If you have noticed that your back pain or hip pain is now travelling north, you need to catch the myofascial train. First, hit up the superficial back line with Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls. Start from the soles of your feet and then work the balls up the back of the calves, hamstrings, gluteals, lower back, quadratus lumborum, up along the erector spinae all the way up to the occipital bone at the base of the skull. This will help release any trigger points along the line.
Then start a simple sequence to stretch out the iliocostalis. Start on the floor with Leg Stretch #1 to release into the hamstrings and lower back, make sure you do both legs; then come to standing and do Boomerang at the wall. This will be awesome for fully lengthening the iliocostalis and other erectors, as well as providing an incredible stretch for the outer hip, quadratus lumborum and other superficial back muscles. Then finish it off with asymmetrical uttanasana (in the video below and as part of the Quick Fix for Hips video) to lengthen through the entire superficial back line. The twist will give you that extra bit of oh and ah as your iliocostalis lengthens and releases.
Working with this simple sequence should start to not only alleviate the hip and lower back discomfort but also free up the calves, hamstrings and upper body to start creating healthier movement patterns for the legs and shoulder, in a balanced and integrated way.
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I just learned the stretch attending the yoga tune up teacher training.. It was so interesting to see and experience how awkward it felt at 1st to do an asymmetrical stretch, but then how great it felt once the body understood what was going to be happening. It’s a continuation of thinking outside of the Boxanna , and it makes so much sense because real life, especially people who have industrial type construction construction jobs or even someone who wants to work in the garden, uses a uses asymmetrical movements all the time all the time period
Thank you for this tip!! I look forward to trying this sequence of events myself, as well as sharing it with my students, family and friends.
I teach this pose using a half-sized block under the standing foot, which allows more students to straighten the leg on the block. Many students with chronic low back pain who have not been able to identify or access the precise location of their discomfort love this pose. Few of our typical hip openers access the IT band or TFL, and I suspect that’s why this feels so unusual and delicious.
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Love the fact that you are suggesting rolling the back line first in order to relieve tension so that we can therefore benefit from a deeper stretch when in those poses.
Thanks for the sequence and the inclusion of the video. I love the use of the block under the foot and the addition of the twist. It’s a great way the change the emphasis of the pose for the deep back line with the inclusion of the spiral line.
i am definitely going to try this sequence out! Just reading it sounds yummy. I’m sure there are many, many people who would benefit from doing all of the exercises in this video. Love the way you put them together. Off I go to try it out!!! Thank you!
What a great gentle way to get people to understand this basic yoga pose. Thanks!
An amazing way to access hip tightness! No stretch or pose I’ve known can target this area as well as this.
I love, love, love this pose for the reasons you mention — it just hits that hard to reach sweet spot in the hip. I especially love doing this pose after a class where I feel like my hip has been loaded. This gets me back to walking straight!
Wow! I found this pose to be extra challenging as I have pretty tight hamstrings and esp. attemping to straighten the leg raised on the block with integrity took even more mindfullness.
I enjoyed this posture yesterday. I have done this without a block before, but because I have more flexible hamstrings I could really feel the benefits of the posture with a block under the standing foot. There aren’t many postures that you can get a good stretch for your IT Band and this definitely gets to the point.
If it is difficult to straighten the knee of the leg that is on the block, is it still beneficial to walk the hands away from the blocked hip?
I love this pose: although I have a lot lot of flexibility in my hips and spine and hamstrings; I always feel much sensation here. Now having done 2 days of training, I think a more effective way for me to do this pose: since I am the antithesis of a biker or runner, would be by PTF: contracting the hamstrings and maybe even erectors strengthening all that length that’s already there…
I like the combination of Leg Stretch #1 to release into the hamstrings and lower back, then Boomerang at the wall for the iliocostalis and erectors and outer hip, quadratus lumborum and other superficial back muscles. Of course the assymetrical utanasana feels good after those 2 moves.
