Half Locust Pose, or Ardha Shalabasana, is a great back body strengthener. This is wonderful for the low back! But there is a one aspect to the alignment of this pose that, while often overlooked, can really bring space and ease to your low back…
Internal/External Rotation of the Hips:
- Sit on the floor with your legs extended.
- Turning from the hips, point your toes in toward each other. This creates internal rotation in the hips. Notice what you feel in the hips and low back.
- Now, turn from the hips to point your toes out. This creates external rotation in the hips. Notice what you feel again in the low back and the hips.
- Now, sit with your legs just extended, no effort. Notice which direction each leg turns. Is one more internally rotated? One more externally rotated?
What this means for your hips and low back:
In the above experiment, you may have noticed an asymmetry in your hips. It is common that one hip will more naturally internally or externally rotate. This could be genetic or it could be the result of a habitual pattern.
The muscles that externally rotate your hips are appropriately called the External Rotators. They are deep muscles located under your glutes in your bottom. When these muscles are tight, whether bilaterally or just on one side, they pull on the sacrum and can create compression in the SI joint, leading to low back pain.
You may have noticed that it felt different in your low back when you experimented with internally and externally rotating your hips. For the majority of folks, internal rotation helps to alleviate discomfort in the low back. Internal rotation stretches these rotator muscle, releasing the compression and limitations of movement for the SI joint and low back.
Now, if one leg showed more external rotation than the other, it is possible that the rotators are tighter on that side. This will cause the muscles to pull your sacrum to that side. This pull on your spine in turn pulls on the muscles of your back. All this pull can create a multitude of dysfunctions in your hips, SI joint and low back. Ouch!
So, what does this have to do with Half Locust Pose?
Half Locust Pose is one of those poses where this tension shows up without us even realizing it. And, it is a great place to being to correct it. Alignment is everything, so you will need a partner (alternatively you can take some video from above) for this first part. Grab your partner and let’s get started!
How to do Half Locust Pose/Ardha Shalabasana:
- Start lying on your belly, arms by your sides.
- Ground your pelvis and lengthen your legs and spine.
- Use your inhale to lift your chest forward and up, then lengthen and lift one leg.
- As you exhale, lower everything down.
Have your partner watch you do this pose several times. They should be watching for rotation in your hips. This will show up by a turning of the leg in the hip socket that points your knees and toes out or in.
Once you know if you tend to internally or externally rotate, have your partner be your eyes to being to bring your legs to neutral – neither internally or externally rotating – in this pose. This means that when you are lifting and lowering each leg, backs of the knees should be pointing straight up, more or less. Remember this feeling and see if you can recreate this neutral position without your partner’s guidance.
Working with no rotation in your hips for this pose will help to stabilize your SI joints and to bring equal strength into both sides of your bottom and low back. Less pressure and strain on the low back will make this an easier pose to deepen.
Work with this pose daily until it feels like second nature to keep the legs neutral. And, see how it affects your other postures and movements.
*For more exploration with your partner, try doing full locust with neutral legs – lifting both legs at the same time. This will enhance communication between all these bilateral muscles.