Back alignment is the placement of your spine in relationship to other body segments. Alignment, along with posture and placement, make up the basics of all movements. Proper alignment results in movement that is efficient, effective and free from fatigue and pain. Incorrect alignment may result in strains and injuries. Flexibility of the muscles supporting the spine increases mobility and muscular elasticity. Stretching the supporting muscles and connective tissue improves flexibility and the range of motion of the spine. With improved flexibility, exercise is more effective.
Side bends stretch your back laterally, from side to side. This can improve flexibility imbalances on the sides of your spine. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Place one arm on your hip and extend the other arm over your head. Bend sideways from your waist to the opposite side of your extended arm. Lower your body until your rib crunches down to your hip without moving your hip. Hold this for up to 30 seconds, and then slowly lift up to the starting position. Repeat stretch on the other side.
Upper Back Stretch
The upper back stretch helps to relax your muscles there. Sit in a chair or on a bench with your thighs parallel to the floor and your feet flat on the floor. Contract your abdomen and straighten your back. Extend your arms ahead at shoulder height. Begin the stretch by clasping your hands together with your palms facing you. Next, turn your palms away from you, bringing your chin to your chest as you push your hands away from you. Hold for up to 30 seconds, and then return to the starting position.
Upper Back/Shoulder Stretch
The upper back/shoulder stretch contracts and stretches your upper back muscles. Sit in a chair or on a bench with your thighs parallel to the floor and your feet flat on the floor. Contract your abdomen and keep your back straight. Begin the stretch by lifting your arms in a bent position with your upper arms parallel to the floor and out to the sides of your chest. Place your hands in fists pointing up to the ceiling. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Keeping your elbows at shoulder height, bring your arms across your body. Reach around to your back giving yourself a bear hug. Hold for up to 30 seconds, and then return to the starting position.
The cat stretch relaxes your lower back muscles. Kneel on your hands and knees with your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hips. Keep your head in alignment by looking down to the floor. Begin the stretch by pulling your stomach in and rounding your spine up. Tighten your abdomen to hold the position for up to 30 seconds. Slowly lower back to the starting position.