Strengthen Your Spine

By Anita Boser

Originally published in Body Sense magazine, Spring/Summer 2010.

Poor posture can lead to back pain, weakened muscles, and strained joints and ligaments, but it can be avoided. This gentle movement will help you build strength and create flexibility in your spine. Initially it may feel good or it may feel stiff and awkward, but it should not hurt. If a movement causes you pain, stop, back up, and repeat. Stop short of any pain. Try some variations: move less or slower.

As you practice, you’re nourishing the discs between your vertebrae. It will become easier as your spine becomes stronger and more flexible. Snap, crackle, and pop sounds that don’t hurt indicate short ligaments or calcium deposits. It’s your body’s way of asking you for more frequent, gentle movement.

1. Sit evenly on your sit bones. It is important for both feet to be firmly planted on the floor.

2. As you exhale, move your torso so that your sternum dips toward your pelvis and the middle of your back rounds out like a slouch.

3. As you inhale, move your chest forward and up so that your back arches as the muscles along the sides of your spine contract.

4. Alternate forward and back a few times with your breath.

5. Now try it by initiating the movement from your lower abdominals and pelvis. Pull your pubic bone up toward your chin. Continue to draw your abdominal muscles in and back so that your chest drops down. Let the movement carry up through your neck so that your chin dips toward your chest.

6. To come back up, start at the base of your spine. Rock your pelvis forward so that your sit bones come back onto the chair surface and your low back returns to its normal curve. Continue the motion, flowing up from your low back through your middle back, upper back, and through your neck. Straighten your spine until you are sitting tall.

7. Repeat curling in and unfurling, starting both movements from the bottom and working up.

Just one minute of this exercise will counteract time spent in poor posture. Even if the movements are very small, they will be beneficial.