1. Decompression Breathing
A little extra O2 can do a body good—especially when you’re lengthening the body at the same time! Use this move to teach yourself how to breathe deeply and keep your spine long and strong at all times.
Stand with your toes touching and your heels slightly apart. Shift weight into your heels, unlock your knees, and gently pull your heels toward each other. Stand tall, reach your arms overhead, and press your fingertips together. With your inhale, lift the ribcage away from the hips. On the exhale, tighten the core to support the “lengthened” spine. Repeat this breathing process until you feel tall and supported.
2. Founder to Forward Fold
Sticking out your booty might feel embarrassing, but this move is called a founder because it’s setting you up for success in building integrated back and core strength. If a full founder puts too much tension on your lower back, try doing a modified founder with your hands back behind you (pictured below). If you’ve got tight hamstrings, use a prop (such as a chair) to help bring the ground just a wee bit closer to you. Remember—the goal is to reinforce good movement patterns. Use props or modify the full move if it helps you keep a neutral and stable spine.
From the modified founder position, inhale and reach your arms out in front of your heart, keeping your hips back and pressing your fingertips together, with the pinkies pressing in the hardest. Slowly lift the arms all the way up, and keep the core pulled in to maintain a neutral spine. Hold 15 to 20 seconds.
From full founder, float the hands down to the ground as you drive your hips back. Unlock your knees and keep the weight in your heels. When your hands are down to the ground (or on a prop, for people with tight hamstrings) pull your hips back, up, and away, reaching your hands as far forward as possible to counterbalance. Hold 20 to 30 seconds.
To stand up, keep your weight in your heels, slide your hands up your shins, and bring your spine into neutral. Sweep the arms back into Modified Founder position. Press the heels into the ground and bring your hips forward to stand up.
3. Adductor-Assisted Back Extension
This well-known exercise isolates some of the deeper muscles of the lower back. Add in a little extra support from your inner thighs and some increased activation of the hamstrings, and you’ve got a recipe for building back muscles strong like a superhero’s.
Start on the ground, lying on your stomach. Flex your feet and zip your legs together, keeping just a slight bend at the knees. Press your hips and knees into the ground and lift your elbows up until the hands “float” above the ground. Pull your shoulders down towards your butt while lifting your chest off the ground. Keep your neck long and hold the pose for 20 to 30 seconds.