When thinking about spine health, think yoga.
People from 4 to 100 have been practicing the various forms of yoga for more than 4,000 years. At its core, yoga is a series of poses – called a flow – that stretch and strengthen muscles and ligaments, and promote blood flow to the extremities.
You may go as deep as you want into a yoga practice – or as shallow. As practiced by the masters, yoga connects mind, body and spirit. Or maybe you just need a simple 10-minute series to wake you up and stretch and strengthen
Here is a simple gentle flow that will help you build those back and stomach muscles for long-term spine health. As with any exercise regimen, you should consult your physician first.
- Child’s Pose: You’ll like this one. Kneel on a yoga mat, towel or rug. Place your feet under your butt, sitting on your heels with the tops of your feet flat on the floor. Lean forward with outstretched arms until you have your palms on the floor in front of you. Relax. Breathe. With every exhalation, let your body settle more into your feet, into your legs, into the floor. Let your back relax and stretch. Breathe. 60 seconds. Breathe and relax.
- Downward Dog: From Child’s Pose, push your legs back so that you’re laying on your stomach. Arrange the balls of your feet on the floor, and your palms down. With palms flat on the floor, walk your feet your forward, forcing your butt into the air to create an upside down V with butt at the apex. Breathe. Let the muscles in your butt and the hamstrings in your upper legs stretch and elongate a little bit more with each exhale. Hold the position for 60 seconds. Breathe, in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Cat: From Downward Dog, come to a kneeling position. Push forward on your knees, and place your palms on the floor in line with your shoulders to form an upside down U. Using your stomach muscles, arch your back skyward to “Cat” position. Breathe. Hold for 10 seconds. Tighten your stomach muscles with every exhalation.
- Cow: From Cat’s arched back, push your back and stomach toward the floor to create a swayback “cow.” Hold for 10 seconds. Breathe. Tighten your stomach muscles with every exhalation. Repeat the Cat-to-Cow hunchback-cat-to-swayback-cow flow for two minutes – about six reps.
- Plank: From Cow, push your legs back, and arrange yourself on the balls of your feet. Straighten your back to create a straight line from heels to neck, with your palms flat on the floor and your arms fully extended. Breathe. Hold for 60 seconds, tightening your stomach muscle with each exhalation.
- Cobra: From Plank, keeping your palms flat on the floor and arms straight, push your stomach and back down toward the floor, creating a swayback. Hold for 60 seconds. Breathe. Let your spine stretch a little more toward the floor with every breath. Return to Plank.
- Child’s Pose: From Plank, lower your knees to the floor, rock back on your heels, with your hands staying forward, palms down on the floor in front of you. Relax. Breathe. Let your stomach settle into your thighs with every breath. Let your back stretch a little more with each breath.
Repeat this 10-minute flow daily to stretch and strengthen your back, pump healing blood through your extremities, and bring your body and mind into a happy healthy state for the day to come.