Group of yoga students practicing supine reclining yoga twist pose.

Too Much Sitting? 7 Must-Do Stretches to Ease Low Back Pain

By: 
Katrina Oakley

These days we all sit too much, often hunched over a keyboard or a smartphone. Sitting puts our joints into a state of sustained flexion, which tightens the muscles that act on those joints. Sitting also weakens the back muscles and can lead to chronic back pain. 
 
Doing these seven stretches daily can really help. Hold each of these stretches for 30 seconds. Be sure to breathe deeply and consistently.

1) Supta Padangusthasana (Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose)

Woman practicing supta padangusthasana hamstring stretch pose.This pose helps stretch the hamstrings.

  1. Lie on your back, with your spine in a neutral position, legs bent and feet on the floor. 

  2. Raise one leg upward toward the ceiling.

  3. With both hands, reach behind your hamstring (or your calf if you are more flexible). Using a strap or belt to hold onto your foot can help you reach the foot without bending your knee.  

  4. Also, take care to position your leg so that you can keep the rest of your body aligned on the floor. For example, avoid lifting your shoulder blades off the floor and tilting your head back in order to reach your foot or leg. Also, make sure your glutes stay on the floor, and your low back is not rounding into the floor. Let your body rest comfortably on the floor.

  5. Relax and breathe here for 30 seconds before lowering your leg to the floor.

  6. Repeat with the other leg.

  7. Note: If you have diastasis recti, make sure you go down onto your back by lowering to your side and then rolling over. Do not go through a crunch position to get up or down.

2) Ardha Apanasana (Half Knee-to-Chest Pose)

Woman practicing ardha apanasana knee to chest yoga pose.This pose helps stretch the glutes and lower back.  

  1. Continue to lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor.

  2. Draw one knee in toward your chest. To avoid stress on the knee, make sure you put your hands behind your knee rather than on top of it.

  3. For a deeper stretch, you can straighten your bottom leg, but don't do this if you can't maintain a neutral spine.

  4. Switch legs and repeat. 

3) Supta Ardha Kapotasana (Reclined Half Pigeon Pose)

Woman practicing reclining pigeon yoga pose.This pose targets the piriformis muscle. 

  1. Place your right ankle across the left knee. Flex your right ankle, and keep it flexed throughout the pose.

  2. Gently pull the left knee toward your chest, bringing the right leg along with it.

  3. Relax and breathe for about 30 seconds.

  4. Release the legs and let the soles of your feet rest on the floor for a few breaths.

  5. Switch legs and repeat.

4) Supta Parivrttasana (Reclining Spinal Twist Pose)

Woman practicing supine spinal twist yoga pose.This spinal twist gently stretches the muscles of the low and middle back. 

  1. Lie on your back with your legs stretched out onto the floor. 

  2. Bend your right knee up, keeping your foot on the ground. 

  3. Lower the knee toward the ground on the opposite side of your left leg, letting your right glutes lift up off the floor.

  4. Keep both shoulder blades on the floor. Allow your right knee to float above the floor if drawing it all the way to the floor causes your right shoulder blade to lift off the floor.

  5. Place your opposite hand on top of your knee to gently stretch it further.

  6. Relax and breathe here for about 30 seconds. Then roll back onto your back and stretch both legs back out onto the floor for a few breaths.

  7. Switch legs and repeat.

 5) Prone Quadriceps Stretch 

You can do this several ways, but my favorite way is to lie in a prone position (shown with support.) This is the healthiest way for people with limited knee flexion to stretch their quads.

  1. Lie face down on a yoga mat.

  2. Bend one knee and grab it with the same hand just below the ankle, and gently pull the foot down toward your butt. If you can't reach your ankle with your hand, you can loop a strap around your ankle and hold both ends with your hand.

  3. If you don't feel anything try drawing the tailbone down toward the floor slightly till you feel the stretch in your quadriceps.

  4. You can do this stretch lying on your side (though I find it can be hard to get in a straight line), or you could do it in a standing position, with your back against a wall to stabilize your balance. 

  5. Relax and breathe deeply for about 30 seconds. 

  6. Lower the leg to the floor and rest for a few breaths with both legs stretched out on the floor. 

  7. Repeat on the other side.

6) Anjaneyasana (Lunge Pose)

Woman practicing anjaneyasana yoga lunge pose.This pose stretches your hip flexors, which tend to shorten with sustained sitting. Tight hip flexors can impact your posture, causing everything from neck pain, lower back pain, and pelvic floor issues. 

  1. To do this stretch, come up onto your knees.

  2. Step one leg forward so that your shin is vertical. You may need to take a few steps to accomplish this. 

  3. Place your hands just above your knee and bend the knee gently, bringing the whole body forward. Make sure to keep your spine upright and your low back long.

  4. Breathe deeply here for about 30 seconds.

  5. Return to a kneeling position and take a few breaths.  

  6. Repeat the other side.

7) Malasana (Yogic Squat Position)

This supported squatting position stretches the upper back.

  1. Start in a squatting position. If your heels don't reach the floor when you squat, place a folded blanket under your heels.

  2. Holding onto something low to the ground that won't move, e.g., under the bed or table leg. 

  3. Hold very low, and lean back into a full squat. Your legs should be together with your head resting on your knees.

  4. Relax back into the stretch. 

  5. Stay here, breathing deeply into your diaphragm, feeling a back body expansion on the inhalation.

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Reprinted with permission from Katrina Oakley.


YogaUOnline contributor Katrina Oakley

Katrina Oakley is a certified postpartum corrective exercise specialist and posture specialist, who helps moms around the world move without pain and stop peeing their pants.

Get her free beginners program here: http://drbeginnersprogram.katrinaoakley.net