3 Easy Exercises For Better Spinal Mobility
If you sit for large portions of the day, chances are that your spine isn’t very mobile. The following three exercises are simple to do at home since they require no equipment. All of the movements combine flexibility and strength because you need both in your spine. If you have a lot of flexibility but not a lot of strength, you will be able to move easily but without the support and stability you need in the the joints. If you have a lot of strength but no flexibility, you will only be able to push around the things in front of you as you will not be able to rotate easily or bend backwards.
The following exercises can be done every day if you want, or just a couple of days per week. Figure out what works best for your schedule, but the entire sequence only takes about 3-5 minutes. Stay comfortable by doing these moves on a supportive but soft surface like a yoga mat.
1. Cat/Cow. Start in a quadriped position, which means you’re on your hands and knees. Your hips should be directly above your knees, and your shoulders directly above your hands. The elbows should be straight or even a little soft, not locked. For the “cow” portion of the movement, lift your tailbone towards the sky letting your spine lower towards the floor. Imagine the movement starting at your tailbone and rippling up your entire spine. Keep your abdominals somewhat engaged to protect your lower back. Look forward without straining the back of your neck. You should feel a stretch primarily in your upper and mid-back. For the “cat,” tip your tailbone down towards the floor, and round your ribcage up towards the ceiling while your head drops in between your arms. Keep your abdominals pulled in to get your tailbone to tuck under.You should feel a stretch primarily in your lower back. If you have spine issues like osteoporosis or osteopenia, only go between your neutral starting position and cow. If you have no issues, go smoothly between cat and cow 3-5 times.
2. Side Knee Drops. Lie on your back with your arms out to your sides in a capital T position. Keep both shoulders on the floor the entire time during this exercise for safety. Bend your knees, keeping your feet on the floor. Let your legs drop towards the floor on the right. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths. Engage your abdominals by drawing your belly button inward towards your spine to bring your legs back to the center. Let your knees drop to the left for 3-5 deep breaths. If you need more of a stretch, hold your legs in a tabletop position, so your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle, but your feet are off the floor. Let your knees drop to the right while keeping your shoulders glued to the floor. Repeat on the other side, using the abdominals to bring the legs from side to side.
3. Prone Prop. Prop up your upper body by resting your forearms on the floor while keeping your hips and legs on the floor. Work on increasing the length of time you can hold this position, starting with one minute and progressing up to four or five minutes if you can.
Consult your primary care provider with any questions or concerns, or before you start a new exercise program.