If you stretch only one part of your body today, make it your spine.
Literally all your moving parts are attached to it; ergo, spine health is total body health. If you’ve had a herniated or bulging disc, you know what I’m talking about: unexplained shooting pain in some limb is often what alerted you to the issue in the first place.
***Let’s just put it out there—if you’re having sharp pains ANYWHERE, stop reading this and go to your doctor***
And yet, almost all of your existence compromises your spine— sitting at a desk, sitting in a car, sitting through the latest Ant Man in the theater (let’s just say extended sitting in general). And don’t even get me started on what your iPhone is doing to your posture. 12-pounds of brain and bone pulling your whole upper body down and forward as you surf, scan and swipe.
Slumpy shoulders? Check. Tight hips? Check. Feeling just a little shorter than your medical records say you are? Check and mate.
Reclaim each of your 33 vertebrae! Unless you have 34 like me. That last one my sister claims I stole from her, which I totally didn’t, even though she only has 32, but, you know, the universe is weird and stuff. Anyway.
So now that you’re sold on the value of stretching, where do you start?
First. Remember you are a three dimensional being, so you want to address all the ways your spine can move:
1. Front to Back (arch and curl).
2. Side to side (lateral flexion).
3. Twisting (rotation).
Second. Work with the natural S-shape of your spine:
1. Your neck (cervical) & lower back (lumbar) are naturally arched.
2. Your mid back (thoracic) is naturally rounded.
3. A rule of thumb is to offer a counter movement to the spinal region’s natural propensity. Spinal dysfunction is a result of letting your back do too much of what it is naturally inclined to do.
Third. POSTURE!! Where you distribute your weight will affect where your spine is in space, so:
1. Ears over shoulders.
2. Shoulders over hips.
3. If you’re standing, keep weight even between the heel and the toe.
Also, add some core strengthening exercises to keep you upright and preserve your spinal health—but that’s a topic for another day.