Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
16 Jan

The Backbone Ritual: 6 Moves to Get Your Back Into the Groove

spine2This is a guest post from personal trainer extraordinaire Angelo dela Cruz of DailyVitaMoves.com. Join me, veteran PrimalCon presenter Angelo, and numerous other presenters and Primal enthusiasts from around the world at PrimalCon Vacation Tulum (Mar. 1-6) and the 5th annual PrimalCon Oxnard (Sept. 25-28) in 2014.

“Movement is life.” – Moshe Feldenkrais

When someone asks me to help them get out of pain or improve their muscle and joint function, it’s important for me to see the possibilities for them to be pain-free and return to the activities that they enjoy doing. For us to do this, in terms of musculoskeletal issues, one of the first things that I check is the state of their spine. It can tell us a lot about a person’s overall health.

The reason is because the spine is the main hub of our bodies. It’s the gateway from where our brain is able to communicate with the rest of our body. Major nerves and blood vessels branch out from the protection of our spine to all of our vital organs and limbs. When something goes wrong with the spine, it can negatively affect other parts of our body. When our spine doesn’t move properly, we could develop shooting pain down our leg, or tightness in our hip, or recurring shoulder injuries because of stiffness in our upper back.

Through targeted movement we can make a positive impact to improve the function of our spine, keep it in a healthier state, and hopefully prevent painful issues from developing in the future. Today, I’ll be taking you through a few movements that will release tight muscles in your back, stimulate common weak areas, and help mobilize and lubricate your joints. To increase the quality and effectiveness of these movements, let’s take a look at what we’ll be working with.

How ‘Bout Dem Bones & Joints

Nearly 30% of our joints in our entire body are found in our spine. The bones of our spine are called vertebrae and most of them are shaped like short cylinders with a bony arch on the back side that surrounds the spinal cord and spiny projections coming from the arch where muscles attach.  There are 7 vertebrae that make up the cervical (neck) region and 12 that make up the thoracic (mid-back) region. Attaching to the thoracic vertebrae are our 12 ribs that house our heart and lungs. Making up our lumbar (low back) region are 5 larger vertebrae. Below that are 5 vertebrae and another set of 4 that have fused during adolescence to form the sacrum and coccyx respectively. Some of us may have one more or one less vertebrae in any region due to natural variations.

Sandwiched between each of our unfused vertebrae, with exception of the the first two cervical vertebrae, are intervertebral discs that are rings of firm rubbery material with a gelatinous middle, something like a jelly doughnut. (By the way, these are the most Primal sandwiches and jelly doughnuts you’ll ever come across!). These discs provide shock absorption and, along with spinal ligaments that connect each vertebrae to the next, allow our spine to bend or rotate and then come back to a resting position.

Connections That Move You

About 120 muscles attach to the spine that work to stabilize our body and, at the same time, allow us to create movements in many directions. Covering all of these muscles are web-like layers of connective tissue called fascia. Have you ever noticed that clear “plasticky” wrapping around a raw chicken breast filet? This fascia envelops our brain, our gut, our vital organs, every muscle fiber, bone, and joint of our bodies.1

There’s a special piece of fascia layered in the mid- and lower back termed the thoracolumbar fascia that connects deep spinal muscles to superficial ones. It also connects our mid- and lower back to our neck, arms, hips, and legs allowing these parts to coordinate movement together.2

(Side note: One of the most valuable investments you can make is to learn and discover the structure and function of your body. It can be fascinating and transformative. You can go to your nearest library and pick up any book on anatomy and physiology or surf the web for 30 minutes… or just dance!)

