"If we're talking about finding less compression in our spine and more ability for our mid-back to both lengthen and support the upper spine and lower spine, we need to pay attention to mobilizing and strengthening," says Brian Spencer from East River Pilates in New York City. Using those two concepts together while they stretch sends a signal from your brain to your muscles that it’s okay to relax because they’re supported enough to do so safely.
With the thread the needle stretch (which Spencer demos in the video below), you’re increasing the range of motion of the mid-back, or specifically your thoracic spine, the portion of your spine that your ribs connect to—plus, it's a beginner-friendly mobility exercise, so you can do it even if you're pretty stiff.
Here's how to do the thread the needle stretch
1. Start on all fours with your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
2. Inhale as you lift your right arm up to the ceiling, while rotating your chest toward the right.
3. As you exhale, lower you arm back down as you twist your torso to the left, allowing the back of your straight right arm to come rest on the ground behind your left wrist and lowering your right ear down the floor so your gaze is toward the left.
4. Take one breath here, then repeat. Perform a few reps on the right side, then do the same thing on the left.
Watch the video to get more movements that can help mobilize and strengthen your back and shoulders:
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