Move to Meditate Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 4

Loving Low Back and Hips

40 min - Practice


Julian guides us in a gentle stretching practice with awareness toward finding relief in the low back and hips in preparation for a seated meditation. We bring mindful attention towards our breath and conclude the practice with a brief loving kindness meditation to invite a feeling of kindness toward ourselves and a loved one.

Click here to listen to the playlist Julian created to go along with this practice, then come back here start the above video at the same time to enjoy the full synchronized experience!
What You'll Need: Mat

About This Video


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So welcome, I'm so glad you're here today, as is often the case with me, we're going to start on hands and knees. So join me here on your hands and knees and give yourself a moment to just arrive. Feel where your hands and fingers are touching the floor. Feel where your feet, your knees, your toes are touching the floor, probably touching the mat, but feel the ground beneath you. Notice perhaps where the air is touching your skin, if that's available.

And start to deepen your breath. So gradually letting your inhale last longer. Letting your exhale be more empty. Just bring attention to the feeling of the breath moving through your body and how you know when you're inhaling and when you're exhaling. You're going to lift the head just a little on the inhale, feel the breath moving, chest draws through the shoulders, hang the head gently on the exhale and let your back round.

And as your back rounds, your tailbone scoots towards your belly a little. And then we go the other way on the inhale. Probably a familiar movement, if not, have a look and then join in again. So we're just gently warming up the spine, linking breath and movements and body awareness. Start to add some movements now, a little rotation through the hips.

So add that rotation as you arch and round and that'll introduce some spiral through the ribs and your head might roll a little, nice and easy. Just warming up, tuning in, noticing where you're starting from. Let's look up now on the inhale and on the exhale, just let your hips sink back onto your heels. Your hands can go forward slightly, forehead comes onto the mat. Take a couple of breaths here in child's pose.

And then you can walk the hands back in, come on up to sitting, I'm going to face you this way. We'll sit with the feet together in this symmetrical butterfly position and the fingers on the floor behind you. You may find that you need to have something under your hips to make this comfortable. You may even need to have something supporting your knees. Go ahead and set yourself up.

All of those options are perfectly fine with the hands and mostly the fingers on the floor behind you. I want you to roll the shoulders back and down and lift the chest up and then notice the feet. I want to introduce drawing the toes back so the arches activate. And there we are. Let the eyes close if you're ready.

So shoulders draw back, feet stay active and now feel for the breath helping you to lengthen upwards. So we get that axial extension in the spine creating space. Deep breath, lifting chest, lengthening spine. And at the top of this next inhale, hold your breath in. And as you hold the breath, be aware of the symmetrical shape of your body as you sit in your center.

Feel where you're touching the floor. Feel the air against your skin and very slowly exhale. Take your time breathing out. Keep breathing out until you're all the way empty and then slowly draw the breath in again. Take your time filling up with breath.

Keep the back of the neck long here so you're not cutting off blood supply to your brain. That's never a good idea. Keep the neck long. You kind of dropped and we're going to hold the breath in again here when you're ready. And as you're holding the breath, shoulders draw back, feet are active, spine is lengthening.

Feel the sense of entering your practice as we begin together now. Whatever that means for you today, very slowly exhaling. Take your time. We'll do one more breath in this sequence. Exhale until you're all the way empty.

Hold the breath out for a moment and then slowly start breathing in again. Last time holding the breath and when you're ready to hold the breath, notice where you're starting from. What's on your mind today? Is there a dream image with you from last night? Is there a feeling you're aware of?

What kind of week are you having? How's your heart? Don't worry if you're not sure. We're just starting to get present. On this exhale, carefully walk the hands just a little out in front of you.

What I want to invite you to do here is lift your chest out over your feet so you're not hunching your back. You're kind of flattening your back using the floor to tug a little bit against to draw the chest forward. Shoulders can ease away from the ears and the head can actually hang a little even as the chest rises, keep those feet nice and active and engaged. Just take a couple more breaths here. No need to force anything.

In your last exhale here, you might let it sigh out with or without sound. Just let it out through the mouth and then carefully walk the hands back in. We want to be nice and gentle in how we approach the low back and the hips here. When you've come back up to sitting, take a moment there just sensing the effect of what you've done. Close your eyes and take a breath there.

