to alleviate back pain. This pose stretches and strengthens the back and abdominal muscles and opens the hip flexors allowing you to stretch the whole front of the body. It is also a great counter pose after Navasana.