Note: The following stretches incorporate the Backbridge ($100, backbridge.com), a tool specially designed to help you stretch your back. If you don’t have one, you can sub in a stability ball, like this one ($25, gaiam.com).
1. Backbridge Extension
First, sit at the base of the Backbridge or stability ball. Lie back so that the highest point of the Backbridge or ball is between your shoulder blades and your head touches the floor. Rest your arms behind your head and hold this stretch for 2 minutes. Do this twice a day—once in the morning and once in the evening. If resting your arms behind your head doesn’t feel good, try the following variations to find what feels best for you.
2. Spinal Stretch
Lie on your back, placing the Backbridge or stability ball under your knees. Next, reach your arms behind you to lengthen the spine.
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3. Side Lying Stretch
Lying face down over the Backbridge or stability ball, place your hands in front of you and do a half push-up so that your upper torso is elevated but your pelvis still has contact with the ball. Raise your eyes to the ceiling and hold for a count of 5, then slowly lower yourself down and repeat. This stretch really works your lumbar extenders and lower back while stretching and lengthening the core (abdominals).
Lie on your side and stretch over the Backbridge or stability ball, as shown. With your bottom hand, grab the wrist of your top hand and extend your arms overhead along the floor. Arm variations, including one to open the chest, are pictured below.
4. Abdominal Stretch (Cobra)
5. Reclining Twist
Place the Backbridge or stability ball about 12 inches to the side of your hips. Keep your shoulders flat on the floor and bring one knee toward your chest. With the other leg flat on the floor, pull your bent knee over your torso, placing it on the Backbridge. Hold the stretch and repeat on the opposite side. It’s important to keep both your shoulders on the floor during this stretch.
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6. Knees to Chest
Place your butt on the highest point of the Backbridge or the stability ball and lie back. Wrap your hands around your knees and gently pull your knees to your chest while reaching and lengthening your tailbone down toward the floor. Hold for a few seconds. If you have trouble wrapping your hands around your knees, you can place them behind your legs.
7. Single Knee to Chest
Pull one leg toward your chest and extend the opposite leg over the Backbridge or stability ball along the floor.
By gently angling the knee inward or outward, you can stretch different parts of your hip flexors.
8. Piriformis and Outer Hip
Place your butt on the highest point of the Backbridge or stability ball and lie back on the floor. With both knees bent, cross one leg over the other, so that your legs form a number 4. Wrap your hands behind the uncrossed leg (or bottom knee) and gently pull toward you.
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9. Lower Latissimus and Lumbar Rotators
Last, look toward the ceiling to open the chest.
Sit on top of the Backbridge or stability ball and put your legs into a V position. Extend your right arm and place your right hand on your right ankle.
Bring your left hand to meet your right and rotate your torso and head to face down, so that you are looking at your right knee. Hold this stretch, then raise your left arm over your head and straighten it with the palm down, parallel to the floor.
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10. Seated Forward Fold
Sitting on the Backbridge or stability ball as pictured, extend your legs out straight in front of you. Sit tall and fold at the hips, slowly bending forward over your legs as you reach toward your feet.