Danger: Do Not Cross! (your legs)

Comments (227)

A Cautionary Tale Told by a Reformed Chronic Leg-Crosser

Low Back Pain can reduce even the toughest of tough guys to tears.

For years I suffered (and, yes, I even cried) due to recurring bouts of debilitating low back pain that I could not figure out the cause or cure for.  I now know that a major contributing factor was an unconscious habit of sitting with one leg crossed over the other … every day … several hours a day … year after year.  Happily, I also found my cure for lower back pain.

If you are a leg-crosser, sit up, uncross your legs and pay attention. The following information might provide you with the keys to liberation from chronic pain.

First, get to know your Quadratus Lumborum (or ‘QL’). Your QL inhabit the space between the bottom rib, the pelvis and the transverse processes of the first four lumbar vertebrae.  Best known as the ‘hip hiker’ muscle, its primary function is to bring the hip and rib cage closer together (as in sidebending). It should also be known as a chief culprit in cases of low back pain – and definitely held under suspicion when low back pain is one-sided.

Try this experiment:

Sit in a chair.

Cross your left leg over your right.

Notice: the left hip ‘hikes’ up, making your left side waist (and QL) shorter than the right.

If you sit for a large portion of your day – and you habitually cross your legs one way, BEWARE!  You are creating a QL imbalance for which you may suffer (or already be suffering) mightily. Fortunately, you can help yourself.

First: Stop crossing your legs.  Be vigilant about it.  In fact, put a post-it note on your computer screen that says ‘Uncross your legs’ as a reminder.

Second: do the following QL stretches and Yoga Tune Up At Home poses to restore balance to your QL:  Sidewinder Pose, Boomerang at the wall and Triangle in Parallel.  Whether you are a chronic leg-crosser or not, if your QL is responsible for the pain in your back, these exercises are your therapy.  Practice with Tune Up Fitness and enjoy freedom from pain. I am!

Watch our video for lower back pain relief.

Learn about our Therapy Balls Program for your lower back.

 

Amanda Tripp

It was love at first Sun Salutation for Amanda Tripp ... who was introduced to yoga as a teen when her mom brought home a video. Eventually, she sought out living, breathing teachers to help direct and deepen her practice. Her teachers have been inspirational; her yoga practice: transformational. Amanda felt the call to share the healing benefits of practice with others and completed a 250-hour teacher training program at the Yoga Centre of Burlington. Continuing studies led her to the work of Jill Miller and certification as a Yoga Tune Up® teacher. Amanda's classes speak to the body, breath, mind and heart as she guides students toward greater ease of being.

227
Leave a Reply

 
227 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
2 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
211 Comment authors
Sciatica-A Painful Condition that is Preventable and Treatable by Sufferers | sidsyzygy
Jenn

“tune-ing” into the back core and in particular the tubular core (all sides) has made a marked difference in my body. I will be integrating side-winder and boomerang and look forward to checking out the corresponding ball work (to flush out the tight areas).

Robert

I always cross my legs sitting at the desk or even on the couch. I’m an athletically thin male and have back problems and more recently, issues with my hips. I was wondering if crossing my legs had anything to do with it. A few times recently my hip will slip when my legs are crossed and figured…uh oh…somethings wrong. Going to try and break the habit and see how much my aches and pains reduce. The hip slip is so very painful. I’m thinking to myself, gee I’m 47…how long before I need a hop replacement? I don’t even… Read more »

sabina

Try the dynamic pose of Sprinkler Garudasana where crossing and uncrossing the legs over and over again is permitted – and it feels so good, especially afterwards. Your hips and lower back are happy because of the action of your legs crossing, not cranky and crooked.

Jenny

This is a great reminder to pay attention to those little things we do unconciously. I have a bad habit of putting all my weight on one leg and end up feeling alot of knee pain…and then I wonder why? Being aware of your habits can help you cure your chronic pain. One of the reasons I love YTU is because it helps you become aware of your bad habits and gives you exercises and knowledge to help you counteract them!!

