Try doing this sequence daily, mixing yoga and pilates—especially during pregnancy. You may feel relief within as little as a week or less.
I’ve been doing yoga a long time, and I’ve also had lower back problems for a long time. It took me a while to realize that my bones were a little out of alignment, and that while my yoga practice was doing a really good job opening my hips, it wasn’t strengthening them enough to keep my sacrum steady and supported.
The sacrum is a triangular bone at the back of the pelvis, between the lower back and the tailbone. It’s a joint that contributes greatly to our locomotion, to the movement of the hips. It can also be a source of lower back pain and sciatica, which is a condition where the sacral nerve gets pinched and sends shooting pain down the leg.
[Read: “The Spiritual Meaning of Lower Back Pain.”]
This sequence, which mixes movements from yoga and pilates, was immensely helpful for my back issues, even and especially while I was pregnant, which can exacerbate sciatica. If you have issues in this area, try doing this sequence every day (or most days). You may see a difference within as little as a week or less. (Do check with your health practitioner before trying anything new or if you have any health concerns.)
We start by strengthening the gluteus medius, which supports the lower back and pelvic floor. Lie on your right side with your spine neutral (lower back not rounded) and your head supported by your hand, your arm, or a pillow. Bend your knees so that they are resting together below your hips.
Keep your feet together, but flare them, and gently engage your core. Open your knees like a book, keeping the feet together, and then gently close them again. Ensure your hips stay stacked; do not allow your top hip to slide backwards. Repeat up to 20 times.
From the same starting position, lift your left foot up, keeping the knees together, internally rotating your thigh. Separate your knees as you inhale, and bring them back together as you exhale, keeping the foot higher than the knee the whole time. This should feel harder! Repeat up to 20 times.
Thread the Needle
Now roll onto your back, and put your left ankle onto your right thigh (this is the hip that should feel tired). Flex your foot, and press the knee gently away from your face. Stay here or thread your left hand between your legs, interlacing your fingers around your right thigh. Draw your legs in toward your body until you feel a stretch in your hip. Optionally, rock your hips from side to side. Some people are more comfortable with a small pillow under the lower back. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Now roll to your left side and repeat the sequence.
This gentle core exercise is safe for almost everyone and very effective for supporting the lower back. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor, about hips-distance apart. Keep your spine neutral. Place your thumbs on your low ribs and your middle fingers on your hip points. The goal will be to keep this square as still as you possibly can. Gently engage your pelvic floor (the muscles around your genitals) in and up. Draw your belly button back and up without changing your spine, and flare your toes. As you exhale, let your right knee move towards the floor any amount. As you inhale, bring it back up. Repeat on the left side. Repeat up to 20 times.
Lay on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor, hips distance apart. Gently engage your core with a neutral spine. Press into your heels and lift your bum off the floor as you exhale, and as you inhale gently come back. Don’t worry about lifting very high or back-bending; the point is to engage your glutes. Repeat up to 20 times.
Check out more practices for addressing and preventing sciatica.