Upper back and neck stretch.
This is a preparatory stretch for the semi supine and a general upper back stretch. Place the back of your skull on a phone book, bend your knees and place your feet flat and hip distance apart. Interlace your fingers high on the back of your skull, so that when you bring your arms forward the forearms cradle the sides of your skull above your ears.
Inhale down towards your belly and tighten your pelvic floor muscles to engage the lower abdominal muscles.
Exhale. Bring your chin down towards your chest and your forehead forward. Raise your head and upper back forward using the pelvic floor and lower abdominal muscles.
Inhale. Then gently against the resistance of your hands on your head, lower your spine and head back to the book getting a mild stretch in the upper back spine and across your shoulders. Repeat 5 times.
Please note if you have high blood pressure the inhale with the stretch is not, I repeat not recommended. Just exhale up and inhale down.
Upper back and neck stretch
The main thing to remember is to gradually increase your stretch. Use this stretch if your neck feels stiff.
To find the right height for your neck on the book.
Once you have completed the upper back and neck stretch a few times place your head on the phone book. To find the right height for you consider the following.
The position of your chin. If it is down in your chest, making a double chin, the likely hood is that the book is too high. If your chin is poking up into the air your neck, that is the back of the neck, is being compressed or shortened. This is not desirable. The book is too low.
The height of the book can vary from day to day depending on the amount of stress your have put through your body. For example, sitting at a desk, can cause your upper back to round. After a day of rounding you will need to start with a high book, by the end of the session your upper back will be longer and the book height can be lowered.
Also consider the tension around the jaw. In the correct position (i.e. height of book), when your neck is relaxed and slightly stretched a lot of this jaw tension drops away and the area just under your ears feels soft.
Semi supine is the queen of positions to enhance and entrain your posture. Lie on your back. Place the back of your skull on a phone book, bend your knees, place your feet flat hip distance apart. Rest your toes down long.
Rest your hands comfortably on your torso. Keep your elbows wide and just touch the tips of your fingers together. Relax your wrists.
Allow the inside edge of your feet to grow roots into the ground and allow the outside edge of your feet to grow roots out across the ground.
The spine between your shoulder blades is relaxed and wide on the floor.
Your lower back is relaxed. Do not push the lower back into the floor except as an adjustment to get comfortable. Allow gravity to teach your spine its correct position
Semi-supine is done for a minimum of 10 minutes to effect a relaxation response and allow the cerebral fluid levels in your spine and brain to equalise pressure throughout your system.
Upper back release and ham string traction
The emphasis in this position is on the upper back release. The gentle hamstring stretch is therapeutic * but the foot is really being used as a hook to hang and relax your arms, upper back and neck.
Lie in semi-supine and using the traction belt place the middle of the belt over the ball of your right foot. Place your whole hand and wrists into the two loops of the traction belt. Let your wrists relax and do not grip, relax your fingers around the belt and let your forearms hang.
Raise your right leg and bring the soul of your foot up without force and parallel to the floor, keep your knee bent. There will be a mild stretch on the back of your leg. Allow your upper arm to get increasingly heavy and relaxed. This tractions the back of your leg and release the brachial plexus nerve complex into your arms. This broadens and relaxes your shoulders and arms. Repeat on the left side.
If you are tight in the legs repeat, alternating right and left sides at 20 second intervals, as the flexibility in your legs increases hold the stretch for longer. Work at your edge of comfortable uncomfortableness. Change occurs at and from your edges.
*80% of lower back pain is remedied with gentle daily ham string stretches
Start in semi-supine with your head on the phone book. Place your right ankle on your left knee. Bring your left leg toward your chest, keeping your neck long and your chin tucked in.
Depending on your flexibility, either interlace your fingers behind the left thigh or hold onto the front of the left shin. Take your left hand between your legs, not around the outside of your left leg to hold onto your left leg.
Allow your shoulders to relax to the floor and this will gently increase the traction and stretch in your right hip. Hold for one to one and a half minutes or longer and swap to the other side and repeat.
Lower back stretch and twist
Start in semi-supine with your head on the phone book at a comfortable height. When doing this exercise keep your face parallel to the ceiling.
Cross your right leg over your left at the knee. Hold in the pelvic floor muscles and gently lower your legs to your right. The left lower back and hip area is tractioned. To augment the stretch allow your left buttock to relax towards your heels. While in the stretch allow your right leg to get heavy to increase the stretch to the left. You can relax your pelvic floor muscles. Just let go.
Repeat on the other side.
Lie in semi-supine, with your head on the phone book at your most comfortable height. Hold onto your elbows with the opposite hands forming a square over your chest. Keep your forearms parallel to your collarbones and allow the arms to move to your right, keeping the left buttock down on the floor. Hold for about one minute. Repeat on the other side.
This stretch can be done at the same time as the lower back stretch and twist (see above) but the arms are placed and stretched to the opposite side of your body than your legs.
This series of 5 stretches and the passive postural training position, the semi-supine, are a natural and safe way to compensate for a sedentary lifestyle and alleviate most back and neck stiffness and pain. Once you have learnt these stretches and are doing them a few times a week or even better every day you will be ready for the harder versions that start to change the structure of your body. See the timetable for course times and starting dates.