Just turning on that body awareness, the receptivity to your sensation experience. Then a hand goes under each knee. I'm going to fold the knees together and come onto your back. On your back, I want to give you the option here to have the arms up alongside the ears and keep the feet on the floor as you sway side to side like that or hug the knees in if that feels good and rock a little. Either option is fine.

See what your body prefers. When you're ready, we're putting the left ankle on the right thigh, left arm through between the legs. Hands are going to clasp somewhere on the right leg. Could be on the shin, could be on the back of the thigh. Those draw back again on both feet.

Know that you can have that right foot on a block or even on the floor. You could use the wall if you want to. Close your eyes here when you're ready and breathe into the sensations that you notice in this particular shape. This is my one precious body. This is the only life I'm living.

This is how my left hip feels right now. Stay with it as you breathe. Slow and steady. We want to go for maybe as many as five seconds on the inhale, maybe seven or eight seconds on the exhale. If it's helpful to you, you might picture a circle around your mat.

Feel the shape of the body inside the circle and notice the sensations that the shape or the pose is creating as you breathe. And really stay with it one slow, deep breath at a time. Notice how the sensations keep unfolding. They may intensify, they may diminish, they may stay the same. It might be pleasant or uncomfortable.

You may notice emotional tones. All of that is okay. Let's give it three more slow, deep breaths. Notice anything that's feeling good. Keep taking it in and notice also anything that's letting go and keep trusting the process.

Last breath here for real. Let it sigh out if you like. And then carefully release. You'll unclasp hands. What I want you to do here is put the right foot on the floor and then as you uncross that left leg, take it straight up, clasp your hands on the back of the thigh and just slowly straighten and bend that leg.

So nice, gentle kind of greeting to your hamstrings and your sciatic nerve. Notice how what we're doing feels in your low back. You can keep straightening and bending like that if it feels good to you or you can work with the leg straight if you're ready. Hands could clasp on the back of the thigh or on the calf, closer to the ankle if you like. You could use a strap here if you want to.

Definitely stay mindful of not pushing past what is accessible to you right now. So some sensation is good. You don't want to have any pain here. Slow deep breath. And now start to rotate that foot in the air.

So turn it one way, turn it the other way. We're rotating through the ankle and as you do that, you can also point the toes and spread the toes. You can flex the arch and scrunch the toes together. Just remind your foot and your ankle and your toes of all of the ways they can be articulated. We give up a lot of this articulation by wearing shoes and walking on artificially created level surfaces.

It's good to reclaim some of that capacity. You may find it shows up higher up the chain in your knees or your hips or your low back when your foot is really a little more versatile. Just a couple of deep breaths there, you can let that foot relax now. You might sigh the breath out. And then carefully release, put the foot down alongside the other one.

You can have the hands palm up alongside you and with the eyes closed, take a couple breaths. Notice the difference in how you feel. Right side, left side. No right or wrong answer, just notice. Be aware of the experience of your body right now as you take a breath.

Good. And so next we're going to come over onto one side so as to sit up here and set up for a seated side bend. I'm going to do this with the right leg extended and the left heel tucked in as close to the groin as is it comfortable for that knee. So again, feel free to modify. The placement of the foot is fine.

Having something like a blanket or a cushion under your knee is fine. Really listen to your body, not trying to impose anything forceful here. So whatever this position looks like to you right now, we'll take the right arm straight up on the inhale and then exhale carefully out over that leg. Now you might be able to reach the big toe. You might be touching the ankle or holding the pants.

All of these options are fine. Notice especially how your low back feels as you go into this. And to start with here, I want you to have the hand on the thigh just like this and just press a little on that thigh. You might close your eyes as you press a little, ease up a little, press a little, ease up a little and feel into that relationship between thigh and hip and low back on the left side. That's what we're focused on for these 15 minutes or so.

When you're ready, sweep the arm up and over. We'll go back and forth a few times here. Up and over, back and forth. Say good morning to that shoulder. So we're exploring a little mindful movement and noticing how it feels.