Amy

Such a great testimonial and reminder.Those YTU poses suggested are wonderful for the QL and tubular core connection especially the internal and external obliques – what a great way to bring about the equilibrium within the back line of the body and turn some heat on in the body!

Sandy Byrne

I am a chronic leg crosser that would be left over right. Recently I have noticed a shift and aches and pains that were not there before in the the whole left side of my body. As we speak I am changing the cross of my legs to experiment with how my left side feels. I definatley notice some shifting going on. thank yoiu I am uncrossing right now and going to put that post it reminder on my computer right now. Thank you 🙂

Lynda Jaworski

Great advice! I am also a chronic leg-crosser trying to break the habit, but this is a tough one! Awareness is the key, and commitment to “tuning in” to our habitual movements and poses that are doing us harm, and “tuning up” our choices. I found that while sitting at the computer I was often crossing my legs for long stretches of time, and so what I do now is keep a pair of Tune Up Balls under the desk and as soon as I sit down I scoot a ball under each foot. Sometimes the balls are just still,… Read more »

Allison McCready

Eeek! As I was reading this article I noticed my legs were crossed! Thank you for highlighting another culprit of chronic pain in my body. I now realize that I am a leg crosser – add this to the list of simple lifetime postural habits that I need to un-do and one by one I am eliminating these pesky bad habits and restoring my body to health & balance. Add to that the fact that I “need” to do more of my all-time favorite YTU dynamic yoga pose: Sidewinder!! 🙂

LInda

Thanks, Bonnie! I’m going to try this out to see if it will help my teeth grinding and also share it with a client who I know has a lot of jaw tension and who seems to suffer from an inordinate number of ear infections every year. Maybe they aren’t infections!

LInda

Wow! What a flash from the past. I remember growing up and having it demanded of me to cross my legs when sitting because that was the way a “lady” was supposed to sit! If you didn’t cross your legs you sent a message you didn’t want to be sending. So for a large part of my life I had a chronic pelvic imbalance. Not only was the QL thrown off, but my right leg got trained to be more internally rotated and my left more externally rotated and I was always standing with my weight more on my left… Read more »

Melissa Tilley

After reading your article, I had to think.. do I cross my legs? The answer.. YES!! Blind spot.. ding ding ding!! This unconscious imbalance I have been created, is now conscious. I also like what Vivian has added below, when some of us are young we are taught to sit crossed legged. It becomes so habitual it is unconscious. What a wonderful gift to be able to share with others. I am looking forward to offering that awareness to classes I hold. Thank you Amanada! I am consciously uncrossing my legs while I drink my morning coffee!!

Dawn McCrory

Chronic leg crossers are extremely prone to muscular imbalances throughout the spine. It can even lead to a functional and potentially structural scoliosis. Yoga Tune Up® poses are unique in their ability to accurately address tightness and weakness simultaneously. Thank you for shedding light on the poor imprisoned QL and sharing your story of self-discovery and recovery from back pain. Free the QL! Free the QL!

vivian nguyen

this makes total sense! Ever since i was little my mother would say “close your legs!” because I used to sit with my legs open like a boy. I then developed a habit of sitting with my legs crossed, I do it so often that sitting with legs side-by-side feels awkward and legs crossed has become my normal. This is going to take some time to reverse.

David I

Never thought about that one, crossing my legs? I’m gonna look more into it. Makes sense. Just today I actually wanted to start researching how depressing the gas pedal every day for long periods of time must be throwing my entire foot to Femur out of whack. Been wanting to research that more.

