Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? Get a healthy spine while lying around doing nothing! Well it’s not exactly doing nothing, you will need to be aware of your back and how it moves.
Modern life is rubbish for our bodies. We were stuffed into shoes at a young age, made to sit at a desk from a young age and now kids sit for hours on playstations as well as at school. All day long we are bent forward in flexion, whether it’s at desk, slouching on the couch, pushing a pram or spending your day in the car. We are totally out of balance, we were built to run after our food not dial a pizza! Our poor backs are flexed for far too long each day. Our shoulders keep falling forwards, our hips are tight and in turn we crank our necks trying to lift our heads. Our diaphragms may also be compressed and you may not be breathing efficiently. Do you know anyone who is kinda gray, looks a bit exhausted all the time? Do they sit all day under a false light? Modern life is not kind at at all.
How often do you backbend? Take your back from flexion, to neutral and then into extension? Did you even know your back can extend? You don’t need to join an acrobatics team to get your spine moving. You just need to be aware that your back does in fact like to back bend.
So where do you start? How do you get a tight, round back to extend?
Lie on the floor!
Let’s make life easy and cheat! Why not? If you angle the tv correctly you can enjoy your favorite show while re aligning your spine!
You will need:
- A yoga mat
- A thick bath towel
- Your favorite pillow or cushions.
- Make a log for your spine. I use a yoga mat to start with and then wrap it in a good thick towel. Ensure you have a pilow for your head too. If you don’t have a yoga mat a draught excluder is good too, or more towels. Just ensure it is firm enough to hold your body weight. (Play around with the thickness of your log, too much too soon is not ideal. Bulk it up over time)
- Lie your entire spine along the log, ensure your head is supported and is the same level as your spine. If you are tall you may need two yoga mats. Make sure you do this on the floor and not your bed, it’s too soft.
- Bend your knees up to support your spine and take the arms out to 180 degrees/ like wings on an aeroplane. Let your hands flop into the floor. Gravity will pull your shoulders down towards the floor. Undoing rounded shoulder posture and opening out your chest. In turn your upper mid back will be happy as the shoulders start to retract. If your log is too thick ( you are too high off the floor) this may be too much of a stretch for your chest and shoulders. Start tentatively.
- Stay here and breath!
Deep abdominal breaths. Focus on getting your tummy to dome upwards. Fill your body like a bucket, from the bottom to the top, belly rises and then chest rises. Exhale and squeeze your tummy like a tube of toothpaste. Pushing from the bottom upwards. Your lungs can fill to capacity in this position, no more shallow breathing. More oxygen gives you more energy, encourages healing and vitality. So total wellbeing.
- After a little while (the longer you can stay here and relax the better) move your arms upwards . Imagine your arms are hands on a clock, try and be ten to two, or ten past ten! Let the hands flop into the floor. Once again stay here for as long as you have time for. Continue with your deep breathing. If you find your arms are not comfortable, back off to a point that is comfortable.
- Finally, aim to move your arms overhead, like twelve o’clock with the hands on the floor. If you find you don’t have the mobility in your shoulders or your back is too stiff build up to this position.
Your back is now in a back bend, EXTENSION. Your spine has gone from flexion into a lovely, gentle, controlled back bend with very little effort. Gravity is your friend in this instance! Your diaphragm is lifted, your chest is completly open and you will be able to take deeper breaths. Energising your body, boosting repair and regenerations, accelerating healing and giving you more energy. You will feel calmer, relaxed and may find you sleep better.
If you can, aim to spend a few minutes a day in this position. The longer the better. If you can spend a good half hour here all the better. Think about how long you are sitting at a desk in your lifetime. You need to undo all that for starters.
Try and relax into this position, gravity will do all the work for you. This is a great exercise , it’s simple, highly effective and can be done almost anywhere! If you have teenagers/ students get them involved too. Hours spent studying at desks / computer games are building poor posture patterns for the future. Young people complaining about back and neck pain is all too common these days.
Other ways to improve your spine health and wellbeing lying on the floor.
Leg drains. Lie on your back with your legs up the wall or put them up on the back of the couch. Aids venous return, helps to diminish fatigue and swelling in your legs. If you also have varicose veins this is a must. Veins collapse as they work against gravity. By inverting the legs you are using gravity to your advantage, taking pressure off sore collapsed veins. Your heart is also happy. Its a great way to relax especially if you work on your feet all day. Your spine is also happy lying flat on the floor. Make sure head is supported. Also great for runners and pregnancy.
Foam rollers and/ or Massage balls. Tease out sore tired body parts. Give yourself a good old roll around. Most often I hear “it’s too sore.”
You may be going a bit too hard. Also gravity is pulling your body down onto the foam roller, you may find it easier to use massage balls up against the wall where you have more control of the pressure.
Do you go to Yoga or Pilates? Do you ever do any of your exercises at home? You should! One hour a week in class is great but it’s not enough. Give yourself a mini class at home to keep you supple and strong.Cobra pose
are just some of the amazing poses you can do once your spine is fully warmed up and mobile. **These are all just simple ways to improve your spine health and posture. If you have spine issues or unexplained back pain you should seek medical attention. Please consult with your Physician before trying any new exercise program. **
If you are concerned about your spine health why not book in for a Physical Therapy appointment. We can discuss your postural needs and concerns. Clinic is in Rathfarnham, Dublin 14
Join me for Yoga and Pilates each week. Classes to suit all.
About the Author:
Sinéad Kennedy is a Physical Therapist, Yoga Siromani and Pilates Instructor, based in South County Dublin. She treats and teaches people from all walks of life, including many athletes, especially cyclists, runners and golfers. Recently featured in the Irish Independant, FIT Magazine, her Yoga 4 Cyclists class has gained notoriety.
A keen cyclist and proud member of Orwell Wheelers she has completed numerous cycling events including La Marmotte Sportive. She is an accomplished audax-er having done numerous 200km and 300km routes. Sinéad has also completed three Dublin City Marathons, numerous Adventure Races and Half Marathons.
Thank you so much for sharing this useful information about improving one’s spinal health! I have scoliosis, so this is very useful for me. It is hard when you have scoliosis because you always need to be in proper posture or else you will just further damage the condition of your spine. Aside from that, it is also very painful at times because it is hard to always have your back in a straight posture. You also have to go through tons of physical therapy and you never really get cured, which is such a bummer.
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Thank you very much for the great article. The back of my head does not touch the floor when I lay flat on my back.
Is this normal.
I cannot make an appointment as I live in Los Angeles California.
Any advice would be appreciated.