A Good Stretch Can Go a Long Way!

No matter what our daily activities are, standing or sitting, we can easily tax our backs. So it is essential to incorporate movement throughout the day along with regular stretching to loosen tight muscles and enhance circulation to help nourish the spine. When we do this every day (making sure the form is correct for each movement/exercise of course), this can help strengthen the back, making it more resilient with a spine that is strong and flexible.

What follows are five stretches that can help strengthen the back.

Child’s Pose

This helps with mobility of the spine and relaxation of the lower back muscles.

  • Begin on all fours. Sit your hips back on your heels if possible (if not, you can put a pillow on your heels and sit back on the pillow instead). Your knees are wide open and your big toes are touching. 
  • Reach out your arms forward while your forehead is resting on the floor. 
  • Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds at a time. Repeat 3 times while breathing in and out deeply for maximum relaxation. 

Cat Back

This exercise helps with spine flexion and extension. It promotes proper movement and function of the spine as a unit. The directions are from an Egoscue Method zoom session I attended this year.

  • Start on your hands and knees, where your wrists are placed directly under your shoulders and your knees directly underneath your hips. 
  • Starting with your hips, tuck your pelvis to round your lower back and spine up towards the ceiling while dropping your head and pulling your shoulder blades away from each other. [Breathe out as you are doing this].
  • Starting with your hips, roll your pelvis forward to put the arch in your back while collapsing your shoulder blades together and look up toward the ceiling. Be sure not to shrug your shoulders towards your ears. [Breathe in as you are doing this].

Hip Crossover Stretch

This exercise helps with hip and spinal rotation. The directions are from an Egoscue Method zoom session I attended this year.

  • Lie on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the floor pointed straight ahead. 
  • Place your arms out to the side at shoulder level, with your palms flat on the floor. 
  • Cross your left ankle over your right knee and rotate the ankle/knee junction down toward the floor. Your left foot should now be flat on the floor, along with the outside of your right leg. 
  • Look in the opposite direction and relax your shoulders. 
  • Press the left knee away from your body using the left hip muscles. 
  • Hold [for up to 1 minute], then switch sides and repeat. 

Hamstring Stretch

When we have to bend and lift things (making sure we practice the hip hinge), having flexible hamstrings lessens the stress put on the back. 

  • Lie flat on your back. Place a yoga strap over and around the toes of the left foot and grab both ends of the strap firmly with your hands. Slightly activate the core muscles.
  • Slowly raise the left leg (pulling on the strap) until you feel a stretch in the back of the left thigh.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 seconds or 3 deep breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Psoas (Hip Flexor) Stretch 

If we sit a lot, the front of the hips (where the psoas muscle is) gets really tight and this puts stress in the lower back when we do things upright by pulling the lower back forward. Stretching that muscle can help with that issue. 

  • Step forward with the right leg and bend the knee at about a 90-degree angle. Keep the right knee positioned above the right ankle. (If you have any knee issues you can instead put the right foot on a stable chair or couch, for instance, and bend the right knee. In that case, the left leg will not lie on the floor, of course). Hold on to something if needed.
  • Extend the left leg behind the torso and touch the floor with the left knee. The lower leg lies on the floor. 
  • Move the hips forward (doing a slight pelvic tilt and activating the glutes), pushing the right knee in front of the right ankle. Make sure to keep the right knee pointing forward. You should feel the stretch in the hip area on the left side.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 seconds or 3 deep breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Hope this helps whatever you have to do this holiday season! (And always consult your personal physician before starting anything new). 

Happy Holidays!!


“5 Best Back Pain Stretches for Immediate Back Pain Relief.” Dave Asprey, 20 Aug. 2018, daveasprey.com/best-back-pain-stretches-pain-relief/. Accessed 29 Nov. 2020.

Nelson, Arnold G, and Jouko Kokkonen. Stretching Anatomy. Champaign, Il, Human Kinetics, 2007, pp. 98–9, 104–7.

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Yoga and Intentional Breathing

My neighborhood yoga center reopened last weekend. I was happy to attend an in-studio class again. Last January, I wrote about Why Yoga Poses Can Be So Beneficial. From maintaining muscle tone and flexibility, to improving balance and breathing skills, to strengthening how organs can function through various poses, all these are good reasons for practicing a few yoga asanas every day if you can. Yoga is great at helping reduce daily stress as well.