My Cycling Body Loves You ! Nancy x
Amanda, thanks for your thoughtful and detailed answer to my question about the sacrum. You have given me much to consider. I would love to see more posts related to sacral instability! As a teacher and student, I am feeling that both stability and balanced strength are needing more attention in yoga than they have received in the past. ( in general, I’m not talking specifically about Yoga Tune Up. I love you guys!)
Hello YTU family,
I also feel that the height of the block is a bit too much for my sacrum. The height of the yogi is a factor too. But I agree that for ailments such as Plantar fasciitis, getting the length in the SBL is the key to freedom from PF pain, and helps relieve low back pain as well.
Sara lyn Phillips
I loved discovering this pose in training today! Inversions are on my favorites list, but cervical spine issues rule out a few. This pose is a lovely multi-tasker coaxing my hips, hamstrings and lower back to a better place while My upper body feasts on all that O2.
I have an s curve scoliosis and this felt like a great stretch for the contracted side along the thoracolumbar junction. I just learned this stretch today and it instantly relieved the discomfort I have had for the last few weeks on the right side of my mid back when combined with the boomerang stretch. It will definitely be part of my daily yoga routine!
Even those whose bodies aren’t challenged by a simple cross-legged uttanasana can benefit from this sequence. It is amazing for frequent travelers, and the props can be relatively easily substituted when on the road. I will never cease to be amazed by the sensation in my own body when completing one side and then taking stock of the difference in my L vs. R sides – if I didn’t know any better, it feels like the non-rolled side is so tight it feels like my natural shape is curled like a banana!
For those students that find their full body weight on the balls to be too much, how would you recommend the series be modified at the wall without requiring too much coordination? Specifically, I’m thinking about how a similar sequence could be built for seniors.
Hi Elise, if you would like to humour me, try doing the sequence first without the Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls. Then do the ball work and the sequence and let me know if you can feel a difference. A
I love the idea of rolling out from the feet all the way up to the occipital bone before going into the stretch sequence. I’m working this into my next practice. Thank you!
Hi Susan, thanks for your question. Without knowing all the details my short answer would be, it depends.
Often when there is instability in the sacrum it generally means there is a muscle imbalance. So some muscles are doing more work then others to hold stability. When you come into the stretch, the muscles that are working overtime finally get to release, but then no one is doing the work to hold everything in place. This is potentially why it feels good while you are doing it but feeling funky (not in the good way) afterwards.
If it is a simple muscle imbalance I would suggest you can continue to do the pose but focus on keeping stronger muscle engagement through the legs. A good way to do this is through an isometric contraction where you try and push the feet apart (without the feet moving) and this will engage the muscles of the legs and glutes. Also while doing this focus on contracting and lifting the area bounded by the tailbone, pubic bones, and sitting bones) as this helps to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles (pubococcygeus, iliococcygeus, and coccygeus) that help keep the lower end of the sacrum from lifting and the lower pelvic bones from spreading apart.
The key is to create a stable environment for the joint. This might mean taking an approach that focusses on strengthening the muscles that cross the joint or holding the pelvic bones in place.
When practicing asymetrical uttanasana on both sides I usually finish with a strong uttanasana – pressing hands into calves and resisting against your hands by pushing legs out against them – isometric contraction. This might be something you could try.
If you did want to option it remove the brick and work with symmetrical uttanasana with a twist. Just remember to move with care
Hope this helps.
Hi Tao – I totally agree. This is a sweet little sequence you could use post run. My long distance runner friends have also commented that it has helped free up the ribcage for better breathing.
I’ve tried the asymmetrical uttanasana a few times. It feels good at the time, but then I notice later that I have pain in the sacral area. I have a somewhat unstable sacrum anyway, so this is probably just a position I should avoid. Any thoughts?
You rock lady! Totally trying this one.
This should be in every runner’s maintenance arsenal. Always looking for ways to reduce the pounding my spine endures during all those miles on pavement. Thank you!