Yoga for Low Back Pain: Hip Hikes

According to the American Chiropractic Association, nearly 80% of the world population will suffer from low back pain.  That means, in a room of 10 people, only 2 will be lucky enough too not have to deal with low back pain. How crazy is that?  

To make matters worse, between 1999-2015 incidents of low back pain increased 54%!  

Many reasons exist for the increase in back injuries–but I am here to tell you there are things you can do to help fight those statistics and symptoms.  

One of the things that you have to work on, if you do suffer from low back pain, is to determine if you are still actively using your glute muscles–you know, the booty muscles.  The glutes are supposed to be the largest muscles in our body, however, since we no longer are hunting for food, or working the farm all day, but probably, you are like me and the majority of the rest of the world, and you’re sitting the majority of the day, the odds are your wonderful big glutes (that’s a compliment people!) have forgotten how to work.

yes, your muscles can forget to work.  In fact, I was diagnosed with Gluteal Amnesia after many years working 12 hr shifts where I sat…for HOURS, in front of a computer screen.  This led to other muscles trying to do the glute work –which is an imbalance, and then they couldn’t do the work, so I got a herniated disc.

Guess what, that doesn’t HAVE to happen to you.  OR, if it HAS happened to you–you CAN do something about it.

No, I’m not saying go to the gym and get on a machine–in fact, If you are experiencing chronic pain, I probably wouldn’t recommend starting there at all.  In fact, if you do have chronic pain, I’d recommend a Physical Therapist–they will likely give you lots of options to help identify the source of the issue, provide some relief, and give you lots of exercises, just the exercise I’m about to give you!

One super awesome, no weights needed exercise that you can do to isolate the middle glute muscle (yes there are more than one in there).  This part of the muscle is super important for stabilizing your pelvis. A strong base –which is your pelvis, tightly held by your glutes, can work miracles in helping to reduce low back pain.

Hip Hikes

In this first version of the exercise, you start with your feet firmly planted in the ground, under your hips.  Without moving anything else, just try to raise one hip like in the picture below. The raised hip foot will come off the ground slightly.

Bring that hip back down to level with the other (so that foot comes down softly to the ground) and then you raise and lower that one hip.  Try to do it 20 times. It doesn’t seem like much, but I promise you, it’ll burn! Move to the other side and go through 3 sets on each side of 20 reps.

When this progression gets a little easier, try to amp this up by stepping on a block.  I love this progression because the surface (now the yoga block) is unsteady, so it forces your core to work harder since you are trying to balance more, and then you can actually bring your hip a little below level and raise your hip up above level.  This one BURNS and is so awesome! In the first image, you’ll see how I let me hip go a little below level. This forces me to really engage the working glute to keep me steady as well as abs.

In this next picture, you can see how I am raising my hip above level.  This forces the working glute to really engage and keeps it engaged throughout the whole movement since there is not any rest between reps (you don’t put your foot all the way on the ground.)  Try to do this progression 20 times for 3 rounds on both sides.

When this progression starts to get easier, here’s the hardest progression, and I think you’ll really love it.  

Standing on your block, raise the hip with your tailbone tucked down..  At the top, try to raise the leg out to the side. (so channel your inner dog by the fire hydrant.)  Once you have raised your extended leg out as high as you can, try to hold it–even if it is just a millisecond and squeeze that glute.  Try to do that one 20 times on each side for 3 rounds. Let me tell you–you won’t need a weight machine to have the glutes burning –you have your own weights built right in–your body weight!

This progression works both sides of the glutes and your balance (so it’s like a little abdominal extra credit…and who doesn’t like extra credit?!?!)

What do you think?  I mean, even if you only try the first progression with both feet firmly planted in the ground, you will still see amazing benefits, and this exercise takes just minutes!   Let me know if you practice any of these-and if you’re able to get through all 3 sets of any one exercise the first time. I’m not going to lie, it took me a bit to build up the strength to do them, but it’s been a GAME changer in terms of stability for my low back which equals more pain free days!

Did you know that these exercises are great ways to build up to your Half Moon pose?  You know, the pose where you’re struggling on your one leg, with your outer leg is trying to lift out to the side?  If you are working on managing this pose without using a block, try these progressions and see if they help. I think you’ll be surprised –even after just a few times practicing these hip hikes!

If you’d like to see more exercises like these and learn how you can start to experience less pain, I invite you to check out this great new free resource I just created with my friend and PT, Monika Patel DPT.  We created a quick PDF guide for your convenience that we will email directly to you! Here’s a link where you can sign up to get your free PDF!

Let me know what you think of this exercise, and if you download our free PDF–I’d love to hear how you like your new homework!  I promise, it only takes a few minutes, but the results are amazing and so worth the effort.

I’m excited to hear about your progress!  Until then, keep on practicing!