Have you ever had pain on the side of your lower back after a long day of driving or working at your desk? Well then, most likely your Quadratus Lumborum on that side is screaming at you. The Quadratus Lumborum, aka QL, is a long, wide, flat, trapezoidal muscle closely resembling a flank steak. It originates from the bottom of the 12th rib and lumbar verdabrae, L1~L4. It inserts on top of the iliac crest (hip bone), exists on both sides of the body, and connects the pelvis to the spine. It is the deepest abdominal muscle and is close to the Psoas and Erector spinae. Both sides of the QL work together to extend your spine, and one side works independently to laterally flex the spine. Very powerful muscle indeed! We hear a lot that the dysfunction of the QL is a common cause of lower back pain. Why?
When I was growing up in Japan, there were really no chairs in my house. The floors were covered with Tatami mattresses, which are made of weaved straw. Tatami is soft on the surface and provides a very solid and stable structure. We used to sit on Tatami to eat, study, and play. Whenever we visited the Buddhist Temple, we would sit on our feet – Seiza style – on Tatami, sitting with our spines erect for a long time as our feet would fall asleep. We would squat to use the bathroom.
I still remember when I was 10 or 11, our life styles dramatically changed. Suddenly, there appeared couches, tables, and chairs in my house. The bathroom miraculously turned into a comfortable western style toilet with a toilet seat. We said “Sayonara!” to Tatami and said “Hello!” to the wooden floor…It was wonderful. We embraced the changes with such joy! After all, at that time, I thought it was so much more comfortable to sit on a chair.
After 40 years of life with chairs, only recently, I started to give up my couches and chairs to go back to my old lifestyle. I realized that my back feels so much better.
Sitting on a couch, chair, or car seat for long hours will conform our backs to a C-shaped curve, (kyphosis) instead of its most healthy state (lordosis) …. the S- shaped curve. The C-Curve pasture will contract our QL and erector spinae into slack, which results in muscle fatigue. The muscle will then experience decreased blood flow, and in time, adhesions in the muscle and fascia can form….. Eventually, this will result in painful muscle spasms, bulged discs, or even disc herniation.
Scary thought…but there are solutions, such as, lengthening the spine, laterally extending the spine with yoga poses like, Adho Mukha Svanasana and Parighasana. But when mere stretching doesn’t do our muscles justice, we need to consider waking them up by approaching the practice differently. Yoga Tune Up ® Pose Boomerang will teach us just that.
Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) besides a wall so your shoulders and hips are perpendicular to the wall. Your inside hand is on the wall with your elbow bent, and your other hand is touching the wall. Reach the outside arm overhead and touch the wall with your hand, so both hands and shoulders are internally rotated. The spine is extended on the outside, flexed on the inside. You will feel an intense stretch on the outside of the body and the QL. Now, attempt to pull the top hand up the wall as if you are trying to peel the paint off. Because the hand is pinned to the wall, it will not actually move, but try. As you try to move your hands apart, the QL will contract. Keep applying the pressure while breathing deeply about 5 breaths.
This action will create PNF – Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation- to increase your range of motion and strengthen the QL muscle that is stretched and contracted.
Here is also a video footage for you so you can practice with me.
The best part of this pose is that you don’t need much space – Just a little wall space will do – so why not spend 10 minutes in between work or that long drive to get up and shake your booty?
I assure you, with regular practice, your back will feel so much better – Good luck!