This past weekend, we practiced box breathing again. I really enjoy this calming breath exercise that helps regulate the autonomic nervous system. There’s no simpler way to help you reach a relaxed state than a quick intentional breathing exercise. So here’s the technique for box breathing (previously mentioned), along with a few other breathing exercises, to help you unwind!                                                                                                     

Box Breathing

Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, and count for 4 seconds before breathing in again. You can increase the number of seconds as you become more skilled but always practice in moderation. And just a few minutes (up to 5 minutes) at a time is plenty.  

Belly Breathing

This technique is explained by Dr. Frank Lipman in the July/August 2018 Experience Life magazine, which you can also find in his book How to Be Well: “Place both hands on your belly, just below your bottom ribs. Rest the tip of your tongue behind your front teeth. Take a slow, deep inhalation through your nose. Draw your breath all the way into your belly, past your chest. Notice your diaphragm moving downward and feel your belly and rib cage expand. When you can take in no more air, exhale slowly through your nose until your lungs are empty – you’ll feel your belly falling under your hands. Repeat 10 cycles. As you continue, see if you can extend the exhale until it is twice the length of the inhale. Breathing this way helps quiet spinning thoughts and brings you back to your body in the present moment.”

Vagal Nerve Stimulating Breathing Exercise (also called 4-7-8 Breathing)           

This exercise (which I love to do every day) is well described by neurologist Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein in a Bulletproof podcast. Begin by sitting comfortably without crossing your arms or legs. Place the tip of your tongue right between your palate and the upper teeth. Breathe in for 4 seconds through the nose. Hold the breath for 7 seconds. Breathe out through the mouth for 8 seconds, making a “whoosh” sound as you keep your tongue placed between your palate and upper teeth. Repeat 4 times only, twice a day.

Breathing Exercise Paired with Visualization

I read about this breathing exercise in a book titled The Fourfold Path to Healing, by Dr. Thomas Cowan, Sally Fallon, et al., and find the visualization very relaxing. Picture yourself by the seashore and as a wave comes crashing at your feet, breathe out. Pause for a few seconds, then as a new wave forms in the distance, take a deep breath in. Hold your breath for a few seconds, then breathe out as the new wave reaches your feet again. Repeat this breathing exercise a few times.

Which breathing exercise is your favorite?

Until next time!


Asprey, Dave. Talking Dirty about Spiritual Plants and Microbial Biodiversity. blog.daveasprey.com/talking-dirty-spiritual-plants-microbial-biodiversity-426/. Accessed 17 Aug. 2019.

Cowan, Thomas S, et al. The Fourfold Path to Healing : Working with the Laws of Nutrition, Therapeutics, Movement and Meditation in the Art of Medicine. Washington D.C., Newtrends Pub, 2004, pp. 50–3.

Greenfield, Ben. Boundless : Upgrade Your Brain, Optimize Your Body & Defy Aging. Las Vegas, Victory Belt Publishing Inc, 2020, p. 49.

Lipman, MD, Frank. “6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life.” Experience Life, July 2018, pp. 68–9.

You can also find me on Instagram.

How Easy Staying in Shape can be

Moving and exercising enough shouldn’t feel like yet another challenging goal to put on your to-do-list. Our ancestors were doing basic functional movements (squat, crawl, walk, run, jump, climb, carry, throw, etc.) when going about their daily activities. Our lifestyle has changed tremendously over the centuries, especially in the last 100 years, but this doesn’t mean that we cannot throw in a few stretches and bodyweight exercises (for instance) as simple 1-2-minute-breaks throughout the day every day. The Primal Blueprint Fitness Pyramid highlights how easy staying in shape can be without going overboard on any type of fitness activity. Moving frequently, exercising your muscles and getting your heart rate up occasionally is all you have to do.

Move Frequently

The base of the Primal Blueprint Fitness Pyramid is comprised of three types of activities:

  • Flexibility/mobility, such as with Pilates, yoga, tai chi, gymnastics, dancing, and dynamic rolling/stretching/therapy work
  • Cardio workouts at your target heart rate (Cycle, hike, walk/jog, water activities) – Your target heart rate is a simple calculation: 180 BPM – your age
  • More general daily movement to avoid prolonged inactivity

As mentioned in my post, Why Everyday Movement is Non-Negotiable, when we have to sit for long periods of time, such as when working at a computer, we want to get up, stretch, and walk a little bit every 30 minutes or so. The same goes if we are at a standing workstation. Enough movement throughout the day is necessary for proper blood flow to be delivered to the different muscles we use, which means more oxygen and nutrients, along with “waste removal.” In short, moving throughout the day (along with other variables) ensures proper cellular health.

