You know that nagging feeling in your low back after a long day sitting at a desk? You can’t quite put your finger on whether the sensation is soreness, strain, or pain – but you know it doesn’t feel good, and you would give anything to find relief. I think this happens to most of us at one time, but my Mom had been complaining about this low back pain for the past few months and I wanted to help her find relief. With low back pain, there is a very good chance your seated posture could be the culprit. When constantly sitting and typing on a computer, the spine is often put into flexion, creating rounding in the back body. This rounding puts the muscles of the back body into a persistent state of stretching, which decreases their tonicity. This is problematic because the muscles of the back are super involved in core stabilization. If these muscles lack tonicity because they are constantly overstretching, then they cannot properly support an intelligently stacked spine; which is one in which the natural spinal curves are intact.
To reverse the process of habitual hyper flexion of the spine while seated, it is important to stabilize the core muscles, which include muscles of the front, back and side body. One important and often missed core stabilizer is the Quadratus Lumborum, aka the QL. The QL muscle is often considered a deep abdominal muscle, and is located beneath the more superficial back muscles, and above the pelvis and adjacent to the spine on both sides. The QL muscles (there are 2!) can be strengthened in several Yoga Tune Up® poses, but my personal favorite is the Locust Minivini shown here and on the Quick Fix for the Lower Back video:
The cool down for the mini vini in happy baby seems like a great pose to lengthen the QL, reconnect to the breath and calm the mind… a great check in !
As I get older, back pain has begun to creep in. My spine and postural muscles are a big spine for me. Being a swimmer in my teens and twenties has left me with favorable standing and seated posture as it was never addressed. This is one of the reasons I was introduced to Yoga Tune Up® – the what, the why and the lets try to see if this helps. Thank you for the great info.
Good information, about the cause of the lower back pain and solution. It would also be a great benefit to remind the readers about the importance of getting off the chairs every 30 minutes to stretch and deviate the stress on the QL. This will decrease the likelihood of reoccurring back pain. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
I like how this article explains how bad postural habits affect the QL and THEN tells you how to reverse those habits with the Locust Minivini pose shown by Jill in the video. I’d like to implement this into my pilates class. Rather than teaching movement to better bodies and let them get on with the exercise, I’d like to start with an example- something that my students can connect with and then explain how to reverse the bad postural habits they are performing daily.
Thank you Amanda! I have a different relationship with my deep core muscles now after reading your blogs on QL and taking your classes. I can feel how I start feeling differently after a practice dedicated to QL.
LOVELOVELOVE this version of Locust. I feel stronger, more integrated and refreshed every time I practice it – and it targets one of my favorite muscles – the QL, too! Thanks for including the video to practice with!
I had a back injury last summer and this is one of the exercises that the physiotherapist prescribed me. It’s interesting to see how much overlap there is between Yoga Tune Up & what movement professional are recommending to cure and prevent injury.
I totally agree that all day sitting can maximize the spine flexion. However there are people who try to sit straight all day and push their spine in more lumbar extentin and just sholuder protraction. From my experience that happens very often. Hiperlordosis in lumbar spine build a lot of comression on lower back muscles and can have a bed influence on vertebras. Protracted shoulders are shortenning pectoralic muscles and make a tention in upper romboid. It would be good to consider if bed posture realy comes from spine flexion.
I have a desk job and I am fully aware that sitting at my desk plays havoc with my posture. I make every effort to stand up every 30 minutes to walk around and also stretch my shoulders. I have a bad habit of sitting with my leg crossed and especially on one side. I know this throws my posture off to have my hip elevated but it is a habit that feels comfortable in my body. Unfortunately, it is not making my body feel very comfortable once I stand up and have to walk around. I always include a similar minivini in my classes because I know I am not the only one who needs it.
Thanks for the great info! It never occurred to me that when seated the back body was actually “over-stretching.” I always assumed it was just the pressure rolling down the spine that would cause pain the lower back. Of course I knew good posture could help, but I never made the connected to the abdominals/core. I’ll be sure to pay more attention to my posture, as I sit most of the day at a desk, and will also take your suggestion to strengthen the core.