Shoulder all the way up that left side and then reaching away to the left. Rotate through three hand positions. Palm goes up, down and backwards. And as you rotate, you might gently turn your head up and down, exploring. When you're ready, let's sweep that arm up and over.

Now you can hold this deep side bend and just focus the breath where you feel your body asking for it or you can go gently in and out of it in different ways just based on how it feels. So this is asking a lot of your low back and your hamstrings and your hip. Be gentle with yourself. Let's take a couple more breaths here. Good and we're going to take the arm straight up and roll open here, lifting shoulder off the neck, big chest, long waist, the hand can spread open.

You can put the head wherever your neck is happy. That may require some exploration but that's what we're doing here. Couple more full breaths, and then you can float that arm down and really use the support of your hands to bring yourself carefully up out of this. So we're gentle with the back. Take a couple breaths here.

Focus the sensation experience after what we just did. When you're ready, we're going to bring that straight leg in. You can turn whichever way feels right to come onto your back again. Want to extend the right leg on the floor so stay with me so that we're on the same side the whole time. The right leg is extended now.

The left knee draws in and I want you to take the knee a little off to the left so you're not trying to bring it to your chest, you're more bringing it toward that left armpit. Just hang out here for a couple breaths and you're focusing your inhale into the thighs and the hips and the low back, noticing the effect of what we were just doing. Take an inhale here. You're going to use your right hand on the exhale very slowly. I want you to exhale slowly and move slowly.

Feel free to pause at any point. Feel free to rock a little. You might go further over into the twist. Some of you may have been told that you have an unstable sacroiliac joint. So if you know that that's you or if this just feels uncomfortable, you can work both knees bent and go this way.

And I know some people like to work with both legs straight. So a lot of permission to explore here. This is the basic version of the pose and we want to keep the left shoulder, if not completely on the floor, pretty close to the floor here. Use that as a guideline as to how far over you go. And I want to encourage you to try reaching at different angles with that left arm.

You can go straight across. You can go higher up, maybe halfway in between. Feel into how your network, how your connective tissue, your muscle and nervous system responds to these different angles as we keep exploring and I'll be quiet now. You take a few more breaths, just hanging out with what you're doing in this twist. Really feel for the breath moving all the way through that twisty shape and feel into what the experience is like for you on the left side today.

Last deep breath here. See how it feels to sigh it out and come carefully back up and give you the option again to either draw the knees in and rock a little or have the feet on the mat, arms up swaying a little, which is what I'm going to do here. Then come back to center, take a breath there, acknowledging that you just completed the left side and noticing how that feels. Might be your tight side, it might be your open side. You may have been distracted and all over the place or you may have felt focused and peaceful and let it be the way it is.

We'll move now to having the right ankle on the left eye as we start the same sequence on the other side. So right arm goes through, hands clasped somewhere on that left leg. You may need to have the left foot on the floor or on a block, maybe against the wall. You may need to put something under your head, like a yoga block under your head if your neck feels uncomfortable here. Do what you need to and then join me with your eyes closed.

Let your breath again be deep and slow, maybe even deeper now. So we're going for say six seconds on the inhale, which means 1,001,1,2,3,4,5,6 and the inhale is complete and then perhaps even longer on the exhale. Give it a try, slow, deep breath. So stay with it, notice your first impressions here, working on the right side. How's this hip feel?

How's your low back on this side if you're noticing anything there? Maybe let that slow, deep breath bring you into a deeper sense of mindful awareness, giving your body permission to let go, getting some energy moving. It's a good place to be. Some three deep breaths here, something's letting go, trust the process. Something's feeling good, let it in.