We also want to add a few cardio sessions done at a comfortable heart rate. No chronic cardio here. Whatever fits your schedule the best. Cycling, swimming, running, or even just walking are all good options, whatever your energy levels of the day make you feel like doing.

When it comes to working on improving flexibility and mobility, there are a plethora of options, as listed above. Yoga is my favorite, but I also do some basic stretches every day and some tai chi exercises. Having a foam roller handy is helpful too in order to massage muscles and break up knots.

Lift Heavy Things

To lift heavy things refers to strength training: brief, intense resistance exercises. It doesn’t have to be more than twice a week for 10-30 minutes at a time. In this category, you find basic bodyweight exercises like the 4 Primal Essential Movements (planks, pushups, squats, and pullups). Keeping things simple and not too demanding is a sure way to build a habit in a concise way. I like to do planks, squats, and bridges on a regular basis. You can also use free weights and resistant bands.


Every 7 to 10 days, if you are 100% energized, you can do several 8-20 second bursts, during a cycling or running session, for instance. There is no need to do more than that. These short all-out sprints are a great addition to moving frequently and lifting heavy things on occasion for optimal primal fitness.

In Summary

The Primal Blueprint Fitness Pyramid highlights what should be at the core of an individual’s movement regimen in order to be fit in the most down-to-earth way. It is modeled after the ways our ancestors moved in everyday life. Simplicity is key. Moving frequently, lifting heavy things occasionally, and sprinting when you are fully rested is all you have to do. Including time for recovery, which includes adequate sleep and relaxation is mandatory. And it is also good to include play, which refers to any spontaneous outdoor physical activity like running around with your kids outside, or your dog. Being and staying fit is not a difficult goal to attain. The main thing to keep in mind is not to be in any specific position for a prolonged period of time. As they say, “The best position is the next one you will be in.”

Until next time!

Sisson, Mark. The New Primal Blueprint : Reprogram Your Genes for Effortless Weight Loss, Vibrant Health, and Boundless Energy. Oxnard, Ca, Primal Blueprint Publishing, 2017, pp. 314–369.

You can also find me on Instagram.

Attending a yoga class

I have started attending yoga classes again. I hadn’t attended yoga classes in 30 years. When I was raising my children, I did practice at home a few asanas (yoga poses) on and off, along with some ballet stretches. Now, as a chiropractic assistant, I am familiar with the main yoga poses. So taking part in a yoga class again is not like a brand new experience. It just feels like something I shouldn’t have waited 30 years to start again. 

Focusing on your breathing

As explained in Yoga for Rejuvenation by Nergis Dalal, “Without pranayama – the science of the control of the breath – there can be no yoga. Every asana has its own breath pattern and breathing forms the basis for all yoga practice.” The first yoga class I attended this month was focusing on very simple poses, reinforcing the importance of deep breathing. Box breathing, that I have described in 4 Easy Breathing Exercises for Relaxation, was practiced as well. What a nice way to start the morning!

Core strength, balance, and flexibility

The second class I attended covered traditional yoga poses: tabletop position, to cat/cow, to child’s pose; warrior II and warrior III poses, downward dog, plank, cobra, and mountain pose, among others. Along with paying attention to your breathing, this set of poses reinforces your balance, flexibility, and the importance of building adequate core strength. Still according to Nergis Dalal, “The alternate stretching and contracting movements of the asanas help muscles to retain their tone and keep bones strong and lung tissue healthy. The heart is strengthened and made more resistant by being subjected to alternate pressures, thus improving the circulation of blood to the body.”

In summary

Maintaining muscle tone and flexibility, improving balance and breathing skills, strengthening how organs can function through various poses, all these are good reasons for practicing a few yoga asanas every day if you can. Yoga helps reduce daily stress too. What else is there to say? Is there something you haven’t done in 30, 20, or 10 years that you would like to start again?

Nergis Dalal. Yoga for Rejuvenation : Revitalizing Techniques of the Yogis. New York, Thorsons Publishers, 1984, pp. 11–17.

You can also find me on Instagram.