Posture is definitely important. I am a full time student, and know first hand how the sedentary qualities of student and work life can cause major issues. Practicing correct posture strengthens the core muscles that often suffer from misuse/disuse/ and overuse. I found the perspective of the QL being overstretched to be interesting. Is it more overstretching, or more atrophy? Getting back into yoga and fixing posture after finals is always a process to strengthen those muscles back up and work out all the kinks that sneak up. This locust minivini can help. But what are some ways to make sure you maintain posture while sitting for such long hours? I have seen inflatable core stability disks to put on office chairs but when having to sit at a desk for so many hours of work or school, eventually you get tired and form suffers. What can you do then to help?
Great suggestion. I have a hard time accessing my QL in order to build strength. This exercise will do that with many mini reps, which I can do though out the day instead of waiting until I’m already feeling achy.
We all know the importance of having good posture, but I still constantly catch myself sitting at my desk with my back curved and my shoulders rounding forward. I have the image of my grandmother and her permanently rounded, hunched forward back embedded in my mind and as hard as I try to sit with my core engaged and back straight, I still seem to round. It sounds like the key message here is to strengthen the core stabilizers, especially the QL (Quadratus Lumborum). I am looking forward to adding the locust minivini to my core strengthening routine!
Like most of us, I have always been aware of the importance of good posture. But tfter attending 3 days of classes with Yoga Tune Up, i now understand that rounding your back actually implies over stretching the back muscles. Overstreching muscles can be very bad if one does not work simultaneously at making them stronger. It is possible to get stronger by working on core muscles, which are antagonists muscles to the lower back muscles. Thank you for pointing the importance of the QL, a muscle that we often forget or don’t know about
I’m very interested in the interconnection between the iliopsoas and the QLs, and the role that they collectively play in pelvic tilt and spinal neutrality.
I’m having trouble visualizing the working relationship in the continuity of the psoas and the QLs. If the psoas are short and tight, will that lead to locked-long in the QLs? Or, will the QLs also be short because the illiac crest will be elevated from anterior tilt?
This is a highly effective pose for energizing the back muscles. I like how Jill fashions it in a minivini style, flexing the spine along with the breath. However, I’m curious as to why she’s practicing on a blanket and not a mat. Does the folded blanket in the pose buttress the locust movement in any way (as it does during body surfing, frog crawls, etc.)?
Every body in every office building should be made to watch this at their lunch break. I’m currently trying to get out of the office more because it causes so much trouble with my back as far as posture, flexibility and general sense of well-being. For those who aren’t able to get away from the desk, this sequence practiced continually and mindfully could be a godsend. Counteracting our known body patterns is super beneficial no matter where we’re at 🙂
An excellent piece of writing on a problem that so many of us suffer from. And most of us probably resign ourselves to the fact that the pain or ache might be ‘chronic’ and hence we tend to do very to improve the situation. Our busy lifestyles are often sited as a ‘factor’ for not doing much to get rid of the pain. But as the video shows, it does not take much time to exercise those deep abdominal muscles. Little and often goes a long way.
I am so guilty of this!! Given that I have a diagnosis of Arthritis in my lower back (L5-S1), you’d think I’d be better with my posture but when I’m not consciously aware of it I find myself slouching. On the other end when I am trying to maintain good posture, my back begins to ache a bit. I’ll definitely put this exercise into my repertoire to help alleviate the scrunching that goes on down there. Thanks for this!
We did this exercise tonight during our Yoga Tune Up class and I could feel an immediate difference. I’m definitely sending this post to all of my friends who sit at a desk all day. The stronger my core gets the less lower back pain I experience and I am excited to incorporate the Locust Minivini in my daily practice! Thank You!
I see people everyday coming to our yoga classes. We know most of them really well and if I see rounded shoulders I will gently straighten their shoulders and verbally l encourage them to stand straight and tall. After doing this a few times then I become the catalyst for them to pay particular attention to their posture when they see me and a number have actually told me that they feel taller as they are paying attention to lenghtening their spine when sitting and when doing yoga etc. In class I lead them thru the Locust minivini and Child’s Pose.
This is a problem that plagues many, if not most of the population. Thanks so much for the helpful exercise. 🙂
My experience is that postures such as wheel can have the muscle shortened but in a different way. In backbends the arms and legs also generate forces that put us into a backbend. It’s not all created by the literal muscles that hyperextend the spine.
To stretch the QL forward bending can be one way of getting after it but it is more effective to do side bending. Parighasana comes to mind as the one of the most clear and consistent ways to stretch the QL.
