Hi, I wanted to talk to you about some exercises for back pain that I give my patients on a regular basis, to improve their spinal flexibility. They are good especially for the lumbar spine and thoracic spine, as well as the cervical spine. There are 2 basic exercises that I have found particularly useful: Down Dog into Up Dog and a modified Camel Pose.
Down Dog into Up Dog
You want to perform 11 repetitions 2 times per day.
You start on all fours, with your hands, knees and feet at shoulders width apart. While keeping the arms straight (but not hyper-extended) look towards your knees as you raise your butt into the air and straighten the legs at the knees while flexing in the hips. This should take you into and “A” Frame position – this is Downward Facing Dog. Then you will breath in as you move from this position into Upward Facing Dog, by allowing the hips to evenly move downward toward the floor but still keep straight legs at the knees; look upward to allow you low back to move into a natural arched curve. Move back and forth with your breath in to up and down dog, don’t force it, just swing thru the shoulders so that it is not a strength move. Just moving with your breath in and out. Do 11 reps, i.e. 11 breaths.
If you are tight after doing that you can rest in “Child’s Pose” for 30 seconds as a counter pose. From a kneeling position with toes touching and knees apart comfortably sit backwards towards your calves while walking your hands out in front of you so that you chest is lying on your thighs and arms outstretched in front of you.
Modified Camel Pose
This is the second exercise I give to patients, which is particularly good for people who sit at a desk on the computer all day. This opens of the chest and the neck and releases the tension that builds up in the upper back and the lower neck. This position is traditionally performed in a kneeling position, however I prefer to do it standing, as not to irritate my knees – your choice which feels better.
Whether you are standing or sitting, place the hands the back of the thighs for balance and stability during the motion, keep them their during the entire movement.
Start with the head flexed forward, chin to the chest, lift the head upwards and continue to feel an upward lift as you move the head backwards into extension. As you bring your head back at the same time arch the upper back (opening the chest). At the same time gently squeeze the shoulders backwards, which opens up the chest a bit more. Stop at any point of pain or discomfort.
The object of this exercise is to open the ‘heart chakra’ at the middle of the chest up towards the sky as you breath in. As you breath out return to an upright position bringing your head back up and then chin back to your chest in a slight rounded forward shoulder posture.
When you move backwards into extension you should remember to gently squeeze the shoulder backwards toward the spine as you arch and open the front of the chest.
Repeat this exercise for 11 repetitions 2 times per day. This is especially nice to do at the end of your workday. I personally like doing this in the shower in the morning to open up and stretch my neck with the warm water.
Let us know how it works out. 11 reps 2 times per day to make a big change in your posture as well as reduce the stiffness in your spine.
If you experience pain following the exercises you may have other spinal issues going on, discontinue and consult your physician.
It’s always a good idea to consult your physician before embarking on new exercises, especially if you have any known physical injuries.
Ancient Secrets of the Found of Youth – The Five Tibetan Rites
For similar exercises check out the Five Tibetan Rites or pick up the book “The Ancient Secrets of the Fountain of Youth” by Peter Kelder.