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Rachael Van Schoick draws on her knowledge of Pilates to teach a simple exercise to enhance spinal elongation. {Photo source}

Posted in Blog, Injury Prevention, News, Rehabilitation.

October 8th, 2013

Start Your Day With a Simple Exercise to Lengthen Your Spine

If you’ve ever been to a Pilates class, there’s one fundamental truth most instructors emphasize repeatedly: spinal elongation. The focus is to keep that elongation strong throughout your everyday activities — whether that be sitting, standing, running, or walking — and then throughout the entire day.

We are a very forward-dominant population (just think of the amount of time you spend each day sitting at a desk, typing at a computer or hunched down looking at your smartphone). During the course of our daily activities, our spine slowly compresses from the time we wake up until the time we go back to bed. Without constant focus on lengthening the spine, the only thing that will reset that elongation is a good night’s sleep.

Runners and endurance athletes constantly compress their spines with each step due to the constant pressure of your body weight hitting the ground and coming back up. During workouts especially, it’s important to begin by really focusing on that elongation with a neutral spine and then maintaining that position for the rest of the workout.

The more you rehabilitate or work out with that elongated spine, the easier it is to build those muscles around our spine to keep us lifted in all planes of motion. The end result? An enhanced posture, gait, strength and overall ability to perform daily activities.

Here’s a very simple exercise to do at home right before you start your day. It doesn’t take long, and it will give you a nice foundation for the rest of the day.

  • Lay down on the ground.
  • Place your arms above your head on the ground.
  • Take an inhale through the nose, then reach your right arm and right leg away from each other (as if a string is pulling you from either end), lengthening out that right side.
  • Use a forced exhalation breath (like you’re blowing out of a straw) through the mouth, contracting your abdominals and then releasing your body while still trying to keep that length.
  • Repeat this motion to the left side, reaching both arms and legs away from each other then exhaling.
  • When you stand up, repeat this motion one more time with both hands overhead.
  • Take a deep breath in through the nose reaching high.
  • Use a forced exhalation breath again, contracting your abdominals then pressing your arms down to your sides (as if they’re going through mud). Pull your head through your shoulders to create that length one more time.

It’s a simple exercise that will help you start your day feeling taller and lighter. As a challenge, try to keep awareness of your body throughout the day. Notice when you lose that awareness and length, then repeat the exercise above to restore it.

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