December 19, 2011
My back’s been bugging me lately. I figure my life is kind of like a doctor’s — I see clients for several hours a day, am constantly on my feet, and have started to feel a tightness in the low back that sometimes aches. Similarly, all my physician friends have been telling me how tight their low backs feel after long shifts at the hospital. This one is for you guys!
Recently, I realized that I have been relieving that compressed-back feeling in the wrong way: I kept arching my low back (think cat-cow from yoga), or twisting side to side in a futile attempt to get the tight, painful feeling to go away.
Then I discovered a little trick for low back decompression that helped immensely:
Stand facing a wall and place your hands on the wall, lower than shoulder height. Walk your feet back a few steps, flex your hips, and lower your back into a flat, “tabletop” position (so that your back is perpendicular to your thighs). If this position is difficult, slightly bend your knees. Think of your ischial tuberosities (sits bones) reaching back toward the wall behind you. Now think of letting those sits bones turn upward towards the ceiling. You will probably feel a lengthening in the hamstrings; you might even feel a stretch of your lumbar spine. Breathe in, and breathe out. As you exhale, think of your femur heads dropping back into the hip socket. Think of space being created between your lumbar verterbrae. Breathe again, and decompress.
Staying in this position, think of your sits bones changing position, from pointing towards the ceiling to reaching toward the floor. In reaching them toward the floor, find a place where your tailbone drops and becomes heavy, forming a tucked position. Breathe deeply and allow your quadratus lumborum to lengthen (remember your QL extends between your iliac crest and your bottom rib).
Now bend your right knee, and let your left sits bone reach long behind you. Then switch, bending your left knee, and letting your right sits bone reach back. Feel the fascia along your back and gluteal muscles release. Breathe deeply and switch back and forth.
Doing this stretch daily should help you feel some relief – enjoy!
Priti Radhakrishnan is a Pilates teacher at Kinected, in New York city. In addition to her journey as a Pilates teacher, Priti has worked for nearly a decade as an attorney fighting for access to affordable medicines for patients living in poverty in the developing world. She loves to combine therapeutic Pilates with her experience working in clinical and low-income settings: her dream is to ensure that Pilates is available to everyone, regardless of economic status.