top two stretches
Our 2 favorite anti-back-pain moves
If you want to get a little more creative during your movement breaks, here are two of our favorite stretches that you can do anytime and anywhere. They’re especially good for addressing back pain and stiffness.
This movement opens the hips and activates muscle groups in the lower body - two key elements of low back health. It also feels great after a long day sitting at a desk.
Get in a lunge stance with a slight bend in your knees. Engage the glute of your rear leg. Think of engaging what some of our teachers call the “smile line” or the “bu-thigh” - the line where your hamstring and glute meet. Take a moment to notice how that feels - do you feel an opening in the front of your hip?
From there, lower your rear knee straight straight to the ground. Your rear heel will lift. Focus on keeping your rear glute engaged, your front shin vertical, and your torso upright. Breathe and stretch, holding for 10-15 seconds. Release the stretch, then repeat on the other side. Try to build up to stretching for 1 minute on each side.
Variation #1: Keep the rear leg relatively straight as you lunge with your front leg. Reach your arms overhead, life your chest, and keep your abs lifted. Repeat on the other side, and notice if this version of the movement feels different for you. You might also notice if one hip feels different than the other.
Seated Variation: If your knees bother you while lunging or you just want more support, try setting up Variation #1 while seated. Sit on a chair facing forward with both feet on the floor. Then swivel your knees to one side so you are sitting sideways. Keeping your front glute on the chair seat, position the rear glute off the chair, and get in your lunge position. Breathe and stretch. When you are ready, try engaging your lower body to life and hover your pelvis off the chair.
Seated Spine Circles
This movement borrows from both Pilates and Gyrokinesis to open the chest and shoulders while giving your spine a hearty dose of 3-D movement love. It’s one ofour favorites for stretching a stiff back that’s spent too much time at the computer.
Sit on a chair with your hips slightly higher than your knees, and your legs and feet about three feet apart. Feel your sitting bones making contact with the chair. Sit tall, reach your arms overhead, interlace your finders, and flip your palms up to the ceiling.
Imagine that there is a beach ball sitting on your lap. (If it is a particularly grey Puget Sound day, you could also imagine you are at the beach. Whatever works, people!) Push into your feet and round forward over your imaginary beach ball to stretch your spine. Now lean to the right, pushing into your right foot to stretch your left side. Keep your left sitting bone grounded as you stretch away from it.
Next, center your torso and lift your chest bone to the ceiling, creating an arch in your upper back. Bring your gaze to the crease where the wall and the ceiling meet - this will help keep your neck in line with your thoracic spine as you extend it. Continue circling to the left, pushing into your left foot as you side bend to the left. Round over your beach ball again to complete the circle. Making it a smaller range of motion if you feel any pain.
As you make your circles, breathe in through the nose and exhale fully out through the mouth. Notice if your breath has any effect on the movement of your spine. Do 4 circles to the right, then reverse.