What These Moves Will Do For You

Our spines have the ability flex (curl), extend (arch), laterally flex (bend to the side), laterally shift (move left or right), and move in different combinations. We’ll be doing all of the above with the moves below. Our joints rely on movement for their health because there’s no direct blood supply to them, so immobility, chronic static stress – such as sitting in a chair – and repetitive stress can contribute greatly to dysfunction or premature degeneration. In the same regard, your muscles and fascia can suffer the same consequences. The purpose of these movements is to safely expose your spine to ranges of motion that they otherwise may not get during your regular day. Their aim is to decompress joints, stimulate snyovial fluid production (the “oil” of your joints), and improve the surrounding pliability and extensibility of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, & fascia. Also, they may help to restore the ability to contract your muscles in a more coordinated fashion.

The Magic Moves

Just as the number (and shape) of vertebrae and muscles will vary in each of us, so will the way we are able to move. These movements are simple, but may require some patience. Also, they should be done slowly, with control and ease, but with increasing challenge. It’s not about stretching or contracting vigorously as that won’t produce the outcome we’re aiming for. There should be no pain while performing any of these movements. If so, do not proceed.

We’ll be using multi-joint movements and isometric contractions (holding contractions with no movement) to calm down or release unconscious tightness in muscles3, decompress joints, and begin to stimulate weak muscles. (For proper strengthening of weak muscles, a strength training regimen is recommended.) Before we begin, let’s check in.

Assessment

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart and close your eyes. It’s important to get our own internal sense because no one can do it better.
  • After seeing what a spine looks like (video), imagine the spine in your body. How does it feel? Does it feel stable? Balanced? Mobile? Does it feel like it leans to one side, rotated to the left or right? Is there an area of tightness? Also, how is your breathing?
  • Another way to check in is to bend at the hips and reach your fingertips toward the ground in front of your feet. How does it feel going down? Going up?

Hip Flexion Hold

This will help release muscles in the chest, shoulder, hip and low back.

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, bend and lift one knee until your thigh bone is 90º to your body.
  • Place your opposite hand on your knee keeping your arm straight with fingertips pointing to the outside of the knee.
  • Gently try to press knee and opposite shoulder towards each other.
  • Press the standing leg into the ground to make your leg “long”. You should feel your buttock contracting.
  • Hold for 3-5 seconds. Repeat for 3-5 repetitions each side.

Bird Dog/Crawl Lift

This will contract the buttock muscles and muscles along your spine, also targeting the lower trapezius muscle.

  • Get into a quadraped or bear crawl position.
  • Lift one straight arm 45º away from your head with thumb pointed to the sky.  Try to bring your shoulder blade towards your opposite hip.
  • At the same time, lift your opposite leg, trying to bring the heel and the thumb of your lifting arm towards each other.
  • Also, turn and lift your head and look towards your thumb or, if you’re on your knee, towards your lifting heel.
  • Count 3 seconds as you lift as far as you can comfortably go and 3 seconds down.
  • If you’re feeling ambitious, hold the lifted position for 3 seconds.

Wag Dog

This will help release the muscles on the side of the neck and the quadratus lumborum muscle in the low back which has tendency to be tight and add a sustained compressive force to the spine.

  • In a quadraped position bring one shoulder and hip on the same side towards each other.
  • Also on the same side bring the ear towards the shoulder.
  • With your eyes, look towards the hip on the same side (you might not be able to actually see it).
  • Hold for 3-5 seconds and repeat 3-5 times each side.

Quadraped Spiral

This will move your spine in a circlular motion (circumduction) and will mobilize your joints in all directions. It will also massage your gut and internal organs. (Don’t be shocked if you need to run to bathroom after this.)

  • In a quadraped position pick a point on your spine in the lumbar region.
  • Gently and slowly move that point towards the sky and then circle to the left, then circle down towards the ground, and then to the right and back up to the sky making 3 revolutions one way and then the other.
  • Choose 3-5 different points working up your spine and repeat.

Windshield Wipers (with Head Turn)

This will contract stabilization muscles of your trunk and help decompress the spine by relaxing deep muscles that interveawe with the facet joints of your spine. This will also work the thoracolumbar fascia.