Something shows you where the work is, that's good. Stay with it. When you're ready here, that left foot on the floor, my ring is falling off, put that back on and then we're carefully going to take the right leg straight up, hands clasp on the back of the thigh and we're just slowly straightening and bending again here and this is about letting that big sciatic nerve that you may know of, letting it know that it kind of glide through the tissue a little more can get a little more freedom in terms of that expansion and contraction and mobility and also warming up your hamstrings gently. You can keep straightening and bending if you're enjoying how that feels, you don't have to be able to explain why, just go ahead and trust your body or you can work with the leg straight if you're ready, hands clasp on the back of the thigh or higher up the leg as you choose here. Use your strap if you need to, again put something under your head if your neck needs support and let's rotate through that ankle like we did on the other side, go both directions, let's experiment, spread the toes and scrunch them and point them, flex the arch, keep the breath moving as you introduce some of that articulation to the ankle and the foot and the toes, good then let the foot stop moving and give yourself a few more breaths here and notice what you're feeling in those right hamstrings in the back of the thigh and know that you can back off a little if you need to here, just by taking the hands lower down the leg I'll decrease the intensity of what's happening back there, doesn't have to be super intense to be beneficial, feel what's happening and breathe into it, we might sigh the breath out once I'm here and then carefully release, I want you to come into what I call the neutral position here and it works like this, the feet are flat, the knees are bent, you see me adjusting and just getting comfortable, the hands are palm up next to the body, I want you to notice your sensations here as you practice the tantric breath, so tantric breath works like this, the inhale through the nose, into the hips and the low back, the exhale comes out through the mouth in two parts like, feel it resonating through your body and as you do that two part exhale the face can tilt back just a little, just like that on the inhale the head comes back to neutral, close your eyes, try a few of those, stay curious about it, just notice how it feels in your body, different types of breath have different effects on your neurochemistry, on what's happening in your nervous system and your brain, do one more and then just relax here, notice anything that's starting to feel good, it may come as a color or a sensation, an image or a shift in your temperature, it might be a feeling or maybe something you can't put into words, just practice taking in the good here, there's an author named Rick Hansen who wrote a book Buddha's Brain and he coined this wonderful kind of way of explaining this which is that our brains evolved to be like Teflon for good experiences and Velcro for bad experiences, what does that mean we hold on to, we remember everything that is unpleasant because it has survival value to learn how to overcome those difficult things but we often tend to take for granted and to ignore and to kind of let slip away things that are good, so the practice of taking in the good is actually training yourself, training your brain and your mind to receive and let in more deeply the things that evoke well-being, take another breath with that, just taking in the good and soaking it out, steeping in it, beautiful, as you're ready you can draw the knees in, we're going to come over onto one side and back up to sitting again and we're going to set up for the side bend now with the right knee bent, so the left leg goes off to the side, whatever direction you're facing here and the right heel can tuck into the groin in whatever way, feels natural to you, you'll notice my knee is slightly higher on this side, we're not symmetrical creatures as much as we wish we were, so we work with what we have, feel free to support that knee with something if you need to, feel free to have the foot closer or further away as feels right to your body, when you're ready the left arm is going to go straight up on an inhale and the exhale takes you carefully out over that leg, right hand on the right thigh again, we're pressing a little, easing up a little, pressing a little, notice what you feel in the thigh, hip, low back area and again that left hand could be resting or holding onto whatever is available, inhale carefully sweep up and over with that right arm and we'll go back and forth a few times again up and over, back and forth little mindful movement, notice how that shoulder feels, notice what else you feel here perhaps in the low back or anywhere else and then reaching away to the right, rotating palm up, palm down, palm backwards, those three hand positions you can gently turn the head up and down as the shoulder and the wrist rotate, you might even stretch the jaw here and extend the tongue out and do a lion's breath, just exploring sweep up and over, now hang out in that deep side bend, if you're comfortable there and breathe into what you feel, you could also go in and out of it gently, listen to your body, and when you're ready that right arm straight up, shoulder lifting off the neck, your head in whatever position feels comfortable, big chest, long waist, deep breath, play with the sense here that you're reaching for something, what has meaning for you right now, what are you inviting in or reaching for and what's the handle so letting go of as you exhale, you might sigh it out right here and then carefully float that hand down, we're gonna use both hands to gently walk back up nice and careful with the low back and when you've sat up close your eyes for a moment, feel the shape of your body, notice the sensations you've been creating and take in the good, when you're ready we're gonna carefully turn again to come back onto your back, now the left leg is extended, the right knee draws in and I'm inviting you again to take it off to the side a little as well, so not straight to the chest more off to the side, close your eyes here if you can, take a couple breaths into thighs and hips and low back and when you're ready on an exhale we'll use the left hand to slowly bring the knee across the body but again I want to invite you to move slowly, feel the details, feel free to pause anywhere maybe it's a rock a little somewhere like this, any point you can come further over and reach that right arm away at whatever angle seems interesting or useful to you, really engaging with your own experience, I'm gonna keep that shoulder fairly close to the floor and again you could work this variation with one leg straight, one knee bent, you could work both knees bent or both legs straight that's up to you, when you're ready close your eyes and really move that slow deep breath right through the twisty shape.

