Back tightness is a very common and annoying reality for many of us, especially those working at a desk or struggling to keep a healthy stretching routine.
Here is a simple yet effective sequence of stretches that can help you relief back stiffness.
You only need 10-20 minutes, and a comfortable surface (your bed included).
Every stretch is offered as a static pose, but please feel free to move a little to explore different sensations and place your body in the most effective position to feel the elongation of the back chain.
Figure of 4 stretch. Laying on your back, bring your right foot flexed on top of your left thigh. Thread your hands in the gap and create a solid grip (optionally use a strap). Try and actively draw the left knee towards your chest, while gently moving your right knee away from you. Elongate the out breath and notice how the lower back and side of the glutes open slowly as your right shin melts towards your belly. You can stay in the pose 1 to 5 minutes, then repeat on the other side.
Spinal twist. From figure 4 stretch, allow the arms to open sideways, the bottom foot to touch the floor and the knees to drop in the direction of the lifted leg. The top foot gently draws the other thigh towards a low diagonal: imagine you are pulling the knees away from the shoulders to create more space in the lower back and waistline.
You can move the head and the arms in the opposite direction if you wish, allowing the spiral to gently increase as you breathe out. Stay for 1-5 minutes and repeat on the other side.
Small ball. On your back, draw your knees to your chest and curl your upper back to catch the opposite elbow (or wrist) around your shins. Feel the lower back elongate on the floor and reduce the gap between your belly and your thighs to a minimum. Try and keep the same grip as you return your head and shoulders on the floor. Repeat and couple of times and finish with one minute holding the knees in with the head resting down.
Head to knee. Come to seated, extend the left leg forward and bend the right knee to the side. Interlace the fingers and bend the left knee, then wrap your hands around the ball of the left foot with a solid grip. Move your nose towards your knee and start lengthening the left leg. Try and keep the sit bones on the floor and the shoulders at the same level. There is no need to extend the leg completely, rather curl your spine to stretch the lower back area.
To go deeper move your right knee and foot more to the right side, and twist your torso towards the left side: this will open the right side of your lower back more. Hold the position for 1-5 minutes and repeat on the other side.
Lateral half shoelace. Come to seated, extend the left leg forward and cross the left knee over the right (option to sit on a block or blanket to elevate the pelvis if needed and to keep the left leg slightly bent). Turn your torso to the right and extend the arms away from the body. By keeping the sit bones on the floor and the head relaxed and heavy, you can open the left side of your lower back. Hold the position for 1-5 minutes and repeat on the other side.
Lateral tilt in forward fold. Make sure you have a block or pillow on your left side. Come to seated, extend both legs forward and grab hold of your ankles or calves (knees can be bent). Roll yourself on the left side until your left arm is supported by the pillow or block (if you feel very open you might go all the way down to the floor), then keeping the weight on that side start slowly drawing your right sit bone back to the floor on the right side. By maintaining the weight in one direction and pulling away from it you are lengthening the right side of your back. Stay 1-2 minutes and repeat to the other side. Skip this pose if it feels too intense on your hamstrings or stressful for your upper body.
As always please let me know how this feels and if you have any questions get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org!