Thank you for your post. As I sit here at a computer reading I notice the flexion of my spine. I have always struggled with my posture and know that the ab work I have done has not targeted to QL so much. I will definitely use this exercise to strengthen my QL so I will not have back pain in the future.
This post and video really resonate with me because I come from an entire family of women who hunch over. Unfortunately, they live in another state, and don’t do yoga, but I can’t wait to fly back and visit them because I will definitely teach them this little exercise to alleviate their back pain they are always complaining about. Hopefully they will take me more seriously now that I can incorporate the vocabulary.
It is incredible how little time can cause huge changes in either posture or/and health. Knowing how much and how diverse areas of your body and mind and even energy are affected for good or not so good, makes you be more aware of how we position our selves..
This is a great post and a great reminder that it is vital to strengthen the core muscles all around the trunk. Not just the front, but the back and sides as well. This is so important to foster stability in the trunk to support all of our movements – even sitting up straight at our desks. Love the locust minivini:)
The simplicity of the concepts you talk about are amazing. these techniques are accessible to everyone. My husband has lower back pain and am looking forward to helping him incorporate this into his wellness practice. Thank you for continuing to share your amazing work with everryone.This work is how we can heal ourselves using our movment as the medicine.
Like Jill says, our posture follows us like a shadow- don’t let it be a creepy shadow! It’s amazing how our posture is insidious in it’s reaches into every little thing we do. Building ourselves (QL included) from the inside out prepares us so well for taking on the world! Love the Locust Minivini!
Sitting here reading this I did a few gentle back bends. Locust is one of my go to ways to correct the forward aspect of daily life. Even though I constantly re-adjust my posture throughout the day I still need to toss in back strengthening to balance it all out.
Great reminder about the QL and our need to engage posterior muscles/ extensors to strengthen and counteract the destructive desk posture. It is good to remember also that to create successful new posture patterns, we need to also attend to releasing the tight overused flexors- iliopsoas, pecs, hamstrings.
I found this post (and especially the video) very helpful. I sit at a desk all day and oftentimes find myself at end of the day slumping even lower in my seat so that my arms almost parallel with the desk. It’s almost as if the release from changing positions is what I need. Why is it so uncomfortable to sit straight up? Is it because my muscles are so used to the rounded position that that has become my natural default?
I too find myself consistently rounding my back as I type away from a computer all day. I really appreciate Victoria’s comment of the alarm – I need to remind myself to take a break. If I could have these minutes – I might help clear my mind as well as reverse future back pain.
Sitting at a desk all day cannot be avoided by those who work in an office. The good news is that abusing the body by sitting in a slumped posture all day can be avoided. I often ask clients to set their phone alarm to go off once or twice during their work day (to start). When the alarm goes off I instruct them to take a walk or simply stand for a few moments. When they are ready to sit down again I tell them to take a moment to review the posture “cue” of the week in their mind, take a deep breath and then implement that cue when they sit. Slowly, week by week, as the posture information increases and the cues become good habits, the pain starts to disappear. Taking a moment for a deep breath and to “remind” you body how to sit has the potential to do a world of good.
That soft, bendy lower back rides again and crushes good posture in the realm of sitting! I gravitate toward sitting on the ground while working but it has its problems too. Recently I reworked my work space to be little more than a traditional Japanese restaurant. A low desk with a meditation stool on one side and a bolster on the other. I swap sides of the desk when I feel like I am losing posture (or blood flow) and switch from a kneeling type position on the meditation stool to a cross or wide legged seat on the bolster. It has been the greatest invention for my body type and allows me to sit at a desk for much longer hours without compromising my posture. It has made me wonder why desks were ever designed at the standardised height they are?!
Everything is better with proper posture, your organs work better, digestion/energy/emotional state etc. I so often hear people say they have a leg length discrepancy when it is often a tight GL. That medium size muscle is very powerful, important and certainly needs focus.
Great article and very helpful — i was thinking the QL was mostly engaged in lateral movement, and didn’t realize it was so involved in poses like Locust. Makes sense now — thanks!
This is sooo important. Thanks, Amanda. Often, if someone has been slumping in a chair – – even an ergonomic chair – – and attempt to sit with better posture, it might only last for seconds to minutes. Without strengthening and stablizing all the muscles inclding the QL, the deep habit of sitting poorly will dominate.
