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One of the cool things about the back is the lumbar spine and its free form structure.  From the sacrum up to the lower rib cage we have a slinky like set of bones and discs supporting the weight of the rib cage and upper body.  This allows for a tremendous range of motion from side bending, forward folding, and back bending to providing an anchor point for the muscles that twist and rotate the thoracic spine.  All too often, however this area of our body is a source of chronic pain and instability – WHY?

Back pain is so common because even slight imbalances in the musculature of this area result in a corresponding distortion of the deeper spinal structures, and compensation from other muscles.  Whether its an overused psoas muscle due to a week rectus abdominis and lots of backbends, or an oblique chain that is overdeveloped due to golfing, tennis, softball, or any other predominately one sided sport, asymmetries in the musculature of the core affect the back in a big way.  Couple that with this area having the job of supporting our weight whenever we’re upright and we can see how a little imbalance goes a long way.  So, how do we bring out spinal muscles and core musculature into balance?

Yoga Tune Up ® uses dynamic exercise and isometric contraction to strengthen and rectify imbalances in the core.  It is one thing to do core in a mat class until your abs burn, it is an entirely other thing to use intelligent mechanics and precise movement to develop equanimity within our low back by integrating our core musculature.  Try this Sidewinder Tantrum posted below (and also available on the Quickfix Rx yoga DVD) to strengthen and stretch all of the core musculature dynamically.

Learn about our back pain solutions.

Read about the Sidewinder Tantrum.

Jeffrey Lang

Jeffrey Lang is a certified Yoga Tune Up® instructor in Northern California. Jeff likes to fill the gap of classical Yoga with modern understanding of anatomical texts, neurology, biology, physiology and psychology in order to help explain and refine our understanding of enlightened states of being and better health. For more about me or to view my Yoga Tune Up® class schedule go here.

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Hyewon Lee

Core and back strengths go side by side in this case. We often focus on the primary muscles of a movement but completely ignore the secondary muscles that collectively work with them to make a movement. Weakness in any muscles in this collective group muscles can create an imbalance in terms of use of muscles in our body, the overused muscles can finally give up on us and communicate to us with a pain.

Marie-Michelle Darveau

Thanks for the advice

Catherine de Marin

Thank you for this playful way of strengthening the back!

Harriet

I love your emphasis not only on the importance of the back in developing core strength (often overshadowed by the more ornamental abdominals) but also on the role that chronic asymmetries play in developing compensation patterns that lead to low back pain. I’ve been trying to help my husband with his low back pain with various stretches to combat the tightness in his iliopsoas created by spending too much time sitting, but after reading your article, I think I was overlooking potential asymmetries created by the 4 hours of basketball he plays every Sunday! Dribbling and shooting all from the… Read more »

LIZ TYBURCZY

Love that you point out people can do sit ups till they are blue in the face. , They it to realize that so many of the muscles on our back body are just as important in developing the strength of the entire core.

Genevieve

It took me forever to actually understand how to make this move happen, but boy, was it worth it. The fitness industry tends to focus on the mirror muscles i.e. rectus abdomens while the muscles involved in lateral flexion are neglected. The spine needs balance! And this move provided it….. once you are coordinated enough… 😉

Dawn

What a fun variation! I love regular Sidewinder for so many reasons — it teaches me about lateral flexion and extension and how that applies to other poses, strengthens my core — and adding the crazy legs makes the whole thing so much more dynamic and equally, if not more, pertinent to protecting my back and core stabilizers. Thank you for this post!

Joshua

Thank you for sharing this Jeff! After a snowboard injury to my lower back several years ago I had a attributed all my lower back pain to this incident. Our conversation around the topic of lower back pain ultimately led to my realization that my weak inner thighs (adductors) and lower abdominals were ultimately contributing to the chronic pain I was feeling.

I think this exercise will be helpful in remeding my lower back pain and instability.

Aubrey Heinemann

I am always surprised by how many people don’t understand the importance of both sides of the body, meaning front and back line, need to be strong. This is a cool variation and what a fabulous name, Tantrum Sidewinders. I look forward to seeing a group of adults throwing tantrums while building strength in their abs and low backs.

Marion

Yeah… we learned side winder last Friday and used it to intelligently climbed into the building after having been locked out. Another story I’ll tell you when I see you. I recall you taught a version of side winder while standing which not only worked the obliques but the abductors and adductors as well. Thanks, I was sore for days.

Kathleen

Thank you for highlighting the importance of strengthening our abdominal muscles to support the work of our lumbar spine. I can’t wait to have a temper tantrum!!

laura mcintire

This pose looks like a lot of fun. Sidewinder tends to make my lumbar spine feel ‘tweaky’ but I will continue to try it and as Sherry suggests, maybe a different blanket/floor combination will be beneficial. The lateral movement seems to aggravate the medial right lumber spine and right illac crest.

Sherry Matwe

Basic Side Winder! I hope to use this movement more and more, to keep my core long supple and strong, Right now I have a tiny pinchy feeling down by my sacrum – I think it was brought on by some jogging I was attempting 🙂 I tried this dynamic lateral excersize of sidewinder a few times, immidiately I felt energized by how the body demanded more frequent breaths. I use thorassic breath – I like how I felt streched and strengthened. It didn’t hurt my back when I used a really slippery blanket, but I used a different blanket… Read more »

Cassie Cherney

I love it! See, I knew that my tempter tantrums would come in handy!!

Becky G

Thanks for the great advice, I am always looking for ways to soothe my low back aches.

Elizabeth S.

Sidewinder is SO fun!

YOGINIS GONE WILD!

Julie

When we think of ab work we often think of very controlled, isolated movement. To put a little fun in ab work–is greatly needed.

Lindsay

I love this pose because you can most likely get ANYONE to do it and put a smile on their face in the process. Better lowback and a joyful outlook- it’s a win-win pose. Especially love the recommendation for the garbage bag if you have a carpeted floor. That Jill is always thinking ahead 🙂

Jad

The continuous lateral flexion and extension in this pose definitely requires you to engage your core muscles because as opposed to doing this standing up gravity is not assisting with the bend. You need to work your abs to have the temper tantrum Jill says.

Nui K

Freedom to move & wriggling around like spaghetti in the bowl will me strengthen the rectus & transverse abdominal, internal & external obliques…I’m on board with it.

Greta C

It’s amazing how fast this frontal movement can strengthen the core! I love this dynamic exercise!

scott

love it.

Sharon

I love all this advice for lower back pain. So useful!