Week two of January is another beginner level therapeutic back bend called Locust. Locust helps to strengthen the hamstrings, glutes and lumbar musculature, building on last week’s Cobra stretch. As a warm up, you can do a few Cobra stretches prior to performing the Locust. If you missed last week’s stretch, you can find instructions here.
You will not need any equipment to perform this exercise. Important considerations prior to performing this stretch include:
- All movements should be smooth and controlled.
- While performing Locust, make sure you are not holding your breath.
- If you have any current neck or low back symptoms, radiating pain, numbness, or tingling down your legs or have a history of a spinal fracture, spondylolisthesis, or spinal stenosis, this might not be the right exercise for you. As with beginning any exercise program, contact your physician or physical or occupational therapist to review what is most appropriate for you.
- Begin by lying on your stomach on the floor. Place your feet hip distance apart with the toenails pressing into the floor. Rotate the inner thighs to the sky. Place your arms by your sides, palm down. You can rest one side of your face on the floor or use a small rolled towel placed under your forehead, so that your nose is pointing straight towards the floor. The latter is recommended for those with a history or neck pain or injuries.
- Inhale and simultaneously peel the chest away from the floor, press the palms into the floor, and lift the legs to the sky. Keep the chest open by bringing the shoulder blades back and towards one another, then down towards the tailbone. Press the front of your pelvic bone into the floor and pull in your belly button towards the spine. This will help to protect the low back. Remember, do not hold your breath, especially while pulling your belly button in. Gaze is 6 feet or so on the floor in front of you.
- As you lift the legs, spread the toes and keep the inner thighs rotating to the ceiling. Legs stay hip distance apart or closer. You do not want to look like the bottom photo marked incorrect, where the legs are wider and the chest is collapsing in. Having the legs wider apart may pinch the low back, so please be mindful here!
Tip: If lifting the legs and trunk is too intense, keep your feet and legs on the floor as you lift only your upper body.
- Stay here for 5–8 breaths. Repeat 3 to 5 times. If you are new to this, try holding for 1-2 breaths and work up to 5-8 breaths.
To increase the intensity of Locust:
The hands on the floor is a beginner variation of this posture. For a little bit more lift and intensity in the chest, interlace the fingers behind you. As you lift the chest and the legs, push the hands towards the heels and up towards the sky, as shown in the top photo marked correct.
Tip: if interlacing the fingers and clasping the hands is difficult here, take a belt or strap between the hands and use that to inch the hands as close together as they will go.