Solid posture starts with spinal alignment. Slouching at a computer, hunching in the car and having a poor walking posture can all work towards misaligning a person’s spine. This can contribute to discomfort and pain, as well as lead to bone, joint and muscular problems down the track.
On the other hand, when you have optimal structural alignment, you have greater ability for free, easy movement. This can be achieved by building stability, flexibility and strength in the spine. The aim is to maintain good posture through a ‘neutral spine’ (when the S-curve of the spine is in comfortable alignment).
Before attempting to correct your spinal alignment, check in with a GP to make sure you don’t have another underlying problem. It’s possible to correct a non-serious spinal imbalance on your own, but other more serious problems may need the attention of another health professional.
These gentle spinal exercises are designed to encourage flexibility and strength, and are simple to perform. However, it’s important to perform them correctly and with good technique. When it comes to stretching and twisting and your spine, always move gently and never make sudden movements.
Reclining spinal twist
Twisting for alignment can help to bring your spine back into a neutral position and to make you feel good after long periods of sitting in the same position.
To perform a spinal twist stretch, start by lying down on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Bring your left knee into your chest and gently guide it over to the right, using your right hand. Try to keep your left shoulder flat on the ground. Your left knee may or may not touch the ground, but your spine will benefit from the twist. Stay in this position or extend the left arm out to the side and slowly turn your head to face the left side.
Hold this position for five breaths, then slowly release. Repeat on the other side.
Seated spinal twist
For this spinal twist, begin seated on the ground with both legs extended. Bend your left knee and place your foot flat on the ground, outside your right thigh. Wrap your right arm loosely around your left knee and place your left hand on the floor behind your hips. Inhale deeply and straighten your back, chin tucked slightly. Then gently turn your head to look over your left shoulder as you exhale.
Keep breathing and lengthening your spine as you twist deeper for five breaths, then release and repeat on the other side.
Spinal flexion and extension
Flexion and tension, when performed together, creates the space in the back to promote spinal alignment. In yoga, this exercise is called cat/cow pose.
To perform this exercise, begin on your hands and knees on the ground, with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your fingers pointing forwards. As you take a deep breath in, lift your head so that your face, chest and tailbone point to the sky, depressing your lower and middle back (to resemble a cow). Transition to cat pose by beginning to exhale while reversing the position of your spine, tucking your tailbone back under and arching your back right up to the sky, rounding out your upper back.
Continue to transition between cow and cat on the inhale and exhale breaths, repeating each five times. Then return to a natural, flat spine.
Do you find a good stretch can work wonders? Have you found other easy ways to help with back issues?
Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.