As a member of the Phylum: Chordata (subphylum: Vertebrata), you have a spine. We spend a lot of time stretching joints that have lots of movement (hips, shoulders), but we often neglect our spines. Joseph Pilates once said: “you are only as young as your spine.” So let’s take a few minutes to do some spinal maintenance.
1) 2 minutes. Warm up with some cat/cow: just like in yoga class, get on your hands and knees. Then flex (rounding your back and looking at your belly button) and extend (arch your back and let your belly sag). When flexing your spine, try to feel a stretch from your tailbone all the way to the back of your skull. When extending your spine, push your chest and belly toward the floor, but also pull your chin back (think about trying to give yourself a double chin) so that you actually get some extension through your upper back and not just hyperextension at your neck.
2) 2 minutes. Flexion: sit in a pike position and lean forward. Try to round your back as much as possible while reaching the top of your head toward the ground between your shins. You should feel an even stretch from the back of your skull all the way down to your tailbone. If you feel it more in the back of your neck, try pushing your belly button backward to round more through your back. If you feel it more in your lower back, try reaching forward more with your forehead.
3) 2 minutes. Extension: holding a light weight (maybe an 8# dumbbell or a large soup can), lean backward over a foam roller/large bolster cushion/low bench with a blanket on top. try to keep the arms straight and reach them backward toward the ground. Whatever object is under your back, try putting it in different places from high up by the top edge of the shoulder blades, down to the bottom edge of the ribs.
4) 2 minutes each side. Rotation: lay down on your back with your arms spread out far to either side. Bend your right knee and cross it over to your left side. Try to keep your right shoulder in contact with the ground. If it helps, hold onto a dumbbell or piece of furniture, or have a friend pin that shoulder to the ground. Grab onto the back of the right knee with the left hand and pull it further across.