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Spine Strengthening Series Week 1

As a yoga instructor, my mantra is two fold, You are only as healthy as your breath and your spine. Recently I had the pleasure of spending some time with my mother, a very active, physically fit woman in her late seventies. One day she turned to me and said, You need to write an article on how older people can develop and maintain good posture. Apparently Mom has not read or seen every article or fitness tip I have written. In my twenty years as a fitness trainer, thousands of students have ask for guidance on how to build and maintain good posture and a healthy spine.
Low back pain is one of the most significant health problems. Consider these statistics from the National Institutes of Health (NIH):
  • 75- 85 percent of all people have back pain at some time in their life.

  • Back pain is the most frequent cause of activity limitation in people younger than 45 years old.

What causes low back pain?
Even with today's technology, the exact cause of low back pain can be found in very few cases. In most cases, back pain may be a symptom of many different causes, including any/several of the following:

  • overuse, strenuous activity, or improper use (i.e., repetitive or heavy lifting, repetitive strain issues such as the golf swing)

  • trauma/injury/fracture

  • degeneration of vertebrae (often caused by stresses on the muscles and ligaments that support the spine, or the effects of aging)

  • obesity (often caused by increased weight on the spine and pressure on the discs)

  • poor muscle tone in the back

  • muscle tension or spasm

  • sprain or strain

  • ligament or muscle tears

  • joint problems

  • smoking

  • protruding or herniated (slipped) disk

  • disease (i.e., osteoarthritis, spondylitis, compression fractures)

Now that we have a greater understanding of the causes of spinal issues, it is time to get into action.
Lets get started!
Seated twist on the ball:
Place the feet hip width apart and pull the navel towards the spine, lifting the ribcage off the waist. Place the left hand on the right knee and twist on your exhalation. Hold for five to ten deep breaths, moving deeper into the stretch with each breath. Switch sides and repeat.

Posture perfect chest opening pose on the ball:
Roll down on the ball until your head is supported, gluts are active and hips are parallel to the floor. Clasp the hands behind the neck. Inhale deeply and on your exhale press your elbows away from the body, pressing the sternum towards the ceiling. Repeat ten times.
Extended table pose in the ball:
Place the ball under your hips. On your exhalation lift the right leg and left arm. Moving dynamically, inhale and lower the hand and leg, exhale and lift the leg and hand. Repeat ten times, hold for ten breaths and switch sides.

Full cobra pose to upward facing dog pose:
Begin on your belly, hands placed next to your chest and elbows hugging the side of your body. Squeeze the legs together, engage the gluts and pull your navel towards your spine.

Inhale deeply and on your exhalation lift the chest off the floor. Repeat five times and hold for five breaths.
Upward facing dog pose:
Press the tops of your feet into the floor lifting the knees and quads off the floor. Tip: your chest is positioned beyond your wrists. Hold for five breaths and relax into a childs pose.

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    Editor's Note: Katherine Roberts, founder of Yoga for Golfers, has over 20 years of experience in fitness training, yoga studies, professional coaching and motivation. Katherine welcomes your email questions and comments, contact her at or visit