Two more breaths here and you might sigh it out on this last breath with or without sound and then carefully back up, we'll put both feet on the floor again your choice to join me here with the arms up overhead and just sway a little or draw the knees in if you want to and rock, when you're ready come back to center here with the feet on the mat and take a breath acknowledging the completion of the entire sequence, what was that like for you on the right side, was it more intense, more subtle, more pleasant or uncomfortable, were you more distracted or focused, just noticing. Take a moment here with your eyes closed and I just want to introduce the beginning of loving kindness meditation, so with this meditation we use the phrases of loving kindness as what we're concentrating on and they're really quite beautiful phrases that are about accessing your emotional intelligence, we'll just do one round right now as an introduction to the sitting that we'll be doing in a few minutes, so as you feel your breath moving in and out in this position, the first phrase is may I be well, just a kind wish toward yourself, may I be well and as your breath rises and falls again, may I be healthy and strong, and just an attitude of kindness toward yourself, may I be happy and safe, and deeper than the words feel the emotional energy, the meaning, may I be happy and safe, may I be free from suffering and from what causes me to suffer, may I be filled with compassion, good and just take one more breath there, notice how that feels, I want you to bring your hand onto your belly, I'm readjusting my feet a little and you'll see what's comfortable for you, I want your hands on your low belly and slightly off to the side because we've been doing all of this nice opening for the hips and the low back area, now I want to firm up a little and activate the muscles that ideally should be stabilizing the area, so your hands are on the front of your hip bone and your fingers are on your soft belly, just inside of that hip bone and I want you to feel here for firming up your belly against your fingers, so there's a firmness, there's an engagement, a sense of holding your center, and as you do that you might feel that the pelvic floor is drawing up and in a little bit as well, just find your way into your center here and firming up, take an inhale here, I'm going to exhale and carefully lift the hips up into bridge and then take a breath in right there and on the exhale carefully lower down, moving carefully, moving slowly so you feel the details, take another inhale here and on the exhale carefully lift your hips, only come up as high as you're comfortable, take a breath in when you're up there and on the exhale carefully back down, now do three more and feel now for maintaining that firmness against your fingers, so you're stabilizing, holding your center, creating that nice chain from the belly to the butt to the inner thighs to the feet, good let's do one more, feel for keeping that firm belly all the way up and down, beginning to emphasize stability after all of that opening, good when the hips land let your hands gently fall by your side, take a couple breaths there and feel how we just kind of shifted the energy right, different emphasis, different circuits that we're activating in the body, how does that feel? And as you're ready, we're going up to sitting, so find your way up and do what you need to to have a comfortable meditation posture, I'm using this blanket to sit on so that my hips are higher than my knees, you might use a blanket or a cushion, there may be some other way that you need to sit, you might sit on your knees with your hips really elevated on a nice big cushion, you might sit with your back against the wall but be sure you're still sitting up nice and tall even if you're supporting your back that way, and when you feel ready and you've found your meditation seat, let your eyes close here, sit up nice and tall, feel where your hands are resting, feel where your body touches the floor, the air against your skin, the feeling of the breath moving in and out wherever you notice it, maybe you feel it against the upper lip or in your nostrils, maybe you can feel the breath in the back of your throat, in your chest, your belly, no right or wrong, just notice where you feel it, and we'll go back into the phrases of loving kindness meditation but what happens for a lot of people is that the first phase of loving kindness where you're working with yourself, a lot of people find hard to access kindness toward themselves oddly enough, so let's start this time with the second phase which is more about thinking about someone you love, so think of someone who you love in a kind of effortless way, it's just natural for you to feel a kind of overflowing love toward this person, use their name, use their faith, really evoke a sense of your relationship with them and the fact that it's really natural for you to want the best for them, and so wishing that this person might be well, so may Mary or may John be well, and may they be happy and safe, so you're silently repeating within yourself the phrase using their name, wishing that this person might be healthy and strong, happy and safe, wishing that they might be free from suffering and from the cause of their suffering, as you feel your breath rising and falling, of course we wish that this person might be filled with compassion, and I think it's helpful here to remember that we're not praying to some external force to protect this person, we're not imagining that we can magically control their experience, rather we're cultivating our own capacity for loving kindness through recognizing that of course we wish these things for someone that we love, so again may this person be well, as you feel your breath rising and falling, especially in the chest, may they be healthy and strong, use their name, may they be happy and safe, may they be free from suffering and through their own process may they come to greater insight about what causes them to suffer, and wishing that this person might be filled with compassion, notice if you also have a personal wish for this person that is specific to what you know about their lives, let yourself feel that, so now that we've gotten in touch with the capacity to have loving kindness towards someone else, see if you can just slide back into kindness toward yourself, as if you were your own really good friend, your own beloved, may I be well, may I be healthy and strong, as your breath rises and falls, stay with it, may I be happy and safe, everyone wants these things, may I be free from suffering and the cause of my suffering, may I be filled with compassion, may I be filled with the true grace of compassion, touching especially those places that need it most, and notice right now if there's a personal wish of loving kindness that you have toward yourself, something that matters in your life right now, take another breath with that, notice how all of this shows up in your body, feeling your seated position, the place your hands are resting, the air against your skin, the places where you're touching the floor and any sensations or emotions that are present as the breath moves in and out, as you're ready bring your hands together and if you let your eyes softly open, may you be well, thank you so much.