  • Lie on your back with your thigh bones 90º from your body and knees bent at 90º.
  • Place straight arms 45º from your body on the ground with palms faced down.
  • Keeping the thighs 90º from your body, let your knees slowly drop to the right and at the same time turn your head towards the left.
  • Rotate them as far as comfortable and trying to end their movements at the same time but not letting the knees rest on the ground.
  • Then bring your knees and face back towards center trying to have them meet in the middle (but not stopping) as they continue rotating to the opposite sides.
  • You can opt to hold at each side for 3-5 seconds.
  • Repeat on both sides 3-5 times each side.

Squat Push-up Circle – All Body Parts Active, Nothing Limp

This will massage your organs, mobilize the thoracolumbar fascia and help coordinate the use of many muscles and joints from head to toe at the same time.

  • Stand with feet a few inches wider than shoulder width and hands on knees.
  • Keep your spine and head in neutral position (the same position it’s in when standing) and begin to shift your weight to the left.
  • Let your arms support your upper body weight as your pelvis slowly lowers and circles to the right.
  • Push your feet into the ground and hands into your knees to circle your body back upright. It should take approximately 5 seconds to complete one circle.
  • Repeat in the opposite direction for 5 repetitions each side.

Re-Assess

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart
  • How does your spine feel now?
  • How does it feel to bend at the hips and touch the ground? Coming back up?

If you didn’t notice much change, you might not need to do these movements too much. If some of these were challenging, that’s indicative of needing to do these more frequently and consistently. I would suggest most people to start with one round of this “ritual” in the morning and then another round one hour before bed time. If you notice any soreness, wait until it subsides before you try it again. Also, feel free to do more repetitions or hold the contractions longer if you need more challenge.

There are many more movements that you can do to help keep a healthy spine, but I’ve tried to put together a good set of them that are safe and can be done by just about anyone, anywhere, anytime with nothing but your body and a little floor space. I hope these movements serve you well.  Please feel free to share them with your friends and family.

Enjoy!

References
1 – Schleip, Robert, et al. “Fascia: The Tensional Network of the Human Body.”The Science and Clinical Applications in Manual and Movement Therapies. Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh (2012).
2 – Hoheisel, U., T. Taguchi, and S. Mense. “Nociception: The thoracolumbar fascia as a sensory organ.” Fascia: The Tensional Network of the Human Body.(Eds: Schleip, Findley, Chaitow, and Huijing) (2012): 95-101.
3 – Chaitow, Leon, ed. Muscle Energy Techniques+ Videos. Churchill Livingstone, 2013.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Looking at that spine it’s a miracle we can even stand up!

    Groktimus Primal wrote on January 16th, 2014
  2. I still cannot do a decent bridge and that makes me a sad panda.

    Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on January 16th, 2014
  3. Thank you! Thank you for the great information. For the past few months my upper back has been really bothering me. I’ll be incorporating these exercises in my workout this week.

    Judy G wrote on January 16th, 2014
  4. I love this. Thank you! Definitely going to make this part of my personal routine.

    Martha wrote on January 16th, 2014
    • Same here, thank you for posting this great material – the office work makes me feel very sore.

      Valentina wrote on March 1st, 2014
  5. The backbone’s connected to the hip bone. The hipbone’s connected to the leg bone…

    Jessica wrote on January 16th, 2014
  6. Would you suggest these movements for pre- and/or post-workout? If so, are they better for pre- or post-? Thank you!!

    Vince G wrote on January 16th, 2014
  7. Why not just add Yoga to your fitness regimen?

    Arjuna wrote on January 16th, 2014
    • I was thinking the same thing. I started Yoga a month ago, and these stretches/movements look very familiar.

      Thomas wrote on January 16th, 2014
    • +1. I’ve heard several kundalini yoga teachers say the true age of a person is directly linked to the health of their spine.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on January 16th, 2014
    • Or martial arts — meditation is so much more fun when you’re hitting and kicking things! Clears the mind every time. :)

      SumoFit wrote on January 16th, 2014
    • +1 Mindful stretching like yoga is amazing for loosening up back muscles and relieving pain. Unfortunately, so many of us are in a hurry in life and after our workouts that we don’t focus on properly relieving tension in our muscles.

