02/15/2013 08:25 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Fountain of Youth: Three Easy Stretches for a Healthy, Mobile Spine

If you're interested in feeling youthful over the long-term, maintaining spinal range of motion is key. While it's not uncommon to feel a little back or shoulder tension at the end of a busy day, a creaky and immobile spine can really put a hamper on your lifestyle and leave you feeling old before your time. According to the Journal of Midlife Health, "Limitations in spinal mobility can make it difficult for you to complete simple daily tasks such as bending over to pick up a newspaper or twisting to look over your shoulder in traffic, and in many cases can even serve as a reliable early indicator of disease."

While a certain degree of spinal degeneration is a natural part of the aging process, there's no need to yield to it altogether. Research suggests that a regular yoga practice may play an important part in holding the process at bay by decreasing age-related disc degeneration.

If you find that your spine isn't feeling as bendy as it used to, then practicing these three simple stretches on a daily basis may help you prevent additional range of motion loss and in some cases, even restore lost mobility. For best effect, practice these exercises once in the morning and once in the evening daily.


1. Break Up Tension with the Cat-Cow Stretch



Come to a four pointed kneeling position. Stack your shoulders directly above your wrists, and place your knees on the floor slightly behind your hips. Exhale and round your spine. As you do this press outward through your hands and roll your tailbone under (toward your forehead) to lengthen your lower back. Inhale, arch your spine in the other direction by lifting your tailbone upward as you curl your chin backward. Repeat for 30 full rounds of breath.

2. Liberate the Side of Your Spine with the Lunging Half Moon


Come to a standing position and step your right foot backward 4 to 5 feet. Turn the heel of your back foot upward and bend the front knee to 90 degrees. Reach your arms up over your head and grab your right wrist with your left hand. Lengthen your body upward, keeping your torso squared straight ahead, and bend your torso to the left side to stretch all of the muscles on the lefthand side (above). Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

3. Wring it Out with a Kneeling Spinal Twist


Once you've completed the side bend on both sides, return to a four pointed kneeling position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists. To "thread the needle" place the back of your left on the floor just beneath your chest. Slide your left hand along the floor to the right hand side of the room until your left shoulder comes to the floor. Relax your neck by placing the left side of your head on the floor. If you wish to deepen the twist, press down firmly through your right hand and rotate your chest more strongly to the right hand side. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

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