Who has lower back pain? A better question might be, who doesn’t have lower back pain? The back is one of the most injury-prone areas of your body, and even a “healthy” back often suffers from too much muscle tension. Stretching your back will work wonders toward relieving this tension, preventing future injury, and increasing flexibility around your spinal column (as an added bonus, it will simultaneously stretch your hips, too). Here are several lower back stretches that anyone can do, and best of all, no equipment necessary. All of these stretches get all the weight and resistance they need right from your body. Take preventative measures to the next level with yogi Lucas Rockwood’s 5-week yoga course specifically designed for neck and back care.
First, as with any stretching, these exercises should not induce pain, neither during nor after stretching. If they do, you might be pushing yourself too far. You don’t need to stretch muscles to the breaking point to get results. Because the lower back is injury prone, stretches should be performed with caution.
The Grounded Wide Squat
This stretch in particular will help you open up your hips. Of course, it’s a great lower back exercise, too.
Begin by sitting on the floor with your legs in front of you. Situate your knees so they are approximately shoulder width apart (a little wider is fine, too). Ground your feet (place your soles flat on the floor); naturally, your feet should extend in a straight line from your knees and therefore will be set slightly wider apart. Your toes should point gently outward. With your arms in front of you, begin to lower your torso toward the floor. You should be bending into the gap between your legs. As soon as they can reach, place your hands on the floor for stability, and slide them forward as you bend down. Keep your back relatively straight and relaxed, and try to avoid pushing your shoulders forward; how far your arms extend is not a measure of effectiveness.
Ever heard of foam rolling? It’s an awesome way to relieve tightness and tension anywhere in the body. Learn the proper techniques of foam rolling to loosen any muscle region.
This is great stretch to loosen tension in your spine and lower back. It’s incredibly easy to learn and, like the grounded wide squat, requires no equipment.
Begin on all fours; hands palm-down and facing forward, knees on the ground with your feet straight back. Your knees should be directly beneath your hips; your hands, beneath your shoulders. At this point, your back should be straight and relaxed. Support should be provided by your abdomen.
There are two steps: the cat and the cow. The cow actually comes first. Inhaling, arch your back inward and raise your head and tailbone (cow). Again, stop if you feel any pain. Exhaling, arch your back outward (toward the ceiling), pulling your abs inward while tucking both your tailbone and chin toward your chest (cat). In a slow, smooth movement, alternate back and forth between the two positions, concentrating on synchronizing breathing with stretching.
Do The Twist
More commonly known as the spinal twist or torso twist, this complements the cat-cow stretch in that uses a different motion to further loosen the spine and lower back.
Begin seated with your legs in front of you. Keeping your right leg extended, bend your left knee and anchor your left foot on the other side of your right knee. Support yourself by reaching your left arm behind you, palm down. Bend your right elbow (the elbow of the extended leg) and cross over to the outside of your left knee; you can either notch your elbow into your knee or simply hold your knee with your forearm. Use this elbow to push your knee into your chest. Exhale to further rotate your back (you are trying to look behind you), and inhale to straighten your spine. Once you have reached a comfortable stretch, hold the pose for at least thirty seconds, then untwist yourself, relax, and repeat for the other side.
If you like the twist and other fun exercises, check out this total hot body fitness workout that will (literally) change your life.
Happy Baby / Knee To Chest
The happy baby is the yoga version of the more popular knee-to-chest.
Begin by lying flat on your back. Raise your knees, bending them at forty-five degrees, straight back into your chest. Grab the outside of each foot with your hands, keeping your arms and elbows outside your legs. Use your back (not your shoulders, if possible) to slowly pull your knees to the floor area that would be below your armpits. Use as few muscles as possible and try to stay relaxed. Hold for at least thirty seconds, continuing to work your knees toward your armpits.
Upward-Facing Hip Twist
This is the slightly lazier version of the twist, but because of its laid-back nature, it can be easier for beginners to stay relaxed.
Like the spinal twist, this exercise twists the lower body in the opposite direction of the upper body. The idea is to simultaneously stretch and lengthen the spine (remember inhaling and exhaling).
Begin by lying flat on your back, arms at your sides. Bend your right knee to forty-five degrees and rotate it over your left leg, keeping your arms flat on the ground. The idea is to create something of a counter-weight. Your right knee should be striving for the ground, and your right shoulder should be trying to maintain contact with the ground, too. Ultimately, you want to keep your shoulders straight and down, while using the weight of your leg to stretch your back. Be sure to maintain pressure in your abdomen, as this will support your back. You can squeeze a little extra out of this one by turning your head in the opposite direction of your crossed-over leg.
If you want to build strength while you stretch, check out this wall-yoga course, in which you will use weights, chairs and props in a creative fitness routine.