The back carries the weight of the head, neck and body. Strong and properly elongated back muscles allow for good posture, which in turn can help to prevent back pain and injuries. Additionally, because the back carries the weight of the body, tension can gradually build that could lead to chronic conditions such as herniated disks. Disks that provide cushioning for the vertebrae can bulge out from between and cause inflammation or muscle spasms. Emotional distress can also lead to subconscious tension being held in the muscles. Releasing tension can not only prevent back injury, but it can also ease pain from already injured areas by strengthening and lengthening the muscles. The Cat and Camel stretch is great for releasing tension in the lower back:
On the floor in a hands and knees position place your knees shoulder width apart and align your hips so that your back and legs are at a right angle. Place your hands in front of you and make sure your shoulders are positioned so that your back and arms are at a right angle. Your arms should be shoulder width apart. Put your palms flat against the ground; your arms should be engaged to support your weight but don’t lock your elbows. Start with the Camel stretch: bend your back up towards the sky while rounding your neck and head toward your chest. Make sure your abdominal muscles are engaged and that your upper back is higher than your rounded shoulders. Your pelvis should naturally tilt toward your arms. Feel release in your lower back as you breathe in and out. Slowly move into the Cat stretch: As you arch your back toward the ground, pull your shoulders back and bring your chin up toward the sky. As you slowly and fluidly arch your back, your pelvis should tilt out away from you and your buttocks should rise into the air. Open your chest, engage your abdominals and breathe. Repeat several times.