      Camille wrote on January 16th, 2014
    • +1 Yeah, yoga can do wonders to your back… and the rest of your body :)

      Celeb Bodies wrote on January 28th, 2014
  8. Thanks for this post! So, I have just gotten a steroid injection for a C5-6 and a C6-7 extrusion (ruptured disc) in my neck. I am obviously concerned with re-strengthening the whole cervical region to support my head and prevent re-injury. Will these exercises be low-impact enough to allow the blown disks to heal?

    Eric Vega wrote on January 16th, 2014
    • Eric, you might want to check out “Healing Back Pain” by Dr John Sarno, a back surgeon. The man is hitting ninety and still full of vim ’n vigour. The book is about the Mind-Body connexion and goes far deeper into the topic than just back or neck pain.

      Pain is often the mind’s trick to taking our thoughts away from what it (the mind) thinks might upset us. The pain is real. It is a book I cherish, it so changed my life.

      mhikl wrote on January 16th, 2014
    • buy this book
      “8 steps for a pain free back” in amazon,by Esther Gokhale. It will fix all your back issues.

      wildgrok wrote on January 19th, 2014
  9. I highly recommend a DVD called Lastics. It is one of the best stretching DVDs I have ever used and has helped to stretch and strengthen my entire back. I have fewer visits to the chiropractor now.

    Pooh99 wrote on January 16th, 2014
  10. Thanks, Angelo, you made my day. I love simple, low-impact, non-torquing spine exercises.

    If you point the toes of your extended leg up, the Squat Push-up Circle is similar to the Sumo Stretch exercise. Throw in a little attitude and this same technique is a very sassy jazz move! ;)

    Great presentation and information, especially the guided tour of the spine! It is a truly amazing structure!

    SumoFit wrote on January 16th, 2014
  11. Added yoga as part of the new year fitness program (along with lifting heavy things of course). Nothing worse than sitting around all day, for the body and brain. Stretching and the yoga flows seem to invigorate a part of my brain/nervous system that could otherwise never be activated.

    BFBVince wrote on January 16th, 2014
  12. This is so very helpful! I have my clients do several of these, as well as a supine, bent-leg raise, going from singles to alternating to double. Very effective, as well :)

    Paige wrote on January 16th, 2014
  13. Laying on your back on the floor aids the spinal in aligning itself. Modern soft mattress, memory foam, waterbeds are horrible on the spine.

    I can sleep on the floor but I need at least a minimal foam pad. The paleo blog has more: http://blog.modernpaleo.com/2011/06/sleeping-on-floor.html

    rob wrote on January 16th, 2014
  14. I would be EXTREMELY careful about these neck turns, neck forward & lateral flexion and extension moves. I have seen more young people in my practice that I ever wanted to see with vertebral artery dissections and strokes from moves like these.

    One guy, in his late 20s, played GOLF and turned his head fast to follow the ball and dissected his VA. 6 months on blood thinners is NO fun.

    That’s also my problem with chiropractors – many of them don’t have extra qualifications to do neck manipulation and do it anyway. I’ve seen 2 people with stroke due to such careless practice.

    Do at your own risk.

    paleocrushmom wrote on January 16th, 2014
    • I can’t figure why you bothered with this comment? Your telling people not to move their head for fear of spontaneous dissection of the vertebral artery. Do you even know how paranoid that is? Then you use this as reasoning for avoiding chiropractors, who are ALL trained extensively in how to adjust essentially all bodily articulations. Hmmmm. I think I’ll go ahead and keep turning my head to look at traffic, looking up at the sky, and getting chiropractic adjustments.

      Jay wrote on January 16th, 2014
      • Absolutely :)

        paleocrush wrote on January 16th, 2014
      • Cautioning someone to “be EXTREMELY careful about these neck turns…” is not the same as “telling people not to move their head”!

