Spine Lengthening Exercises
The spine along with the brain forms the Central Nervous System, which controls and regulates all the body’s activities. So the spine is the important center of the body. It also encloses and protects the spinal cord.
The spine is extremely mobile, but sometimes if there is not enough movement then the tightened muscles immediately cause stiffening in them and as a result lose their elasticity and movement.
The spine is able to move in four directions and there should be regular movement in all directions. This includes forward, sideward, backward and in rotation movement.
In our daily life if the movement of the spine is restricted it hampers our daily activities and in case we lose our balance or have a minor accident the injuries may be fatal. Besides a stiff spine can lead to backache and also more serious problems.
In balanced yoga or a normal practice session will always include examples of the four types of spinal movement mentioned earlier. But in classical yoga postures are concentrated exclusively on the spine. One cannot perform classical yoga postures from a chair. But there are many simple movements in each of those four types.
The spine can be considered a channel, which generates energy. The spine needs to be erect and should be maintained in a flexible and healthy condition for energy to flow freely through it. In this chapter we will learn how to relieve ourselves of tension and tightness in the spine and also to mobilize and strengthen it. This will throw an insight on how to maintain the correct balanced sitting position. By repeated practice you will feel better will become more alert and more energetic because this will increase circulation in the spinal nerves.
Master yourself to sit in balanced position before you begin to practice any of these exercises. The correct posture is to sit correctly on your sitting bones, with your spine being upright, aligned and long. In this way you can protect it from any injuries that can be caused.
Spine Stretching Exercises
- You are required to sit in the basic sitting position.
- Lock your fingers in front and see that your palms are facing your knees.
- Raise your straight arms above your head and let your palms face the ceiling while you inhale. Now lengthen your entire spine and the upper portion of your body by stretching up, out of your ribcage.
- Stretch your palms away from you and lean forward while you breathe out. Your head, neck, arms and spine should be one long straight line and your ears should lie between your two arms. Remember when you lean forward the movement should come from your hips.
- Come back to the normal sitting position, moving from your hips and stretching your spine, inhaling at the same time. Lead your palms towards the ceiling stretching well up. Avoid arching of your back. Keep your pelvis tucked under well.
- Slowly lower your hands in the front and exhale, meanwhile your hands can relax in your lap.
- You can repeat this exercise two more times.
- Let there be enough distance between your chair and your desk. Then you sit in the required, basic manner.
- Place your feet flatly on the ground. Let them be parallel to each other and should lie a little front from your knees. Let the two be eighteen inches apart. Your thighs can provide rest to your hand.
- Slowly bend forwards from your hips as you exhale. Your spine will lengthen and your head and neck will lie in the same line. Drop your hands towards the floor and hang loosely. Gently lower your head towards the floor by allowing your back to have round appearance. You can stretch yourself in this manner till you are comfortable. Don’t pressurize to over bend.
- Maintain this position and breathe deeply and slowly. Let your arms hang in lose and heavy manner. Now, you will start feeling heavy in your neck and head. Now start feeling that you have to let go of your whole upper body.
- Now, maintaining the length in your spine, slowly straighten and come back up by lifting your head a little, while you breathe in.
- The above exercise is a very calm and restorative one and very energizing too.
Lumbar Spine Exercises
- Occupy the chair in the basic sitting position and start stretching and lengthening your spine.
- Place your hands in the small of your back with your thumbs pointing in forwards.
- Lift and open your chest and ribcage by prompting yourself to lengthen upward and start inhaling.
- Stretch yourself slowly backwards forming a smooth curve as you exhale. Continue to lift your chest. Squeeze your shoulder blades together after taking your shoulders back.
- If you are comfortable with the above exercise, then you can slowly lower your head backwards and look up to the ceiling.
- Breathe in a natural manner and maintain yourself in the above position for a few moments.
- Slowly come back to the upright position while you inhale.
- Sit in the required, basic manner.
- Place the heels of your hands on the sides of the seat of your chair, just behind you.
- Lengthen up, lifting and opening your chest and ribcage and inhale.
- Now arch your upper back as you exhale.
- Gently bend your neck in backward direction, so that you are facing the ceiling. Draw your shoulders back and down.
- Breathe freely, while you maintain this position.
- Come back to the original position while you inhale.
- Here it is not important how far and long you can exercise. But how you can work out on your whole spine. Remember not to exert your lower spine. You should be confident that you are working the upper back only. Your entire spine should stretch upward and curve backwards without feeling any pressure in your lower back.
- For this particular exercise be seated to the back of the chair. Let your feet be firmly placed flat on the floor. If your feet are not touching the ground then you can fill the void with books, telephone diaries etc.
- Lock your fingers and let your palms face your knees.
- Stretch your arms forward and up, till your palms face the ceiling, while you inhale. Stretch up out of the ribcage.
- Now stretch in the backward direction on your chair and exhale.
- Breathe freely and maintain the position for a few seconds. Stretch when you breathe in and relax when you breathe out.
- Stretch your palms up to face the ceiling as you inhale.
- Lower your arms to the front and exhale.
Stretching the spine sideways
When you practice the above exercise pay attention to the following points.
- Your face should be facing forwards, and your should co-ordinate and in line with your body. Your chin should neither be poked nor tucked in.
- Abdomen should be firmly held.
- Your lower back should not arch, so your pelvis should be held centrally and firmly.
