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The spine is designed to perform the following 4 movements: flexion, extension, axial rotation and side-bending. If you want to keep your back happy, try to perform these 4 movements daily. There’s no need to be a specialist in anatomy to enjoy a healthy and flexible spine.
Here are some recommendations to help you move intelligently:
- When you flex your spine avoid compressing your low back. If you’re not very flexible, bend your knees slightly and try to keep your waist long and shoulders down.
- In spinal extensions, focus on your upper thoracic region. The challenge of back-bends is opening the chest and shoulders instead of hyperextending the low back. If you breathe deep into your lungs, your breath will help lift the ribcage and open the chest.
- When performing twists we want to rotate the vertebrae on their central axis. We can aid this action by keeping our hips level and squared to the front. This way we can focus the twist in the thoracic region of the spine.
- Side-bending is an easy movement, which I find particularly delightful. It involves stretching out first one side of the trunk and then the other. Take care not to rotate your shoulder girdle or your hips. Ground though your feet an legs to get the full benefit of this action.
In my last online anatomy course, my students and I used drawings to design some easy sequences that move the spine in all 4 directions. I’ve included 2 images below, hoping these sequences inspire your yoga practice or stretching routine.