Saturday, 25 April 2015

How To Lengthen Lower Back And Unsquash Front of Hips

In this post I show videos and step by step instructions on how to help unsquash the front of hips and lengthen lower back.  They are great tips for people who spend a lot of time sitting, which is most of us in general.

Key Instructions
I have a limited repertoire of what I consider some basic instructions.

No matter what sequence I teach these instructions repeat themselves over and over.

They repeat themselves over and over in single class.

Sometimes I wonder why people keep coming back since I do say the same thing over and over again!

I like to think that it is perhaps my wit and good humour that brings people back.

But I am pretty sure it is because while these instructions sound simple, they are actually tricky to apply, to apply consistently, and to apply in different orientations to gravity.

One of those instructions is "sitting bones down, top of pelvis back, lengthen lower back."

For people who have tight lower backs, and even people who do not, this instruction feels amazing on the lower back.

However, I could also say, "sitting bones down, top of pelvis back, unsquash front of hips."

You see, depending where you focus, or perhaps where you feel more tightness, the same instruction can help in two places.

Most people live a lot of their lives squashing the front of hips.  Well, those that sit for most of the day do.

So this instruction is a great way to help unsquash.

It is particularly useful to apply in forward bending postures.

I keep the front of groin open (unsquashed) when I practice forward bending postures.

It is the opposite of what many people practice--either deliberately or incidentally.

It means you work on spinal forward bending then hip flexion rather than just hip flexion, which often happens.

Some Thoughts Before You Watch And Practice
For me yoga is a spinal movement practice.  In order to maintain the health of your spine you need to learn how to move it, and move it safely. Unsquashing is key.  Being able to create firmness in they tummy in a way you can still feel the movement of the breath there while mobilising the spine are also key.

In the videos I chose a modified chandra namaskar to show the differences between squashing and unsquashing.  One video shows me showing what squashing looks like versus unsquashing.  The other video just shows a smooth unsquashing practice.

I have also taken still shots so you can compare the two side by side.

Perhaps watch unsquashing versus squashing first.  Then look at the still shots.  Then watch the unsquashing so you are left with a clear impression of unsquashing.

When watching these videos please consider that I mainly post things for my own students who come to me and whom I can watch carefully.  Practicing from videos is a not the best, especially if you have pre-existing issues.

Also note that in the videos below I create firmness in my tummy in a way I can still breathe into it.  I have written about this a lot before so please refer to those posts.  Whenever I bend forward from the spine I create firmness first.  I am trying to have core stability with mobility.  Much of what I show will not work if you suck your tummy in tightly (using muscles of forced exhalation) because this will stiffen the spine.

Squashing Versus Unsquashing: The Video
This video shows me trying to highlight squashing versus unsquashing in the same poses.

Squashing Versus Unsquashing: The Still Shots
Below I show the shot of being squashed on the left and unsquashed on the right.

In the squashed shots I performed the actions of moving the top of my pelvis towards the front of thigh and pushing my sit bones up into the air.

In the unsquashed shots I performed the actions of moving my sitting bones down and top of pelvis back.

You can see I put my hand to the place that I am concentrating on.  One finger is at top of front of pelvis and the other on the thigh bone.

In most shots you can see the 'air' in the unsquashed variation.  You can also see that my lower back lengthens or is less 'archy'.  

In all forward bends I try to firm my tummy in a way I can still breathe.  I also feel that I am pushing both hips forward without actually moving them.

Unsquashing: The Movie
Here I show the whole sequence with just the unsquashing version.

The End
That's it from me today.  

Happy and safe practicing.  This is the type of thing I teach in classes, workshops, and my retreats in Canberra, Sri Lanka, and Bali.  If you are around I would love to teach you. 

Much metta,


  1. Hi, Samantha
    Your photos of squashed/unsquashed are striking. So often in classes the instruction is to squash. I have suffered compounded injuries on that way of teaching. I noticed when I follow your method my gluteus medius is more active. I feel much more stable in my lower back/sacrum area with less pain afterwards. No more listening to teachers who are telling me to lift my sit bones up in so many poses. Thanks!

    1. Hi Ann, I hear what you are saying. I think one thing to always think about is to make sure you feel free in your spine when you move. Some people can lift their sit bones and do not feel tension in their lower back. For me I don't feel pain when I do that but I can feel muscles getting rigid. When I work the way I instructed it feels so much better! Some people might not feel so good working that way so our duty is to always listen to our bodies. If you move slowly with no strain and no suffering you get to listen to the intelligence of your own body and find what is right for you! Enjoy moving! Much metta, Samantha