Exercises to Maintain Spinal Health

January 25, 2008

Spinal health is a daily habit. To stay strong, supple and aligned, your spine requires your active participation through good nutrition, stress management and, especially, exercise. If you do your part, your can count on your muscles and bones to do theirs.

Spinal Health Exercise Sequence


  1. Aligning your body and breathing with your belly. Distribute your weight evenly on your feet. Keep your knees loose and drop your shoulders. Lift your breastbone and the crown of your head. Exhale, pressing your abdomen back toward your spine. Pause. Release your abdomen. Let the breath fill your lungs. Breath in this way for one minute.

  2. Arm swinging around spinal axis. This is a warm-up exercise. Let your arms swing freely around your body. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your wrists and hands loose and floppy. Breathe naturally. Swing for at least a minute.

  3. Spinal stretch. Let your incoming breath carry your arms over your head. Keep palms up and shoulders down. Feel the space between your vertebrae. Pause. Turn your palms down. Exhale and lower your arms. Do this five times.

  4. Rib cage and diaphragm stretch. Stretch up through your spine as in Exercise 3. Clasp your fingers together and invert your hands, palms up. Feel your rib cage expanding. Exhale while bending over to the left. Pause. Inhale and return to center. Repeat on right side. Do three sets.

  5. Shoulder release. Clasp your hands behind your hips and inhale. Extend arms behind you as you exhale.

  6. Pelvic tilt. Keep your feet flat on the floor. Press abdomen toward spine as you exhale. Curl your tailbone up slightly as your lower back flattens toward the floor. Pause. Release your abdomen. Breathe fully. Release your lower back and curve it away from the floor. Do this five times.

  7. Bridge with arms. Tilt pelvis as your exhale. As you inhale, lift from tailbone through spine, feeling more space come between each vertebra. Lift your arms overhead to increase the stretch. Tighten your buttocks. Tuck chin into throat. Hold. Exhaling slowly, place vertebrae back down on floor, one by one. Return arms to your sides. Rest.

  8. Pelvic release. Put knees to chest. Clasp knees with your arms. Exhale, pressing abdomen toward spine and pulling knees tighter to chest. Press your neck toward the floor. Hold contraction. Release and inhale. Do this three times.

  9. Spinal fluid pump. Put hands behind your head. Feet flat on the floor. Exhale and bring your right elbow and your left knee toward each other. Pause. Return your left foot to floor as you inhale. Do this three times.

  10. Abdomen-stretching curl-ups. Assume the pelvic tilt position. Place your hands on the inside of your thighs. Exhale, pressing abdomen toward spine, curling your head toward your knees and lifting your hands to the level of your knees. Pause. Inhale as you come back down. Gradually increase the repetitions until you can do this 20 or more times.

  11. Upper-back strengthener. Lie on your stomach. Place our palms on the floor next to your shoulders. Inhale. Expand breast-bone forward and lift as your shoulder blades come toward each other in the back. Lengthen throat. Hold. Exhale as you do back down. Do this three times.

  12. Neck Release. From an arch position (11), turn your head to the left as you exhale. Pause. Inhale as your turn to the center. Pause. Exhale and turn to the right. Do this three times.

  13. Lower-back Strengthener. Bring your arms to your to your sides with your palms down. Inhale as you lift your left leg straight up from hip. Keep knee straight. Exhale and bring leg down. Repeat on the other side. Do this three times. If you can, do both legs at same time. Hold. Return and rest.

  14. Cat stretch. Place your hands and knees on the floor. Let your belly drop as you inhale. Lift your head slightly. Exhale and press your abdomen toward your spine. Arch and release your back muscles. Drop your head forward, chin into throat. Pause. Repeat three times.

  15. Dog-leg lift. From the cat pose (14), lift one leg out straight as you inhale. Extend through your spine from the toes to the crown of your head. Pause. Exhaling, bend your knee in toward your chest. Repeat three times on each side.

  16. Rest. Lie on your back. Place your palms up. Stretch and roll your head to the left and the right. Breathe with your belly. Enjoy the benefits of the exercise for several minutes.

This information is not intended as a substitute for proper health care. If you are being treated for a back problem, exercise under the direction of your health care provider.

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