Given that the erector spinae run the length of the back and play such a vital role in supporting the spine let’s talk Yoga Tune Up® poses to stretch and awaken these upper and lower back muscles. Stretch the erectors in forward folds like asymmetrical uttanasana (focusing on one side at a time), or apanasana with abdominal contraction where the abdominals engage to release and stretch the back further. Boomerang at the wall with a proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitator (PNF) would totally rock this – especially the iliocostalis. Strengthen and awaken them (seriously do this if you sit at a desk all day) with poses like runner’s lunge with abdominal contraction, cobra at the wall, squat arms up (with block at wall too), and locust minivini (in the video clip below). Mind the erector spinae like you would the gap on the London tube. Don’t understand that? Neither do I.
As a kid Matt Sharpe attempted almost every sport imaginable. As an NCAA Division I athlete he was exposed to almost every training method imaginable. After graduate school Matt found yoga nursing a injury and never looked back. Nothing matched the mental and physical aspects of yoga. Matt uses yoga as a tool to create balance between strengthening and stretching to prepare for whatever life wants to throw into the disco party. YTU was a natural extension to tie together a previous life as an athlete and his 200 hour traditional Yoga Alliance Certification to more fully integrate anatomy and movement into every day life. His classes reflect a mix of traditional principles and poses tied to a strong flow of movement with an easy philosophical approach. Matt is a product manager in Silicon Valley, a traveler, a coffee snob, and an outdoor lover much of which is reflected in his classes.
thank you–I am a desk sitter so I will try these abdominal contracting exercises
I will be doing these after work!
Wonderful visual of stretching with lengthening, while supporting the back. Still implementing tools learned through Tune up Certification class recently and this encouraged me to get on my mat and out of my head.
Good selection of YTU poses to strengthen and awaken the back muscles. I particularly like the Runner’s Lunge. It strengthens so many muscle groups as the same time.
Thanks for the great tips and stretches to use in relieving back pain. So many of us sit too long and need these specific movements incorporated to our daily routine. One of my favorites sharing with students is Boomerang at wall or modify on the floor.
I have enjoyed doing the wind-relieving pose for many years and have always appreciated the stretch that my back received. But today was the first time that I ever performed it with an abdominal contraction and the YTU sequence and what a difference it makes! For the first time I felt the release of my tiresomely tight Psoas. Just the whole sequence works well and I am looking forward to using it in conjunction with the Boomerang at the wall.
I love Apanasana – knees-to-chest pose. It definitely makes a difference with the abdominals engaged, creating more release and stretch in the back. thanks for sharing.
I tried apanasana with abdominal contraction for the first time today… Its a great core exercice and good back stretcher! Love it
This Apanasana on nitro is a great way to release tension in the whole body after along day of sitting. I really appreciate how Yoga Tune Up brings us slowly into the peak pose. Every cell in the body is awake by the time it is done.
The back is beautiful example of tensegrity from the deep layers of the multifidi through the spinal erectors and latissimus dorsi. Such a complex structure that is misused and certainly abused in our lives.
A short blog but packed full of poses and muscle info. I took an anatomy book out and had a close look at the muscles of the posterior side of the torso to get a good visual. At first all I was looking for was the location of the iliocostalis group but gained so much more from checking out he layers from deep to superficial. Thanks 🙂
I have a bit of discomfort in locust minivini, my pubic bone feels quite a bit of pressure. I placed a blanket to soften the pressure which helped a little but the best position is doing it on the bed as the mattress provides the perfect amount of support without any pain. thanks
The apanasana pose with abdominal contraction is a favorite pose of mine for many reasons (building core strength, activating hip flexors in flexed hip, stretching hip flexors in extended leg) and it hadn’t occurred to me until now that it also feels good on my erector spinae. Thank you for shedding light on this! It allows me to give more reasons why my students should practice it.
I’m looking forward to teaching Locust minivini in my classes. Locust has always been one of my favorites to teach and seems a natural for dynamic movement. A fun way to strengthen the back while giving the shoulders and chest a treat.
Benito – That’s excellent. If you’re looking to isolate the QL in particular, check out things like side winder. http://www.yogatuneup.com/blog/2013/07/05/strengthen-and-stretch-with-sidewinder/
I am a ballroom dancer and have often been asked to utilize my lower back in lengthening it. I found this exercise very useful to locate my QL and now i can feel exactly where my coaches wanted my intention to come from.
Locust and low cobra are “long” backbends that are so simple yet with so much benefit. Many people didn’t realize their back problem originates from weak back muscles (from rounding the back and slouching everywhere all the time) and would think that backbending may aggravate the situation. This is a very useful sequence that incorporate dynamic movement into classic yoga poses. Great for home practice and a way to start an yoga class.
I love to strengthen and stretch along the back of the spine – Thanks for sharing this sequence.
You know lateral flexion in Boomerang is such a great way to get in touch with the erector spinae on one side… it’s like when you want to wiggle something apart, you don’t just go forward and back you have to twist and and side bend and that just might loosen the facet joints where they are locked up… I’ve done this when a client is stuck in two to three vertebrae in flexion and after some side bending (lateral flexion) and some rotation suddenly those stuck vertebrae in flexion release!
Love it! Simple and such an effective exercise with nothing but your own body needed. So important for everyone, spinal health, core and posture. Thanks!
So important to strengthen these muscles to support in so many activities. Definitely sitting at the desk all day but also when in movement, carrying, lifting, turning and of course back bending. In my yoga classes I always teach back stregthening poses before back bending. I usually do low cobra without the hands or half locusts and then into full locust holding for time. Later I would offer going deeper into back bends. I am curious about how the muscles respond to rhythmically moving in and out of the pose for example locust, versus holding it more statically.
Thanks for posting the locust minivini. I’m raising two active kids. Evens still, I notice their poor postural habits – even with my constant nagging. 🙂 I’m strongly thinking of requiring them to do this minivini before and after any ipod use. 🙂
Great article to remind us all of those erector spinal muscles and how weak they can be….desk work…driving in a car…the locust minivini is great. Cobra at the wall is a great one to start with. I really find the breathe is as important in these poses as well.
When I teach core strengthening focus class I always include back-body to the moans and groans of the class. We are very fond of flexion in our practice and forget the importance of extension.
Thank you for sharing! The muscular action of strengthening and releasing, as demonstrated through the locus mini, is essential especially when you may sit in an office all day. We can find ourselves falling into flexion habits where we begin to contract the upper body and create poor posture that may inhibit lower back pain. I like the reminder of coming into child’s pose to rest and restore after the post by creating space in the lower back with our breath.
Yes! After sitting at a desk for any length of time Boomerang and Cobra at the wall are an amazing way to “unfurl” the spinal flexion that we may slip into at the computer. (Though practicing YTU keeps you from slipping into that curl less and less. 🙂
Thanks for sharing this post! It is true that we ignore (at least I’ve done for many years..) the important role that this muscles play in our back. Having very poor posture habits as a teenager caused me to have a hunched back, and many problems in my lower back. I suppose as many people my lack of confidence and lack of information made things worse. These are wonderful exercises, love the locust mini vini!!!
I am curious if there are any contrindications for patients with known disc and or nerve challenges of the back?
Thanks for this post. I really appreciate your sense of humor. It brings some levity to what can often be such a serious topic. Don’t get me wrong I am a self-appointed anatomy nerd but I find I have to laugh a little or I get way too deep in the rabbit hole. Good times. Thanks for sharing the locust mini vini — I will definitely be incorporating that into my classes.
Boomerang at the wall with PNF added to the mix is wonderful!