1 person likes this.
Wonderful practice today. I especially liked the loving kindness meditation. Thank you.
Sam you are so welcome! thanks for letting me know...
Deidra S
1 person likes this.
Practiced with the music playlist - beautiful blend; led me deep and into the emotional releases that freed my body and heart from its armor. Deep gratitude for guiding me back home- out I go, open hearted and willing to be present once again. Ocean eyes, whew, what a speak to the soul. Julian, your teaching is a gift that I am so very grateful to have access to. Namaste
Deidra oh that means so much, deidra, thank you! this is why i do what i do. deep bow..
Joan J
1 person likes this.
Hi Julian, I'm always looking for good lower back practices. This was very gentle and opening for me. I have very tight hips, hamstrings, and bad lower back from a previous hernieted disc. These stretches are always beneficial to me and help release my back. I also appreciated your attention to the feet. I have no arches, so I really enjoyed placing the soles of the feet together and flexing the toes to affect the arches. Also rotating the ankles in addition to spreading the toes was delicious.
Wonderful session, and I loved the medition at the end, so blissful. Thank you for your teachings.
1 person likes this.
Joan few things make me as happy as hearing that someone seeking relief and healing has benefitted from something i share... thank you so much for letting me know, and i am glad it felt enjoyable and useful to you!
Rosalie A
1 person likes this.
Thank you Julian. I am slowly working my way back to practising yoga on a regular practice after a shoulder and hip bursa inflammation (caused by 3 weeks of heavy work after a cyclone devastated our garden). Your classes a so gentle I am enjoying immensely.
1 person likes this.
Rosalie oh wow.... sorry to hear about the cyclone, your garden and now your shoulder! that's a lot to deal with. go slow and be gentle with yourself for sure. glad what i am sharing here has been a gentle support in your healing. thank you so much for letting me know —it means so much.
1 person likes this.
Rosalie oh my, and the hip too... glad you're taking it slow and letting those inflamed joint structures be soothed.
Joan J
1 person likes this.
Such a calming practice for me. Still working on getting my hips more open, it may just be my bone structure, so my knees will never touch the floor. I want you to know how I love the opening to this practice, stretching the chest along with the breath truly helps me to settle and prepare. Each time I do this I feel calmer, more open, and a whole body release. Thank you again for your gentle teachings.
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