Spine Stretch

This sounds simple, right? 

Well actually it’s pretty challenging but so rewarding for your everyday posture. Strong abdominal and deep back muscles and flexibility in your spine will be your reward.  

Think back to seeing a wave form at a surf beach. The power at the bottom of the wave as water is sucked back from the beach supports the column of water above as it gradually curls to make a perfect tube loved by surfers around the world. The column of water is your spine and the base of the wave, your hips and abdominal muscles.

Joseph Pilates stated “if your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old; if it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.”

You have so much to gain by doing this seemingly simple exercise.

Start by sitting tall (sitting back against a wall can be useful here for feedback against your spine), legs slightly wider than your hips or mat width apart if you have one. Legs are straight with feet gently flexed to the ceiling. Arms parallel to the floor at shoulder height and shoulder width. Shoulders soft, try gently floating them upwards and then rolling them back softly. This should be a gentle movement not one of jamming the shoulders down.

Inhale to prepare, exhale to scoop abdominals and flex forward. Think of the wave as you peel each vertebra off the wall (real or imaginary). Flex forward only as far as you can maintain neutral pelvis.  Hands are reaching forward, arms parallel to the floor. Inhale and exhale to return to the start position. Do this 3-6 times.

If you know your hamstrings are tight or your pelvis wants to tilt backwards into the wall, try bending your knees slightly.

Next step – repeat the forward movement again, then inhale to lengthen the spine on a diagonal with arms beside ears, exhale to scoop back and stack the pelvis, inhale to complete stacking the spine back into the start position. Repeat 3-6 times.

Things to watch out for when you’re not doing this exercise under supervision:

  • Head drops as you flex the torso forward – keep the neck and spine aligned
  • Belly drops into the space between your legs or your back flattens – imagine you are curving up and over a basketball sitting on the top of your legs to maintain abdominal control
  • If you are flexible in the hamstrings it will be tempting to hinge at the hips to get your torso close to your legs, this is not the purpose here
  • Spine not erect in start position – try sitting on a folded towel this may assist tight hamstrings or back

What you will feel:

  • Flexible and young
  • Do this everyday and you will feel prepared for anything with a flexible spine and strong abdominals
  • You experience what we refer to as ‘oppositional force’ – as your torso is flexing forward, your abdominal muscles are ‘pulling’ back towards the wall 
  • Taller and more graceful as you are able to hold your spine erect without obvious effort
  • Less fatigued and less slumping in your spine, so helpful during Iso working from home