        And not “ALL” chiropractors are equally qualified and/or skilled. That’s like saying ALL physicians are trained extensively in all things body-related, including nutrition and movement.

        SumoFit wrote on January 18th, 2014
    • Wow-those are some *very* strong allegations you report regarding chiropactors-likely to warrent malpractice lawsuits, media attention, and more.

      Would you mind kindly providing actual documentation that the chiropractor did what you said they did?

      Oh, could you also include the documentation that shows that a typical chiropractic school curriculum does not include proficiency in spinal adjusting techniques that include the cervical spine? Which schools are guilty of not providing it?

      Given verification of your expert opinion, I’m sure you’ll be able to eliminate this profession in a short period of time :)

      Dr. Mike Tremba wrote on January 20th, 2014
      • If media were interested in this, they would have pursued it based on publications.
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21923248
        http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/32/3/809.full
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24191187
        http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2012/apr/27/chiropractic-manipulation-spine-strokes
        Just search pubmed for these terms.
        I asked Mark to take down my comment. Hopefully he will.
        My comment was not a personal attack in any way. There is a place for chiropractic intervention but I think neck should be off limits unless people are highly qualified,.i.e. subspecialized.

        paleocrushmom wrote on January 20th, 2014
        • Thanks for your reply.

          However, my specific questions are still not answered- who is (are) the chiropractor(s) who did what you said he/she did to the 2 people you know?

          Would you please provide some documentation?

          Court ruling? Judgement award? Copy of a complaint to the state board?

          Also, regarding education process, again, can you please provide the documentation of which schools do *not* provide adequate education for the care of the cervical spine?

          Also, since you seem to understand chiropractic education so well, would you kindly provide for any readers, the number of hours of spinal diagnosis and adjusting (related to the cervical spine) that are included in a typical chiropractic education?

          Also, would you please get back regarding which physical/orthopedic/neurologic/basic& advanced imaging diagnostics chiropractors recieve pertaining to the cervical spine, and where they fall short?

          How many more hours, and which extra testing (that you can show documentation for as not being taught in chiropractic education) do you feel would it take for chiropractors to become ‘highly qualified’ as you put it?

          Thanks, and awaiting your response :)

          Dr. Mike Tremba wrote on January 26th, 2014
    • Neck adjustments do not cause stroke. Doing a shoulder check while driving creates more force in the vertebral arteries than a chiropractic neck adjustment — as you just corroborated with your story about the golfer. Doctors of chiropractic are highly trained to deliver safe manipulation of all areas of the spine.

      Angelo is not advocating whipping one’s head around like a maniac, he is advocating slow, controlled movement that respects the individual’s range of motion and comfort levels. Your fear-mongering is unappreciated.

      M. wrote on January 28th, 2014
      • Hey, M-it’s common, when someone has a brand-new blog with little or no readership, to feel the need to establish his/.her ‘online presence’ through various means-one of which is commenting on other blogs.

        In the process, and because the feel they *must* have an opinion (even if they can’t back it up with facts) as a scheme to get followers to their blog, it’s also common for that person to write things they later regret.

        As as annoying as the beginning of this comment thread may be, I hope this helps you understand the source :)

        Dr. Mike Tremba wrote on January 28th, 2014
        • Uh, which blog are you referring to? I personally don’t have a blog. If you are referring to my later comment about Hanna Somatics, that’s just my appreciation and enthusiasm for the technique and for Ms. Peterson, whose resources have helped me with my own mobility issues, and is not meant to be construed as self-promotion — since I am absolutely not her.

          Interesting assumption.

          M. wrote on January 28th, 2014
        • Wait, I’m sorry — did I thoroughly misread your comment? I’m fighting a head cold and am not altogether awake yet….

          M. wrote on January 28th, 2014
        • Hey M- Thanks for getting back-I actually did apprciate your comments, and was thinking you left it in response to someone else who said some annoying/unfounded comments.

