The half locust pose. Courtesy photo
By JACCI GRUNINGER, MS, C-IAYT, ERYT500
You might spend your day hunched over your computer, seated in a forward rounding position, head slightly thrust forward.
Typical American. Years of slouching and always being in a forward moving position can shorten your back muscles making it harder and harder to stand up straight. Long term, neglecting the back back muscles can lead to osteoporosis, vertebral compression and fractures of the spine.
The key is to create balance between the front and back body muscles, which usually means more backbending for most of us.
If you suffer from back pain – lower, mid and even upper, your body might be crying for more backbending in your day to day life. The funny thing is, when our back hurts, we typically want to round forward and “stretch”. Most times, that is not what our back needs.
It needs strengthening not lengthening. As a yoga therapist, I help people discover and explore where their muscle imbalances are and then we work to create more balance in the body. Most people tend to have weak mid and lower traps as well as weak abs and low back muscles.
Half Locust Pose or Ardha (half) Shalabasana) is a back strengthening that is good for all bodies. There are many different ways to practice the posture and each one targets the back (erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, glute max) and abdominal muscles. The legs will also get some strengthening with this pose.
Once you have mastered or feel comfortable with the half locust pose, you can move into the full locust position. For now, we will focus on the half locust.
Keep in mind the following safety cues while practicing this posture:
- Keep your kneecap pointing down not out
- Press both hip bones evenly into the floor
- Engage your abdominal wall
- Point and reach through your toes
- Avoid this posture if you are pregnant or have an inguinal hernia
- Place a mat or blanket on the floor beneath you for support.
- Start lying down on the floor with your chin, lips or forehead resting on the floor.
- Rock your hips side to side to come to the tops of your thighs.
- Rest your arms at your sides with your palms down and slightly away from the body.
- Lengthen your body by reaching through the crown of your head and your toes.
- Scoop your belly in and press your hips bones toward the floor.
- Exhale and reach back through your right leg – squeeze your buttocks muscle and lift your leg 1-2 inches off the floor. Try to keep the opposite leg relaxed.
- Stay here for 4-6 breaths OR if that is too much, lift and lower the leg following your breath 4-6 times.
- When finished, release, soften the body and turn your head to one side and turn the palms up.
- Repeat on the other side.
Try working up to practicing this posture 3-4 times to build low back strength.
Jacci Gruninger is a Certified Yoga Therapist and Thai Yoga Massage Therapist. She has been teaching for over two decades and spent 12 of those years training yoga teachers for the Pranakriya School of Yoga Healing Arts. She regularly helps clients manage the ups and downs of life with yoga, meditation, breathwork and bodywork. Her office is at 190 Central Park Square #209. For her in-person and online teaching schedule and information on other services, visit www.yogawithjacci.com.