Did you know 60-80% of adults in Western countries experience low back pain?
Why is this condition so prevalent?
Well, it’s primarily due to our fast-paced yet highly sedentary lifestyle. We spend an increasing amount of hours sitting at a desk, and our lives are so hectic that we rarely have time to exercise.
Tight hips and a constant aching sensation in the lower back.
Numerous studies show that yoga is an effective treatment for low back pain. But don’t worry, you don’t have to commit to a daily 1-hour practice to gain the benefits (unless you want to, of course).
Instead, practicing a few specific yoga poses each morning and evening (5 minutes tops) can be enough to ease the discomfort and improve your mobility.
Let’s explore how yoga helps lower back pain and hip tension and the best asanas to practice.
The Hidden Link: Tight Hips and Low Back Pain
Low back pain has many causes, but one of the most common is hip tightness.
Tight hips can cause lower back pain in various ways.
Firstly, extended periods of sitting (such as office work) or excessive running or cycling can shorten the hip flexors.
According to orthopedic surgeon Thomas McNally, this can alter the position of your pelvis, affecting your posture and spinal alignment, which increases stress on your lower back.
Tight hip muscles can also cause sciatica. The sciatic nerve runs through the hips and legs from the lower back. When the hip muscles are tight, they can compress the sciatic nerve, causing pain and tingling.
Therefore, including lots of hip openers in your yoga practice, especially those that focus on stretching your hip flexors and rotators, can help to ease low back pain caused by:
- Poor posture
- Short hip flexors
- Muscle imbalances
The Surprising Link: Hips and Emotions
Diving deeper into tight hips and lower back pain, the cause of your discomfort may not be due to a physical issue.
The sacral chakra is our emotional hub, responsible for emotion regulation and processing.
When we suppress or push away our feelings, energy in the sacral chakra can stagnate and become blocked.
As the sacral chakra is located in the region of the hips and reproductive organs, a blockage can show up here as muscular tension and tightness.
So, working with the sacral chakra in your yoga practice can help to release any stuck emotional energies. This is why you may feel sudden and intense emotions arise when holding a hip opener for an extended time.
If you feel like suppressed emotions could be causing your hip tension, I recommend slowing down your practice so you have ample time to process any emotions that arise. Be gentle with yourself and pause in Child’s pose after any poses where you feel a lot of emotional charge.
Yoga Poses For Hip Tension Relief
If you have tight hip muscles, you’ll want to choose yoga poses that open and stretch these tissues.
However, if you also experience low back pain, we recommend including some asanas that strengthen the hip muscles. Strong hip muscles support the spine and help maintain proper alignment, reducing the intensity and frequency of back pain.
Here’s what we recommend:
- Wide Leg Child’s Pose
This gentle hip opener is like medicine for the hips and lower back as it gently stretches all the muscles in this region and improves blood flow. Energetically, it stimulates both the root and sacral chakra.
- Pigeon Pose
Pigeon is one of the best poses for relieving hip tension as it stretches the hip flexors, glutes, and piriformis muscles (located deep in the buttocks). Therefore, it helps to improve the range of motion in the hips. Folding forward in the pigeon pose may also help to relieve lower back pain by stretching the muscles and tendons around the lumbar spine.
As the pigeon pose can feel intense for those with tight muscles, we recommend placing a block under the lifted hip to maintain proper alignment. Alternatively, you can practice the reclined pigeon, a gentler variation.
- Happy Baby Pose
The relaxing, happy baby pose opens the hips by stretching all the inner thigh and groin muscles. As you practice this pose while lying on your back, you can gently massage the lower back muscles by rocking side to side.
- Garland Pose
Garland pose, also called Malasana, improves the stability of the hip joint as it stretches and strengthens the surrounding muscles. In particular, it strengthens the hip flexors, core, and lower back muscles while stretching the groin and inner thighs.
Yoga Poses To Prevent Low Back Pain
When the lower back muscles are tight, blood flow in the lumbar region gets restricted, reducing oxygen and nutrient supply to the muscles and tissues. This not only causes pain but can also increase the risk of injury.
So, along with working on stretching the hip muscles, include lots of poses that strengthen AND stretch the back and abdominal muscles, improving blood flow in the lumbar spine.
Here’s what we recommend:
- Locust Pose
You engage your back muscles in this gentle backbend to lift your chest off the ground. This action helps to strengthen the lower back muscles and improve spinal mobility. Locust pose also promotes better posture as you gently extend the spine as you lift.
- Boat Pose
Research shows that increasing core strength can improve the lumbar spine’s stability and range of motion. You engage the abdominals and back muscles in the boat pose as you hold your upper body off the ground. Therefore, practicing boat pose regularly can help to keep low back pain at bay.
- Seated Forward Bend
The seated forward bend stretches out the lower back and hamstring muscles, improving blood flow to the area. However, this pose proves challenging for people with tight lower back or hip muscles, as the tightness restricts their movement. Therefore, we recommend practicing this pose with the knees slightly bent, as this will ‘unlock’ the hamstrings, allowing you to tilt from the hips more efficiently.
Another thing to remember in this pose is to avoid rounding the back. Rather than trying to move your torso as close to your legs as possible, keep your back straight and stop wherever it starts to round. Hold here and focus on your breath. After a couple of deep breaths, try to go deeper on the exhale without compromising the alignment of your spine.
As you can see, low back pain and tight hips often come hand-in-hand. So, a combination of hip openers, backbends, forward folds, and a sprinkle of core work will help reduce tension and pain in this area.
Give yourself the bliss of relief and try a few Practyce classes centered on your hips and lower back.