          I apparently just had a mix-up thinking whose thread it was under-sorry for any confusion, and all the best to you :)

          Dr. Mike Tremba wrote on January 28th, 2014
        • No no, you read my comment correctly the first time! I realized that my other comment is still awaiting moderation (it contains a link) so you couldn’t have been implying that I was subtly self-promoting. I really just jumped off the deep end and misread what you said in relation to my other comment, because I hadn’t noticed that the commenter in the initial post for this thread had a blog linked in her name. Seriously, I’m a bit embarrassed for jumping to such a silly conclusion.

          I know better than to comment or type anything, really, before I’m fully awake, but that doesn’t stop me sometimes! :P

          M. wrote on January 28th, 2014
        • No need at all for apologies-I’m glad I’m not the only one that happens to lol!

          Thanks for getting back in touch, and I hope you feel better soon :)

          Dr. Mike Tremba wrote on January 28th, 2014
  15. My boy says ; “That’s not exercise!”
    I didn’t point out the whole “California” aspect.
    Relax your eye muscles by looking at your thumb : top tip.

    Ulfric Douglas wrote on January 16th, 2014
  16. I’ve found out after doing Yoga for a couple years it actually made me more injury prone. I think it’s possible to have muscles that are too loose. Now I’m back to never getting muscle injuries.

    Nocona wrote on January 16th, 2014
    • You may be naturally hyper-mobile. My sister has similar issues from over-stretching.

      Paleo-curious wrote on January 16th, 2014
      • Yes, a massage practitioner told me that some people are tighties and others are loosies. So stretching yoga (like Bikram) is bad for loosies, but good for tighties. And postural yoga (like Iyengar) is good for loosies. I’m a loosie but enjoyed doing Angelo’s backbone ritual. :)

        Becky wrote on January 16th, 2014
        • Haha! I’m definitely a tightie & need all the stretching & mobility work I can get, but my sister is always slipping joints due to over-lax ligaments. More proof that nothing is one-size-fits-all when it comes to health!

          For us tighties, I think doing something, anything, daily is the most important thing. I love Bikram but can’t afford it regularly… I just stretch at home. (And hoop!)

          Paleo-curious wrote on January 17th, 2014
      • I am a loosie. I have HEDS, Hypermobility Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. I have loose connective tissue. If I don’t take enough Vitamin C, my joints will pop out of place. I have sore muscles that are tight from holding my joints in place. I also have sore muscles because my tissues are injured when I move, especially repetitively.

        I was teaching myself to crochet, and I could feel my muscles twist in my forearms, right up to my neck. It is very difficult not to overdo things, like exercising. But I am going to try these ones. My back is so sore, especially in my shoulders, and my hips.

        Lynn Burris wrote on January 17th, 2014
    • Ditto. I kept eliminating yoga moves that caused joint pain, until, lo and behold, I found I had no yoga moves left in my repertoire!

      I’ll stick with martial arts and Sumo conditioning exercises. With some style-specific exceptions, they’re practical, functional movements, rather than
      aesthetically-driven contortions.

      “Just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.”

      SumoFit wrote on January 16th, 2014
      • Thanks Curious and Sumo, I thought I was a lone wolf…
        I warm up quickly and just go do my sport. No injuries or pulled muscles.

        Nocona wrote on January 16th, 2014
  17. Hoop dance has done wonders for my back! I feel much more flexible & stronger through the core. My work (painting at a drawing table or using Photoshop on the computer) was about to permanently reform my spine into the shape of an overcooked shrimp before I took up hooping. And it’s FUN! :-)

    I also do yoga & strengthening exercises, but I swear hooping has helped the most.

    Paleo-curious wrote on January 16th, 2014
  18. My mom has herniated disks i her lower back and is pain pretty much all day. Would doing these exercises help relive some of that pain?

