I’m a Yoga Teacher, and These Are the Best Back Stretches for Your Spine

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If there's one part of your body that you're kind of a bully to without even realizing it, it's your spine. All that slouching eventually causes pain and increases your risk for injury. Perhaps more so than other parts of your body, taking the time to stretch your spine makes a big difference in how you feel now and in the future. In short, the best back stretches help get your back... back on track.

"Regularly stretching your spine can decrease your risk of injuries, improve range of motion, and enable your muscles to work more effectively," says Katherine Parker, yoga instructor and co-founder of Yomassage. "It can also help prevent joint stiffness."

To make sure you're stretching your spine as safely and effectively as possible, Parker and yoga teacher Stacy Dockins recommend sticking to a few easy back stretches.

The best back stretches for your spine

1. Locust pose

How it helps: "Locust pose is a backward bend that requires an active range of motion. It will strengthen the backside of the body while encouraging the release of the anterior shoulders, chest, and hip flexors," says Dockins.

  1. Begin lying face down with your arms reaching back in airplane wing position and your palms facing down.
  2. With your feet about hip-width distance apart, lift your chest and legs off the ground.
  3. Keep your neck long and actively squeeze your shoulder blades together and down toward your back pockets.
  4. Hold for five slow breaths.

Photo: Yomassage

2. Supported child's pose

How it helps: "Supported Child’s Pose provides a gentle stretch to the lower back, hips, thighs and ankles, and lengthens the lower back and improves circulation to the spinal joints," says Parker.

  1. Stack 1 to 2 bolsters vertically in front of you. Place your knees on either side of the bolsters.
  2. Bring your feet toward each other, send your hips back towards your heels, and rest your torso and one cheek on the bolsters. You can also place a blanket under your knees and a rolled blanket behind your knees for added comfort.
  3. Relax in the pose for 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Bridge pose

"Bridge pose is a backward bend that will counter modern postural tendencies. It will encourage the release of the chest, anterior shoulders, and hip flexors while strengthening the backside of the body," says Dockins.

  1. Begin on your backside with your knees bent and heels pulled in close to the hips.
  2. Using your glute muscles, lift your hips off of the ground while drawing your tailbone slightly toward your knees.
  3. Walk your shoulders underneath the body. Your hands can be clasped or pressing into the floor.
  4. Hold for five slow breaths.

Photo: Yomassage

4. Supported Twist

"Practicing supported twist might help keep the spinal muscles mobile and provide relief from back pain," says Parker.

  1. Lie down on your back and pull your knees in toward your chest.
  2. Place a blanket, block, or bolster in between your knees and glue your shoulders down to the mat.
  3. Lower your legs to one side. It can be nice to let your legs rest on another block, blanket, or bolster, or use a block under your opposite hip for more support.
  4. Relax in the supported twist for 5 to 10 minutes.

New to yoga? We've got you:

This exercise opens your hip flexors and massages your spine at the same time. Then check out the "T-spine" stretches that are key to the perfect posture.

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