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I second that emotion! And I also want to point out the very common sitting error that people make by sitting on their coccyx, which of course forces them into a C curve and their lumbar paraspinals lose all tone. Instead I instruct people to be sure to sit on their ischial tuberosities, which also tips some weight into their pubic bone, giving them a nice broad triangle base of support to sit on, rather than the single point of the coccyx. Sitting with the pelvis oriented this way also has the handy effect of putting your spine into its natural curves rather effortlessly. Hooray!
I really like this article, Amanda! (: It makes more sense to me (as in I make more connections) than most of the other blogs because I did further research on the QL actually for my final oral presentation at the YTU L1 TT.
In Yoga Tune Up®, another good way to strengthen the QL is any kind of Bridge Lifts (minivini, setu bandha, etc.).
Good article on the QL. So many forget about the “core” muscles in the back and only think about their abdominal region. Good, subtle alternative to bridge and backbend
This “Quick Fix for the Lower back” is great but you know what would be even better? Not ruining your back by hunching in computer chairs all day! I know, I know, its not your fault. You have to work and you have to sit at your computer and you didn’t invent this darn chair that causes spinal flexion for too long but that what you’ve got. Well thats true. In fact I believe that modern chairs were invented by the devil to cause back problem. Ok maybe that is being dramatic but on serious note: The fact is humans were NOT designed to sit in chairs! We evolved to squat! For thousands of years humans squatted while preparing food or making tools. They also squatted while eating, pooping, and giving birth. But today’s modern homo sapian can barely approach a healthy squat for more than a few seconds. That is why I try to squat whenever possible. I even squat in my computer chair! When attempting such a feat first make sure you are able to square on the floor with your heels down. Second, make sure your chair is stable! Then squat with feet a little bit apart and parallel. Take the knees wide and try to lift the heart forward, broadening the chest, taking the head of the arm bones (shoulders) back, and work on lengthening the spine rather than flexing it. With regular practice that should help alleviate a lot of chronic “sitting problems” such as back & shoulder pain, core weakness, and indigestion.
I recently bought a kneeing chair, which is supposed to help improve you’re posture. I’ve found it really easy to cheat and hunch over and I think part of the reason I do it is because it takes a lot of effort and mindfulness for me to maintain a healthy posture. I believe that I need to build strength in my back muscles in order for it to stop feeling like so much work to sit in a way that isn’t hurting my body. Thanks for posting the video!
I too constantly flex my spine while I spend most of my day on my computer. In order to counteract this I recently bought a kneeling chair (which is supposed to help you maintain a good posture). However, I noticed that I am sitting in this chair in the same way that I would sit in my old chair – hunched over. I have to constantly bring my attention to my posture while I’m at my desk. Old habits die had! I will have to do some strengthening exercises for my QL. Thanks for the video!
Thank you for this article. I am teaching a health class at work in Oct with plenty of 8 hr chair bound people and I hope to share with them about the QL and what they can do to strengthen those muscles.
So good to be back home and after all that sitting, lifting and carrying of bags while traveling; I’m on the floor tonight performing this strengthening Yoga Tune-Up movement! No more weak Quadratus Lumborum muscles and no more flexion of the Spine for me, I promise!
Thanks Amanda for a great short explanation. I find that many people could use this very info as I have many clients and class attendees that ask for lower back stretches or think their seated position can be remedied by just putting a roll behind their back, but never strengthening this muscles. Love Locus Minivini. I realized in class yesterday how much I was using my rhomboids instead of my QL, good to know!
Nice little blog about the oft overlooked QL and back extensors in general. So many forget about engaging the posterior portion of the core and how important that is for true core stability.
I keep learning more and more everyday about how important the QL is. A weak QL doesn’t just contribute to lower back pain but also torso instability, for instance if you’re carrying a heavy bag in one arm its the QL that keeps you from leaning too far to the same side.
Great article about strengthening the QL for better posture. I find that the QL is one of those muscles that people really know nothing about. So many folks think that the abdominals begin and end with what’s up front – what they can see in the mirror. They don’t understand the value – the necessity – of strengthening the quadratus muscles. I have found in the last couple days of teaching, just talking a little bit about this muscle has brought so much awareness and focus into my classes.
Love the dynamic version of locust that focuses on both the concentric and eccentric phases of contraction. I know many of my clients will love this subtle change to this great backbend and low back strengthener.