    Manda H. wrote on January 16th, 2014
  19. I’ll have to try these when I get home. It’s amazing how much our spine dictates our ability to move well and comfortably…I always *knew* it was important but learned first hand when I severely bruised my tailbone in December. I basically couldn’t do anything for two weeks (although I tried) and even after that any movement was pretty uncomfortable for an additional two weeks. Even now I still get an uncomfortable stretch when doing lunges. Take care of your spine!

    Stacie wrote on January 16th, 2014
  20. Thanks , Mark, Great help !

    ENY MARQUES _ wrote on January 16th, 2014
  21. I can’t view the video, but I’ve been doing weighted twist sways for my spine. Do you think that’s safe and effective? I hold light dumbbells in my hands and rest my hands on my shoulders, then turn at the waist to the left and bend at the waist as low as I can, rise slowly, turn right and bend, and repeat.

    Serena wrote on January 16th, 2014
    • I couldn’t see the video on my iPad either.

      Paleo-curious wrote on January 17th, 2014
  22. Aha, so THAT’S why I had to go to the bathroom 10 minutes after doing these exercises! And here I thought it was because I’m 8 months pregnant ;)

    Seriously, I’ve been a bump on a log for my entire pregnancy and I was motivated enough to do these exercises! And it felt good to do them. I’m a little late in the exercise game but I figure better late than never.

    Caleigh wrote on January 16th, 2014
  23. Thanks for including the video so I could see the proper way to perform the movements. I am very much a visual learner.

    robert jones wrote on January 16th, 2014
  24. Mark, have you heard of Thomas Hanna Somatics?
    When I turned fifty, my back and hips were not in very good shape and a friend suggested I take a course a Somatic trainer was offering. For seventy bucks I had eight one hour ventures, each Sunday evenings in a class of about thirty. Probably about eighty percent finished the classes.
    Somatics is particularly good for those who have had traumatic injury, lost flexibility over time and are especially important for the older set. As we age and don’t get the right kind of exercise our muscles lose the memory of full movement. Somatics trains the body and mind together to rediscover just how far the muscle sets can move. They are slow releasing movements, ultra slow. One must be mindful as mind and body work together to discover, without strenuous effort, the joy of movement without pain and with full consciousness. No tearing or stretching is to take place.
    Somamtics changed my life. I took them three times, spring, fall and then spring again. Since then I use my tapes, scripts from my trainer for twelve exercises, and I have the text book always at hand.
    Thomas Hanna died in a car accident quite a while ago, but his wife, I believe, continues his good work.

    mhikl wrote on January 16th, 2014
    • Another +1 for Hanna Somatics! My favourite resource for the movements come via Essential Somatics, by Martha Peterson. I have two of her DVDs and her book and they are well done and very accessible.

      http://www.essentialsomatics.com

      M. wrote on January 28th, 2014
  25. 1+ for Hannah somatics. I had pain in shoulder, back and head. A physical therapist using somatics made my life 1000% better.

    Beatrix Willius wrote on January 16th, 2014
  26. Thanks Mark,
    I deal with hip and back pain daily. I was in an accident which involved surgeries, plates, rods etc. I “stand” here today with one leg shorter than the other. I am very active and my job relies on physical ability. Being out of alignment from the ground up definitely puts a lot of strain on my hips and spine.
    (I do wear lifts in one shoe, but then I feel like I am wearing one flat shoe and one shoes with heels. and that is of course only when I am wearing shoes. )
    Thanks Angelo for the great video!

    AG wrote on January 17th, 2014
  27. I have scoliosis that has progressed from just my tail bone (since childhood, most likely) up to now a lumbar-thoracic. Thankfully, I have hooked up with a qualified chiropractor over the past 5 years but it impacts my life daily. KEEP THAT SPINE HEALTHY. Is there *any* hope for realigning a spine or do I just work on keeping it from progressing more? I am only 48 and I want to stand upright for a long, long time to come. Right now it is only visible to those who know what to look for… but amazing how much physical impact any curvature can have on neurological health. :( I need to get better at stretching and working on spine health in between my visits.

