As someone who has experienced major back pain in my life, I can tell you firsthand how important my spine’s health is to me. Although our back is a little hard to connect with every day, we shouldn't ignore its importance.
Your back holds you up; it keeps information flowing from your mind to your body. It generates the movement and flexibility and health we receive in other parts of our bodies. The spine is also incredibly important to nurture. Even if you don’t have pain or stiffness in the body today, your spine is going to be what helps you stay active and healthy and to feel good throughout your life. If you can start now with these simple exercises, you are setting yourself up to be held up by your beautiful spine for life.
1. Standing warm-up
Begin by relaxing your shoulders. On an inhale, lift your elbows up and away from your side body. Keep them in line with your rib cage. Engage the back muscles and slowly bring your elbows toward your sides. With strength from your back muscles, press the elbows away and back to your starting point. Inhale to extend; exhale to pull into the body. Go slowly. Feel the back muscles engaging in each direction. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
2. Seated cat-cow
Come to the floor and have a seat. Place your knees in a loosely open butterfly position with your feet together and knees apart. Lengthen your spine. Take a few deep breaths and close your eyes if you'd like. Begin to slowly round your chin toward your chest, then lift the spine and slightly lengthen the neck. You may also add a rolling movement to the exercise and make it a more fluid opening of the vertebra. Go slowly and feel the back body opening. A full set is rounding the spine and lengthening the spine. Repeat 10 times.
3. Supine twist
From a seated position, lift your right leg over your left knee, placing the right heel near the left knee. Try to keep both sit bones on the floor. Lift your left arm up to the ceiling and gently twist it across the body. If possible, connect your left elbow to your right knee. On an inhale, lift the spine. On an exhale, twist deeper. Repeat this three times. Take a gentle counter twist by keeping your legs where they are and lightly twist the body in the other direction. You may even place your fingertips on the floor for a breath. Gently unwind. Repeat on the other side.
4. Deeper supine twist
Repeat spinal twist No. 3 starting with your right leg over your left knee. Lift the spine and enhance the twist by connecting your left hand to your knee. Keep lengthening the spine and use your right hand on the ground to lift you up higher, twisting your spine deeper. Inhale, lift the spine. Exhale, twist deeper. Repeat 2 to 3 times. Option to take a gentle counter twist as done in exercise No. 3. Unwind and repeat on the other side.
5. Visualize your spine's health.
Sit up tall and close your eyes. If your spine is tired, you may also lie down in a savasana-style pose. Take five deep breaths, and as you begin to meditate, envision your spine feeling open, see more space coming in between your vertebra, and imagine healing energy (or white light) coming into each part of your spine, vertebra by vertebra, all the way up to your skull and down through your pelvis. Let yourself feel that your spine is strong, supported, and healthy. Stay in the meditation for a minimum of three minutes, or add more time for added benefits.
No matter what your health level in life, it’s important to remember you can always start slow, feel your body, and listen to its feedback. Good luck!