One of the biggest hurdles that individuals with degenerative disc disease and/or herniated discs encounter is the ability to stretch their hamstrings and calves without spinal flexion. It is usually not recommended that spinal flexion of any extent be done by those with these specific lumbar issues. However there are alternative ways to get the leg stretching without forward folding. Here are two:
1.) Prone hamstring stretch: Lie on the ground with the left leg bent at the knee, foot on the ground or alternatively with the left leg completely on the ground (see which feels most comfortable in your lumbar spine). The right leg will extend upward with a yoga strap, belt or some other longish strap across the arch. Actively press on the strap with your foot while pulling equally on it with your hands. This push/pull action creates an isometric opening for the back of the legs. If more stretching of the hamstrings and calves is desired, you can gently move the leg in the direction of the torso. Remember to keep the knee slightly bent to prevent over stretching. This pose can be held from 10 breaths to a minute. Repeat on the second side.
2.) One-Legged Chaturanga: Come to all fours with your fingers actively spread wide and your spine at a neutral position. Be sure to engage your deep abdominal muscles by drawing your belly button in and up (as if it could go under your rib cage) to stabilize your spine. Extend one leg long while actively pressing the heel to the ground and keeping the toes connected to the floor. Take ten breaths and repeat on the second side. If wrist issues arise, this stretch can be done with fists or forearms on the ground.
These simple stretches allow for leg opening without flexion and can be done daily. They are a great tool for individuals wishing to avoid forward folding of any sort.