- Your upper shoulder and hip should not move forward. The upper portion of your body should move as though they are two sheets of plate glass that can move forward and backward.
When you stretch you should not feel compressed towards that particular side. Both the sides of your body should be able to lengthen and curve smoothly.
These three, side-stretching exercises are in the correct order. The gentle exercises are mentioned first and then the stronger ones follow. If you do not have enough time then you can always go for the first exercise because it’s a gentle one. If you stretch the muscles too strongly, when they are tight and cold, then you are creating unnecessary strain. So it is good to exercise in the correct sequence.
- You are required to sit in the basic position and start lengthening your spine. Let your arms hang loosely on your sides and pull your shoulders down and away from your ears.
- Slowly curve upper part of your body to the right and exhale, Stretch only as far as you can without bending at the waist. You are required to stretch, not to bend. Both the sides of your body should be able to curve smoothly.
- Slide your right hand down and your left hand up. Relax your left shoulder and keep it away from your left ear. Do not lift your left shoulder.
- Pull in your lower abdominal muscles gently at the end of an out breath.
- Slowly come back to the central position as you inhale. Then try lengthening in upward position after a brief pause.
- Curve yourself to the left slowly while you exhale.
- Come up as you inhale.
- On each side repeat this two more times.
- Place you’re a feet a little more than hip width apart by sitting in the basic position.
- Raise your arms sideways and bring your fingertip’s above the crown of your head and inhale. Allow your arms to form a circle by leaving your elbows to bend in a comfortable manner. Lift up your rib cage and lengthen upwards.
- Pull your lower abdominal muscles gently inside and slowly curve over to the right and exhale. Now increase the stretch along left side of your body by lifting your left elbow a little.
- Slowly come back to the central position as you inhale. Do not allow your back to arch and hold your abdomen firmly.
- In this upright position come to the central position and lengthen upwards.
- Slowly curve to the left as you exhale. Now you can increase the stretch along the right side of your body by lifting your right elbow.
- On both the sides of the body repeat this exercise two more times.
- Complete this exercise by releasing your fingers and lowering your arms to your sides as you exhale.
- Be seated in the basic required position.
- Lock your fingers and turn your palms away so that they face your knees. This is to be followed by the lengthening in the spine.
- Raise your straight arms above your head and inhale. Push your palms away from you so that they face the ceiling. Now stretch yourself in the rightly upward manner.
- Slowly stretch yourself over to the right and exhale. Feel the stretch along the left side your body by pushing your palms away to the right. Pull in your lower abdominal muscles. Its important to remember that your left shoulder should not drop forward.
- Stretch up and slowly come back to the central position and inhale. You should not allow your lower back to arch.
- Now, stretch yourself to the side as you exhale.
- On each side this exercise is to be repeated one or two more times.
- Stretch yourself up and inhale and exhale and lower your arms to the front and complete this exercise.
As we have discussed earlier the spine is capable of making movements in four directions. This includes forward, backward, sideways and in rotation movement. Accordingly in this chapter we have given you examples for the first three types of movement. Now, we will discuss the spinal rotations, which are commonly referred to as “twists”.
There are a number of ways by which we can rotate our spine. You can perform spinal rotations by standing, by sitting, by lying on the floor and do it only if your spine is offered support. We can discuss further, how to exercise by sitting on the chair.
Twisting movements benefit the spine by toning it and by improving its mobility no matter in whichever of the above manner you exercise. These exercises are energizing and supply fresh, rich blood to the muscles that support the spine and to all the spinal nerves. They also help to improve on the imbalance caused to the body by overworking one side, like typing telephoning and writing.
These exercises are also easy to practice like the other spinal movements in this chapter. But precautions should be taken by observation. Your spine should be upright as long as it can so that the vertebrae are not compressed, before you can start with twisting your spine. So first be sure that you are sitting in the correct position and then you can begin with the lengthening of your spine.
- Place the palm of your left arm on your right thigh. Now, take your right arm behind your body. And the back of your hand can rest on the left waist.
- Lift up, out of pelvis, opening your chest and your ribcage and breathe in.
- Slowly turn your head to the right and look over your right shoulder as you exhale. This, movement should be led by your eyes. This particular exercise will help to keep your neck nice and long.
- Lengthen up and inhale.
- Twist your upper body to the right, as far as you are comfortable after you exhale. Move backwards after releasing your right shoulder.
- Breathe slowly and calmly while you maintain this position. Permit your body to move little further into the twist with each out breath. Allow the movement to take place. Don’t force it. Slowly turn and see forward as you inhale. Then your hands can be released.
- Other side of the body is also required to repeat this.
- Sit in the basic required manner.
- You can take your right hand behind you to h old the back of your chair seat, which should be a little below the base of your spine. Simultaneously you are required to place your left palm on the outside of your right thigh.
- Stretch yourself, to lift your ribcage and open your chest and inhale while you do so.
- Let your eyes lead the movement, while you turn your head slowly to the right after you exhale, till you can see over your shoulder.
- Elongate your spine after inhaling.
- Exhale first. Release your right shoulder backwards, after having twisted your upper body to the right till you are able to do it easily. Release your right shoulder backwards.
- Maintain the above position. Breathe slowly and quietly and with each out breath you can move further into the twist (spinal rotation).
- Just let it happen as you breath, do not pressurize it to happen.
- Release your hands after slowly turning your face forwards, while you inhale.
- You have to repeat this exercise from the other side of the body as well.