Elissa Strutton

It’s interesting to note that such a seemingly innocuous habit of leg-crossing can cause so much pain in our low back. I loved the experiment you offered to illustrate the shortening that occurs in the QL when we sit in that position. I just had an “aha” moment as I suspect that my leg-crossing habit has contributed to the tightness and occasional pain in my low back. Boomerang on the wall is now one of my favorite poses as I cultivate more balance in my body…..and I am definitely more aware of how I sit! No more leg crossing for… Read more »

Robyn Capobianco

Its amazing the things we do out of habit without realizing it! I used to be a big leg crosser as well. The other thing I found out that I do daily is twist to the back seat to snap the restraint on my daughter’s carseat! I never realized what an imbalance this was making in my QL and erectors until YTU training where I had to level my pelvis in asymmetrical parsvottanasana! Thanks for the reminder to look at our habits and suggestions for poses to even them out!

Jamie Leigh

I always know I have been sitting either in a class or in life with my legs crossed if my sciatic pain flairs up. Never fails! Now I try to notice when I do this and if the setting allows it just pull my legs up into a meditation position. SO much better! Now if only I could do that in a skirt in a fancy restaurant…..

Barb Voss

Loved this article! I too am a chronic leg crosser and have experienced my fair share of lower back pain. It is an easy habit to fall into when you are so focused on your computer screen all day! This article is my challenge to place that post-it note on my computer, be vigilant and consistent with my efforts, and see if I reap the benefits! I am hoping this might also relieve a bit of sciatica as well!

Alicia Wang

This blog reminds me of the hundreds of people I have worked with that sit all day long, legs crossed or not. Their QL’s are disengaged for the majority of the day, while their psoas is shortened for the same portion of the day. They stand up at the end of the day, because they have gotten up even for lunch (which was eaten sitting at their desk), and their low backs hurt. The QL is nowhere to be found when the spine is in need of stabilization.

susan

This is great information! I am a leg crosser…under my desk all day long…and needless to say, my back pays for it. I have issues on the right side (lumbar and hip/glutes) and think sidewinder may just be the thing.

Angela

Love this reminder!! I used to be a total leg crosser until I had recurring tightness in my QL on my right side. Not surprisingly I almost always cross my right leg over my left instinctually. Until, my hairdresser told me to uncross my legs one day so she could get an even cut. She pointed out to me how imbalanced this made my entire body and I had a total “AHA” moment!!

Margaux

wow, I’ve experienced periodic lower back pain since college and could not figure out why. Post college I’ve held an office job where I’m sitting at my desk for at times 14 to 16 hours a day and likely most of the times, my legs are crossed! Thank you for sharing this insight, its too bad more people don’t know this! Seems like manner schools that teach our young ladies to keep their legs crossed, need to be re-educated…

Emily Faurholt

Awareness is key…. what am I doing to my body on a daily basis? I find myself sitting cross legged all the time. I think this article also helps us to remember where in our lives we should re-examine and be sure that we are doing good and not harm…. even if it seems harmless.

June Ross

This shows us how important it is to be in the moment.To be aware of the little actions that make a big difference.and with this awareness to make a change.Bring out the Yoga Tune up Balls and get rolling.

Annette

I am an occasional leg crosser, and I do get lower back pain once in a while. (I have herniated discs in my lower back as well) I am in the 200 hour TT and had the yoga tune up portion last weekend. After using the yoga tune-up balls on my lower back in class, it helped me so much and the pain has subsided. I have a question about an alternative to leg crossing; Is crossing at your ankles a good alternative? Someone told me that a long time ago and I try to remember to cross at the… Read more »

Kristin Marvin

I don’t cross my legs but I do stupid stuff like lie on the couch watching TV in a brutally incorrect position, compromising my QL; hence, messing my low back. I really need to stop! Also, lying in bed on my side without support (not often but every once in a while). I have been so fortunate to have a solid back. I don’t want to lose it.
I am going to stop! 🙂

Lisa Larivière

OMG, yes, my biggest problem is that I would cross my legs as well because of my being short I my legs just dangled under the chair, so I would end up crossing them, then Jill has really been drilling us, making me aware of my bad posture, boy do I have a lot of work to do!

