Five incredible stretches to help your posture + lower back

Sitting at a desk all day is never fun. In fact more and more people are coming to realise the negative impact our desk job can have on our health, especially when it comes to our posture and spine. If you are someone who spends two hours or more at your desk each day, then this article will be of great benefit to you. The stretches suggested in this article are aimed at relieving stiffness and pain in the lower back, which is often brought on by being stuck in a sitting position for hours on end.
To take the guess work out of finding which stretches are easiest and best practise for those who are a slave to the desk all day, I have caught up with yogi Sarah Davies, who not only owns the beautiful Riksha Yoga studio in Scoresby, but is possibly the most flexible person I know! The stretches she suggests are for all levels of flexibility, including the not so bendy types, like myself!
 
Stretch 1: Sphinx Pose
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Benefits: strengthens spine and abdominal organs, relieves stress and promotes natural curve of lower back
Hold for: one to five minutes (if comfortable)
  • Lie on belly, feet hip-width a part
  • Prop yourself up by placing elbows under shoulders, palms flat
  • Gently shake your butt to release tension in the pelvis
  • Continue to take deep, steady breaths
  • Gently lower the upper body to the floor to come out of stretch 

Stretch 2: Viparita Karani (legs up the wall pose)

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Benefits: stretches hamstrings and lower spine, aids with digestion, headaches and anxiety.
Hold for: 5 to 15 minutes, unless tingling in feet occurs
*Some yogis recommend women avoid this stretch when menstruating
  • Lie down on the floor with your buttocks against the wall
  • Extend legs against wall, flexing toes towards your face (knees can remain slightly bent if straightening is uncomfortable)
  • Keep your gaze straight up. Don’t look around or move neck side to side
  • If feet or legs start to tingle, bring them back down to promote blood flow
  • To come out of this stretch, gently slide legs off the wall before turning to the side
Stretch 3: Marjaryasana/Bitilasana (cat/cow pose)
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Benefits: brings movement and flexibility into spine, relieves lower back pain and sciatica
Hold for: alternate between these stretches, moving with your breath, ten to twenty times.
  • Begin on all fours, knees under hips/pelvis, hands in line with shoulders  
  • As you inhale raise your ‘sit-bones’ (bones in buttocks) towards the sky, belly drops towards the floor, raise your chin and gaze slightly up
  • As you exhale draw your ‘sit-bones’ back down together and arch spine towards the ceiling, gazing down at your thighs
  • Ensure your shoulder blades draw down and back away from your ears.
  • Keep alternating between these two poses, moving steadily with your breath

Stretch 4: Ardha Matsyendrasana (half lord of the fishes/half spinal twist)

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Benefits: energises spine, stimulates liver and kidney function, and relieves menstrual pain
Hold for: 30 seconds to a minute, then swap sides

  • Sit down on floor, legs out straight
  • Bend right leg and place right foot over left leg onto the floor (outside the left thigh)
  • Bend your left leg and draw your left foot towards your right hip. If both ‘sit bones’ are unable to remain on the floor while doing this then keep your left leg out straight
  • Place right hand behind the base of the spine and inhale as you lift your left arm up and place your left elbow behind your right knee
  • Exhale as you gently twist towards your right. You should feel the rotation in your upper mid back.
  • Don’t force your neck, and maintain for a few breaths.
  • Swap and complete stretch on other side

Stretch 5: Ustrasana (camel pose)

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Benefits: promotes spinal health, opens shoulders and chest, strengthens and energises spine
Hold for: 30 seconds to a minute
*Yogis do not recommend women doing this stretch when pregnant

  • Sit on both heels in a kneeling position, knees hip width apart
  • Raise hips and place both hands on the lower spine to provide support, fingers pointing down
  • Begin to press pelvis forward and open the chest, draw the elbows slightly towards each other, lift the gaze slightly towards ceiling
  •  For a more enhanced stretch, engage the core and drop hands to your heels, placing thumbs on the outside. Continue to breathe deeply 
  • To exit stretch, draw chin to chest, return hands to the lower back, activate core and inhale to come up slowly.

*If you currently suffer from any sort of injury, especially a back injury, please seek advice from your health professional before performing any of these stretches. Also note that these stretches are not to be forced. No pain should be felt during the stretch. If pain occurs, please refrain from doing these poses immediately and consult your healthcare professional.

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