The quadratus lumborum, aka QL, is one of the deepest muscles of the posterior trunk, and forms part of the posterior abdominal wall. It attaches to the posterior iliac crest (the back of your pelvis) and inserts at lumbar vertebrae 1-4 and at the twelfth rib. This muscle is often referred to as the “hip hiker” because it elevates the hip when we walk, allowing the leg to swing through. The QL muscle also anteriorly tilts the pelvis, laterally flexes the trunk, extends the trunk, and assists in forced inhalation and exhalation by fixing the 12th rib in place when the diaphragm contracts. One role of the quadratus lumborum as a component of the posterior abdominal wall is to cushion and protect the internal structures located anteriorly in relation to it, which include: the kidneys, colon and diaphragm.
The quadratus lumborum plays a very important part in postural stabilization. Together with the psoas major, the QL wraps around the lumbar spine thus stabilizing it. It is therefore vital that both the QL and psoas are strong and flexible in order to allow the spine ample stability and movement. However, our modern jobs that often involve sitting at a computer for the majority of the day are quite contradictory to the health of these two muscles. In focusing on the QL, habitual sitting causes contraction of these muscles, ultimately resulting in overuse and weakness. Low back pain is a common complaint among adults in our society and a weak QL often plays a part. Consequently, it is vital that we find ways to counteract this negative pattern on our QL muscles. Yoga Tune Up® provides many fun and creative ways to improve the tonicity of these overly contracted muscles, resulting in relief from low back pain, as well as necessary stability for the spine. I would like to share three Yoga Tune Up® poses to practice in order to tone and release the QL:
(1) Boomerang on the floor or at a Wall: through simple lateral flexion of the spine, one QL contracts while the opposite releases and lengthens.
(2) Twisted Child: this pose provides a wonderful release to the QL muscles as the spine rotates under the hips.
(3) Sidewinder minivini: The QL and abdominal obliques are contracting to laterally flex the spine from side to side in this dynamic pose, which strengthens and lengthens the QL muscles as we move side to side.
*Another really great way to release the QL if it is in constant contraction and feeling tight, is to place a Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Ball between the quadratus lumborum and the floor, and massage along the length of the muscle. This could provide relief to the muscle, as well as the connective tissues surrounding it.