Gwen

I’m a leg crosser, and I always have to stop myself, uncross and observe. I also have slight scoliosis, and I tend to cross in a way that encourages that rotation of my hips. This is an excellent reminder!

Lisa Highfield

I always like to be mindful to elevate my scapula and depress my hip as well in case the memory in my tissues reforms to it’s old habits.

Victoria

Oh you are sooo right. I need to go to leg crossers anonymous. I have habitually crossed my right leg over my left that my pelvis is actually twisted to the left and I recently noticed I twist my pelvis to the left when I sit on the couch and watch tv. Uggg So great those poses you mentioned are the ones we were taught today in Jills level 1 Yoga tuneup training and they brought great relief to my lower back and sacrum. Thanks for the reminder!

colleen

I have always been a leg crosser and have been working on it because it had been hurting my knees (and i say this as i have crossed legs, which i have been crossing and un-crossing throughout reading the article! oops). With the pain translated to my knees that was my area of focus for the longest time. I did quadricep work to release the patella, but what really changed things was when the connection was made that the alignment of my hips may be the cause to the tightness going on in my quads, which was effecting my knee.… Read more »

Robin Nickel

THank you for the great suggestions. I am an avid leg crosser. I do find myself and un cross but after many years I even think my veins in the back of my legs are starting to look different. I am now going to try and combine the awareness of uncrossing my leg with a nice big belly or nose breath!!

Holly

I too am a chronic leg crosser and it wasn’t until the combination of this weekend and this post that I started to recognize some of the many dangers of constantly sitting this way. I now recognize every time I hike my hip up, whether it is due to crossing my legs or stepping over the large pile of laundry sometimes in my way in my apartment, I’m using my QL, yet extended contraction (aka. hour long meetings at work sitting with my legs crossed) certainly has consequences.

Catherine

Such simple yet great advice! People tend to not realize what little things they can start doing to alleviate pain. The tough part is breaking old habits. I never really think about how my hips are at an angle when I cross my legs, and definitely have not considered how the way I sit may affect my Quadratus Lumborum. Pretty sure my legs are crossed as I type this…better change that!!

Amanda

Allyson, you are so right and your post is very timely! I just finished rolling out my low back and buttocks – part of my regular maintenance program to keep myself out of pain – and it absolutely works!

Kimberly

Hmmm, now I wonder if crossing my legs may be the culprit to why my left side feels like it belongs on a different body? It’s true our everyday habits can cause imbalances that play a role in our physical ailments. YTU training has me analyzing my every shift and move, It’s very interesting.

Allyson

Thanks Amanda! I’m glad you mentioned the YTU pose Triangle in Parallel, because this is often when we see the result of chronic leg crossing, or a QL imbalance. The illia are not even in this pose for most of us, and it takes a lot of work to level-ize the pelvis. Working YTU’s Moon Rises also helps bring awareness to this imbalance. I often cross my legs and am trying to stop, and this was a great reminder of why I need to stop now. There are several YTU Therapy Ball sequences for the low back and hips that… Read more »

Janet Berkowitz

I am also a chronic crosser of my left leg over my right and do have just a little low back pain.
I loved Jill’s verion of the sidewinder pose with legs apart as opposed to legs glued together. Jill, you really are quite creative and wild!
Good way to end commenting on these blogs. It gave me a chuckle!

Andrea Penagos

Woah! I’m a leg crosser too (with her best intentions, my mother informed me many times that ‘proper women’ should cross their legs) and from time to time I battle bouts of low back pain that attack right as I lay down for bed. Interestingly enough, my mom also has similar back pain (!). Amanda, I’ll try doing sidewinder and boomerang to lengthen the “QL”, and I’ll pass the good word along. Thanks for schooling us women about why it’s not always a good idea to “act like a lady”. 🙂

Caroline M

I’m an occasional leg crosser but I find that I have the same symptoms and QL imbalance from being a side sleeper (I favor one side) and as the top hip is perpetually elevated, the imbalance hurts both sides of the lower back. I’ve gotten into the habit of wrinkling the sheets both before going to sleep and upon awakening doing the sidewinder in bed. Thanks for the article, I will be more mindful of the leg-crossing.

