Back Traction Exercises
Back pain or overuse is common, either due to overuse or exertion in exercise, or simply after a long work day where your posture was less than ideal. Slouching for hours at work or during a commute can lead to neck and back pain. Back traction helps to keep your spine healthy by stretching out your back, letting your spinal vertebrae decompress.
Back Flexion Exercise
This gentle stretch can be used in yoga routines or on its own to help relieve tension in your back. Lying on your back, bring both of your knees to your chest, bending them gently. Wrapping both arms around your shins, bring your head forward, creating a ball-like position. As you feel a gentle stretch along your back, you can start to rock gently from side to side to provide a light “massage” to your back. Hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds before resting for 15 seconds and repeating.
Like a Cobra
The Cobra pose, also known as bhujangasana, is a small back bend that opens up your chest and torso while also stretching your back. Starting small, lie on your stomach with your legs spread hip-width apart. Roll your outer thighs toward the floor to gently open up the base of your spine. Rising up onto your forearms, raise your head and chest so your arms create forward-facing 90-degree angles. Next, move your palms back so they are in line with your chest. Slowly push up, deepening the bend in your back and straightening your arms fully. Hold the pose for 60 to 90 seconds before returning to a rest position.
Cat and Dog
The Cat and Dog poses gently massage and stretch your spine while also helping build core strength. Get down on your hands and knees, spacing your knees hip-width apart and fully extending your arms, placing your hands palms down directly under your shoulders. Keeping your neck straight -- looking at the floor -- engage your abdominals as your raise your spine in a gentle curve upward. Hold for three to five counts before pushing down to make a “U” shape with your spine, pushing your belly towards the floor. Hold for three to five more counts and repeat both movements four times.
Put Your Legs Up
Also known as viparita karani, the legs-up-on-the-wall pose is a gentle stretch; so much so that you might be surprised at how effective it is. Lying on your back with your hips against a wall, bring your arms out directly to your sides, flat on the floor, to provide support and stability. Raise both your legs up so your legs and torso form a 90-degree angle, and rest the backs of your legs against the wall. Gently bend your knees if you need to, as the stretch may be too deep for beginners. Keep your legs and feet together and hold the pose for 90 seconds before bringing your legs down and resting for 15. Repeat the move two or three times.
Louise D E Jensen has written professionally since 1991. She has authored more than 12 books, has appeared on CTV news as a fitness and nutrition expert, and is featured in the "Globe and Mail." She holds degrees in dietetics and epidemiology from the University of British Colombia and the University of Toronto.