Back: Cat, cow, child's pose sequence
There are many, many muscle groups that span the length and breadth of your back. And because these muscles are involved in so many different movements at so many different joints, it's hard to choose just one stretch that does a good job at maintaining mobility and easing tension.
That's why I've chosen a common yoga-based sequence that really does a good job of targeting your entire back, while also stretching the chest, shoulders, abs, and hips. Plus, the cat-cow exercise is known to help alleviate low-back pain, an all-too-common plague of modern life.
- Start on your hands and knees on an exercise mat, your palms positioned under your shoulders, your knees positioned under your hips, and your back and neck in a flat (neutral) position.
- Enter cow pose as you inhale by looking up and stretching your chest forward as you simultaneously press your hips upward, trying to articulate your tailbone toward the ceiling. This action will cause your low back to dip toward the floor, stretching your abs in the process. Hold for a count of three.
- Enter cat pose as you exhale by lowering your head between your shoulders and tucking your tailbone under, scooping your hips forward and pressing your upper back and shoulders toward the ceiling. Round your shoulders outward to broaden the stretch across your upper back. Use your abs to keep your hips scooped forward to feel a nice stretch through your low back and hips. Hold for a count of three.
- Return to a neutral, tabletop-like position on your next inhale, then as you exhale, enter child's pose by sitting back on your heels, your chest folding over your quads as you reach your arms as far as you can over your head, your palms flat on the ground. Hold this position for three deep breaths, really sinking your hips into your heels with each exhale.
- After three breaths, return to the tabletop position and perform three to five more rounds of the sequence.