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5 Spinal Articulation Exercises for a Healthy Back

Woman doing cat pose in yoga
Karla Tafra / LifeSavvy

Having a healthy back is imperative for your overall health and well-being—after all, it’s the motherboard of your nervous system. These five spinal articulation exercises can keep it thriving for years to come.

Back health isn’t something you hear a lot about, yet tons of people experience back pain at some point in their lives. Incorporating these simple exercises into your regular workout routine could help you stave off any problems in the future.

Cat-Cow Pose

A woman doing cat pose on a Yoga mat.
Syda Productions/Shutterstock.com

Stretching your spine both ways increases your blood flow and ensures all of the supporting muscles, tendons, and joints get more mobile, as well. Cat-and-cow pose is one of the best exercises for warming up your spine, so it’s a great place to start.

Come onto all fours with your knees under your hips, and your palms directly under your shoulders. Push away from the ground and activate your abdominal muscles. Tuck your tailbone and send it far behind you, so your spine straightens.

Gaze at the floor to straighten your neck, then inhale and drop your belly down. Gaze upward and open up your chest, while arching your back. On an exhale, gaze toward your belly button, then curve your spine, stretching the space between your shoulder blades.

Repeat five to ten times and feel your spine getting warmer with each in- and exhale.

Seated Cat-Cow on Pilates Ball

Working your back muscles and articulating your spine in a seated position is a completely different feeling when you’re sitting on your sacrum and acknowledging the pressure created by gravity pushing you down.

Sit on your pilates ball and place your feet firmly on the ground, separated a hip-width apart. Extend your arms in front of you for better balance and activate your core, lifting your belly button up and closing your ribcage.

On an inhale, pull your shoulder blades back like you want them to touch, then arch your back while gazing upward. Exhale and curve your spine, chin coming toward your chest, your shoulder blades coming back into place.

Repeat five to ten times as slowly as you possibly can, feeling every vertebra move. You can also place your palms on your knees and do the same movements, but it can be a bit more challenging to maintain your balance on the big ball.

Roll-Down Exercise

Rolling your entire spine up and down creates space between your vertebrae in the most natural way, allowing your body to open up and get more flexible over time.

Come to a standing position with your feet separated hip-width apart and your hands beside your body. Take a moment to just relax and breathe normally. Then, roll your shoulders back and feel your neck open up.

On your next inhale, gaze upward, and, using your exhale, slowly start rolling your entire torso down toward your legs—the slower, the better. Once you’re midway, bend your knees to go all the way down and touch the floor with your hands, but let them dangle.

On your next inhale, slowly start rolling all the way back up. Feel your vertebrae stacking on top of one another as your back muscles support them.

Once you’re back to your original standing position, repeat three to five more times. On your last roll down, stay in your forward fold for a bit longer before going back up.

Feel your spine getting longer, your hands dangling easier. If you feel like you can, start extending your legs and feel your hamstrings, calves, and hips stretch out and open up.

Cobra and Upward-Facing Dog

Woman doing upward facing dog
Karla Tafra / LifeSavvy

Articulating your spine can be done via so many different movements, but controlling it with your breath and slowing the pace is key to mastering them. This is especially important when lying on your stomach and moving into the cobra and upward-facing dog yoga poses. If you move too fast, you risk causing pain and tension in your lower back, which is the opposite of what we want.

For cobra pose, start by lying flat on your stomach. You can keep your feet together or separate them hip-width apart. Place your palms under your shoulders with your elbows pointing back.

Keep your elbows close to your body and, as you inhale, press your feet, thighs, pelvis, and palms into the floor, activating your quadriceps and lifting your knees. Slowly lift your torso off the ground.

Also, keep your gaze fixed in front of you or slightly upward if it doesn’t strain your neck. As you exhale, slowly retrace your steps and come back to the starting position. Try not to over-activate your glutes. Think of your thighs as spiraling inward rather than pushing them into the ground.

Repeat cobra pose three to five times.

To do a proper upward-facing dog, the setup is the same, but instead of pushing your pelvis into the ground, you lift it up. The only points of contact you’ll have with the floor are your feet and palms. Once you’re up, push your hips forward through your arms and gaze upward to open your chest fully.

As you exhale, slowly bring your chin to your chest and your entire body back to the floor. Repeat upward-facing dog three to five times.

Bridge Pose

Knowing how to properly engage and tuck your tailbone is beneficial for many different poses in yoga, Pilates, barre, and even standard exercises you do at the gym. Bridge pose is the perfect exercise to teach you how to do this.

Start by lying on your back and bending your knees. Place your feet on the floor, one foot away from your sit bones. Make sure your thighs are hip-width apart but always parallel and pointing straight.

Place your arms beside your body, palms facing downward. As you inhale, push your palms and feet into the floor, and slowly peel your hips and spine off the ground. Once your hips are high, keep bringing your chest toward your chin (not the other way around), and breathe here for a few moments.

Exhale and slowly bring your upper, then middle, and, finally, your lower spine and hips back to the floor, articulating every inch. Repeat bridge pose three to five times.

These exercises will tone and support your back, and potentially, help you lessen (or avoid) back pain in the future. Try these on their own or incorporate them into your regular workout routine as part of your warm-up or cooldown.

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
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