Vrinda Liza Eapen

Amanda, thanks for this! Two days ago, a teacher at my studio had us lying on our backs with our legs up the wall. There I was….chilling in my yoga brain; thinking I almost found enlightenment when my right hip slowly started to lift itself off the wall. I did not try to control my body at this point as I was very interested in conversing with my hips and as Shakira reminded us for so many years, ‘ Hips don’t lie!’. Of course, because I was so lucky to have recently completed my YTU level 1 training, I knew… Read more »

Amy Sosne

I am definitely a leg-crosser! As I sit each day thus far in my yoga teacher training class, I am aware of my body positioning and I definitely favor the leg crossing habit. I have had injuries specific to the lower left back and I now wonder if they can be attributed to this leg crossing. I will definitely have to be more conscious while I’m sitting and try to prevent the temptation to cross my legs.

Amanda

Hi Sherry. It’s true – and one of the reasons why I’m such an enthusiastic practitioner of and advocate for Yoga Tune Up®! During the course of my Level I YTU Training, my chronic back pain dissolved – and not only that, the training armed with the skills and knowledge to take the matter of healing my tissues into my own hands. How wonderfully liberating and empowering!! Sidewinder changed my relationship with my body. If you think your QL are the issue, then I would absolutely endorse your plan to experiment with trying on Parighasana and Side plank. I’ll be… Read more »

Sherry Matwe

Amanda – you were our (Jill’s) Assistant in the YTU Level 1 YTU teacher training. I would have never guessed you suffered and corrected your lower back pain. Your physical body and upbeat attitude seemed as if you never suffered to tears. Your demonstrations were incredible and clearly you have rehabilitated yourself. What I find so incredible about YTU is your living proof, but what hit me the most is the way YTU teaches you to care for yourself and start a new with a ‘new normal’. I have just begun my teacher training but I would have thought before… Read more »

Tracy Crooks

Legs crossed is definetly a habit to be changed and create a new balance with YTU. I can feel the tightening and discomfort in my QL and pain mi my SIs from only moments of sitting with my legs crossed. YTU has mad me more consciencious of my posture and has brought my awareness to the side bends my body craves.

Eva Berswick

oh, but what do you do to replace this horrible habit when you are confined to a cubicle? I move, I wiggle, my co-workers can’t wait to see what my next pose will be. I’m aiming for the large excersise ball to sit on. If approved by the Healthe and Safety person. 🙂 However the cross legged pose on the floor is giving me a hard time too lately. I have to find a sitting position somehow which is easy for my body type.

Luisa

It seems like such an innocent pose, one leg over the other. We get away with this today or tomorrow but eventual bad habits build up and our body lets us know loud and clear to stop and live a life of pain and misery. It is good to know the reason behind the wisdom and Yoga Tune Ball ways to alleviate the pain immediately and eradicate the suffering forever.

Terry Ford

Thanks for the reminder Amanda. Who would think sitting pretty could end up being debilitating, not to mention those nice little lines in the legs crossing creates. As I sit typing this message … (having uncrossed my legs) – I find my feet wedged under my chair and one hip bearing more weight than the other. One thing leading to another ….placement of computers on desks, phone placement and chair positions are so important in keeping proper posture and avoiding discomfort while computer tasks nessessitate excessive sitting at work or otherwise. Being consious of ones position constantly is helpful.

Lynn T

Taking into consideration crossing the legs in a seated position is one thing, then move forward to taking into consideration sports which cross the legs over (and in particular perhaps more to one side). This will enhance all of what Amanda is telling us in this post. Think of hockey players, speed skaters, roller balders, track runners and other track athletes – just to name a few. Try some of the poses mentioned above to rebalance your body back into equilibrium for better sport performance.