    Pam wrote on January 17th, 2014
  28. Attention to spinal strength and flexibility is welcome, and these exercises look like the right stuff.

    I’m a “way older” person with a disaster area/superfund cleanup site between L4 and L5. The x-ray is kind of scary, but the back itself never hurts. What has happened, though, is meralgia paresthetica – a numbness, tingling, burning sensation along the outside of the thigh – that is caused, in my case, by compression of the nerve that exits between L4 and L5 and innervates much of the leg.

    I have had enormous success in mitigating and nearly eliminating my meralgia symptoms by doing spinal exercises on an inversion platform. Spinal rotations (twists), sit ups, side bends, and spinal flexions all seem to work better when the spine is in body weight tension vs. body weight compression. I also augment the tension on the spine by holding a 20-pound dumbbell in each hand for 2-3 minutes.

    I am told by an experienced physical trainer that doing these various exercises in the inverted position is especially effective for strengthening the small muscles of the spine that support and articulate the verterbrae.

    I think inversion exercises of this type could be extremely helpful to some individuals who, like me, have structural issues with the spine. Start off very gently and conservatively and get advice from a physical medicine specialist if you have any concerns about the safety of this type of exercise for yourself. It has been a crucial quality of life preserver for me.

    Dan Williams wrote on January 17th, 2014
  29. Thanks, great…..just what I needed to see today and I learned so much.

    Kmuray wrote on January 18th, 2014
  30. Hey why is no one mentioning pilates….its all about spine…stretching and strenghtening the spine all at the same time. ..the real classical Pilates does wonders to the body if done under proper supervision….its the only type of exercise I found to date that can alter and remould ones posture…all the physio exercises are fine but it never connects mind/body or changes bad habits…pilates really does I find….

    vlada wrote on January 18th, 2014
    • I tried Pilates floor exercises (I don’t like machines), and found that they, like yoga postures, hurt rather than helped. The only thing left was to create my own stretching, strengthening, and stabilising routine based on traditional Sumo conditioning exercises. Obviously!

      It sounds weird, but boy, does it ever work! Gooo Sumooo!

      SumoFit wrote on January 18th, 2014
  31. I’ve had back issues that started in 2004. I go in spurts with taking care of myself through diet and exercise and then complete abandon of all things healthy. Well, I’ve been on a long jag of bad eats and inactivity and I feel like I’m currently going through a bit of a health crisis. My back “went out” two days in a row this week. I haven’t been motivated to exercise, but this Backbone Ritual video was easy, pleasant and inspiring to do! It made me realize how important it is to move your body and moving it daily is a part of loving yourself! After doing one round of these spinal exercises I kind of teared up…needed this so much today! I’m going to make this part of my daily ritual! Thanks for sharing.

    Jamie wrote on January 18th, 2014
  32. love the site! this article strikes me as a perfect “a picture is worth a thousand words” & a video is worth 100k.
    not being the most imaginative reader i found it hard to imagine and therefore try the poses versus had there been a few pictures or a 5-10 sec video of each>

    jack wrote on January 20th, 2014
  33. don’t i feel silly, the video finally loaded

    mea culpa!!

    jack wrote on January 20th, 2014
  34. How was the pull-up station / bar constructed that is seen in the pull-up video?
    Are there directions?

    Andy wrote on January 24th, 2014
  35. Hi, Thank you Mark.I have been following you since (Hum …..), the middle part of last year. One day,I just got tired of being stuck in a rutt !!! So….I just kinda found your web site.Keep up the good work :)

    Hydie Johnson wrote on January 26th, 2014
  36. Hi, it’s like doing yoga with modified aerobics isn’t it? I will absolutely try this one especially the Quadraped Spiral, I think it’ll help with my back aches. Thanks for this post.

    Toni wrote on March 29th, 2014

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