Yoga For Paddling: Must-Do Pose For Paddlers With Low-Back Pain | Adventure Kayak Magazine | Rapid Media
A woman guiding a man through a yoga pose. Photo and video by Anna Levesque

4 steps to achieve the hand to big-toe pose variation.

Here’s an astonishing number for you: People in the U.S. spend over 100 billion dollars per year on low back pain relief (trying to get it). What is most astounding about this statistic is that most, if not all, low back pain is avoidable. We don’t need to suffer unnecessarily. With a little knowledge and discipline, we can prevent and decrease most low-back pain and discomfort.

Most low back pain has nothing to do with your low back. Tight hip flexors from sitting (in kayaks, canoes, at desks, in cars) are what most often lead to low back discomfort, pain and injury in paddlers. In fact, tight hip flexors, over time, can lead to severe injuries such as disk herniations and bulges. SUP paddlers also experience tight hip flexors from balancing and hinging at the waist when paddling.

To achieve freedom in the low back area, paddlers need to stretch the quads and hip flexors. As they lengthen, the hip flexors release their grip on the pelvis and spine and allow the body to come back toward alignment. When the body moves toward optimal alignment, we can experience relief from pain in the low back.

If I could only give one pose to all padders it would be this one. It has four parts and it targets the hips and hamstrings while keeping the spine in alignment.

Hand to Big-Toe Pose Variation

yoga 1

Step One

Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the mat and your strap within reach.

  •              Take your strap, lift your right leg and place the strap around the ball of your right foot letting equal amounts of the strap drape from either side of the foot.
  •              Cross the strap and hold one end in each hand.
  •              Extend the right leg up toward the sky while maintaining a soft bend in the knee.
  •              Draw your shoulder blades towards one another to create a gentle lift in the chest.
  •              Press the ball of the foot firmly into the strap and spread the toes.
  •              Your leg may not be at a 90 degree angle to your torso and that’s ok.
  •              Hold for 5 deep and easy breaths.

yoga 2

Step Two

  •              Take both ends of your strap and hold them in your right hand.
  •              Keep your sits bones moving back and apart and slowly take your right leg out to the right. Go only as far as you can without lifting your left hip off the floor.
  •              Hold for 5 breaths.

yoga 3

Step Three

  •              Bring the leg back to center.
  •              Cross your straps again holding one end in each hand.
  •              Take the right left across the midline to the left about 10 degrees.
  •              Take the sits bones back and apart.
  •              Hold for 5 breaths.

yoga 4

Step Four

  •              Finally, hold both ends of the strap in your left hand and take the right leg all the way across the body toward the floor. You can keep holding on to the strap and extend your leg in this reclined twist, or you can release the strap and let the leg relax in the twist.
  •              Hold for 5 breaths.
  •              To finish, bring the leg back to center and extend maintaining a soft knee before releasing the strap and allowing the leg to float down.
  •              Pause for a few breaths and notice the difference between both hips and legs before moving on to the other side.

Order Anna's book Yoga for Paddling online here or pick it up at REI or your local outfitter store:

Watch a walkthrough of the Hand to Big-Toe Pose Variation below:

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