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Easing and Releasing Tension

How many times has one of your class participants complained of lower-back pain? It’s a common problem—and one you probably hear about whether you teach indoor cycling, step, strength fusion, yoga or hip-hop. As an instructor, you’re in a unique position to help participants reduce and prevent discomfort in the lumbar spine and hip musculature. Use a few basic tools to bring the body into balance. The cool-down is the perfect time to do it because the body is warm.


The following movements emphasize

  • ankle and hip mobility;
  • knee and lumbar stability; and
  • hip, torso, trunk and shoulder integration.

Cue diaphragmatic breathing and ask participants to feel themselves elongating from the vertex of the head while imagining a downward pull of the pelvis. Shoulders should stay relaxed, and the pelvis is best visualized as a bowl that does not spill forward or backward.

Have participants hold each stretch for at least 20–30 seconds per side (a total of 2–3 minutes).

Lunge and Hold With Rotation (not pictured)

Stand in split stance by placing one foot forward (weight on heel, toes for balance), other foot back (weight on ball of foot). Sink downward, bending both legs to about 90 degrees. Push through heel of rear leg to stretch calf. Rotate torso away from rear leg to accentuate stretch in hip flexors and spinal rotators. Maintain upright posture.

Kneeling With Side Bend

From lunge position (left leg forward), sink downward and kneel with right leg, pointing right foot into ground, ankle dorsiflexed. Keep both knees flexed to about 90 degrees. Reach right arm overhead and laterally flex torso to left to stretch quadratus lumborum (QL), obliques and intercostals.

Variation: Squeeze glutes and slowly extend spine. Lift arm up and back on kneeling side.

Wide Leg QL Lat Stretch

Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Flex forward at hips and grasp lower left leg with right hand. Simultaneously pull right hip away from left leg. In addition to targeting QL and hamstrings, this stretch helps “normalize” latissimus dorsi, which, when overactive, can pull pelvis anteriorly and humerus medially.

Self Myofascial Release

If your facility has invested in foam rollers (even small ones), tennis balls or other tools for self myofascial release, introduce participants to this form of self-care. For this particular cool-down, focus on iliotibial (IT) band and gastrocnemius/soleus. Instruct class to find and hold tender points for minimum of 20 seconds or until about 75% of tenderness has dissipated. Cue participants to breathe normally and avoid rolling over bones and joints.

Spend a total of 1–3 minutes on these exercises.

Iliotibial (IT) Band

Lie on one side with hip on top of and perpendicular to foam roller. Have bottom leg straight, ankle dorsiflexed. Cross top leg over and in front of bottom leg, placing foot on floor for support and control. Roll from hip to knee.


Sit on floor with calves resting on foam roller. Roll from Achilles tendon to back of knee, internally and externally rotating lower leg to find tender spots. To increase pressure, rest one leg over the other.

Time permitting, lead class through additional self-myofascial-release techniques that target the latissimus dorsi, tensor fasciae latae, quadriceps, adductors, peroneals and plantar fascia. Remind students about the importance and power of proper diaphragmatic breathing.

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