Twisting, turning and bending forward and backward are integral to many activities of daily living. All of these movements require a certain level of spinal flexibility. Performing basic exercises to arch the back not only helps improve flexibility, it can also relieve lower back pain and help maintain the integrity of your spine's vertebrae, discs and cartilage.
Before You Begin
All back-arching exercises must be approached with caution; your muscles should be warmed up to perform any back exercises. Do between 5 and 10 minutes of light aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, before doing these exercises. As you perform them, focus on form and technique, and pay attention to your body's feedback. As with all flexibility exercises, start slowly and increase range of movement incrementally while staying alert for any indications of pain or discomfort. Any back-arching exercise that causes undue pain or discomfort should be immediately discontinued.
Easy and accessible, the pelvic tilt is performed in a supine position. The pelvic tilt targets the lumbar region and requires only a small range of movement. Breathe in deeply through the nose, and exhale while simultaneously pressing your lower back into the mat by tilting the pelvis. Hold for a complete exhalation and release. Repeat three to five times.
While a back bend may be too advanced for some, the forward bend is an effective exercise that supports forward flexion of the spine. This exercise can be modified by using a stability ball for extra support or by simply leaning against a wall for balance. Kneel facing the stability ball with your hands placed lightly on top. Slowly roll the ball forward to place your head, chest and abdomen over the ball. Hold for as long as comfortable. Return to starting position.
Yoga Cobra Pose
The Yoga Journal outlines the benefits of the cobra pose, which arches the back to stimulate internal organs and strengthen surrounding back muscles. This pose requires you to lie prone upon the floor and allows you to control the arch of the back by a gradual progression. Place your forearms with your palms pressed into the mat and your nose on the mat. While exhaling, lift your head, then press off the mat to lift your upper body, keeping your hips and legs on the mat. Hold as you breathe normally. Return to the starting position on an exhale, and perform one to five repetitions.
A more advanced yoga pose, the bridge recruits the back, leg and buttock muscles to arch and stretch the back. Begin lying on your back. Place your feet flat on a mat, with your palms pressed into the mat, fingers pointing toward your heels. Inhale then exhale while simultaneously pressing your feet into the mat and lifting your hips as high as is comfortable. Inhale and hold, then exhale and release. Repeat three to five times.
It's helpful to include dynamic flexion exercises, and the roll down is a simple Pilates-based exercise. In a standing position, inhale while raising your hands over head. Round slowly forward over an imaginary ball in succession: hands, head, neck, shoulders and chest while exhaling. Inhale and reverse the roll to starting position. Repeat three to five times.