Studies show that 80% of American’s will complain about low back pain in their lifetime. Let’s face it – that’s basically everyone.
What does that mean for athlete’s or yogi’s? It usually means taking it easy, no back bends, and to remedy the problem – forward folds as your stretching solution.
But are forward folds the best option to relieve low back pain?
Let me answer that question the best way I know how… with an anatomy lesson.
Most of the population has an exaggerated anterior curve of the pelvis. To simplify that – imagine someone standing with a major curve (towards the front) in their low back, and their butt sticking way out behind them. That’s an anterior curve of the pelvis. This causes all of the muscles in your lower back to shorten. In order to stretch a muscle, you need to put it in the opposite position that it’s currently in. This means you would need to put rounding in the lower back… but we know better than that right? This puts some serious pressure on your lumbar vertebra.
Now about those forward folds – if we are doing them correctly, we are actually flattening our lumbar spine, not rounding it right? So are they actually stretching those muscles in the lower back? Probably not to the extent we need them too if you are a part of that 80 percent.
THEREFORE, instead of a forward fold to reduce shortening of the muscles in the lower back, twisting and lateral movements are going to be key to lengthening these muscles.
Here’s more anatomy – most of the key muscles in your lower back that are contributing to this pain connect from the top of your pelvis to your spine. If you put your spine into a lateral flexion (leaning to the side from a neutral position) all of these muscles will open up, without compromising your lumbar vertebra. A similar thing happens in a twist. Think about moving your spine away from the top of that pelvis bone in order to lengthen that muscle tissue.
The yoga postures that will open up your lower back include triangle pose, extended side angle, and a seated twist.