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How to build a strong and limber back

March 2024

by Vanessa LaFaso Stolarski, Contributing Columnist

We humans typically move on a single plane of motion, forward and backward (frontal plane). But the spine can accommodate multiple angles of movement and it’s important for flexibility and injury prevention that we hit them all as regularly as possible.

Twisting movements, known collectively as the “transverse” plane, are especially integral to avoiding hip and lower back pain. One way you can incorporate this into your daily routine is when standing in your kitchen. Stand between two counters with feet facing forward. Try moving dishes or other objects from one countertop to the other, turning only at the trunk.

Below are a few others to try. I recommend all my clients do a few sets of any of the following movements once in the morning and once in the evening. Choose one or two, then switch it up the following month. Always be aware of your breathing. Exhale at the point of the most tension and keep your breath steady while holding positions, in through the nose and gently out the mouth.

Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position.

Exhale as you round your spine.


1. Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position (but on the floor, not on a tabletop). Inhale as you arch your back, dropping your belly toward the floor and pointing your nose toward the ceiling (Cow Pose).

2. Exhale as you round your spine, pulling your shoulders down and tucking your chin to your chest (Cat Pose). Repeat this flowing movement, syncing breath with motion, to enhance spinal flexibility and relieve tension.


Again, begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position on the floor. Sit back on your heels, reaching your arms forward on the floor and allowing your head to sink through your arms. Lower your chest toward the mat, extending your spine and stretching the back muscles. Hold the pose and focus on deep breathing to release tension in the spine and promote flexibility.


Bridge pose

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet hip-width apart. Press through your feet, lifting your hips toward the ceiling and squeezing your glutes/butt. Clasp your hands under your back, straightening your arms and rolling your shoulders underneath. Bridge Pose strengthens the spine, improves posture, and stretches the neck, chest and spine.


Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Cross one leg over the other, placing the foot flat on the floor. Twist toward the bent knee, using the opposite arm to hug the knee and the other hand behind for support. This seated twist helps improve spinal mobility and flexibility, particularly in the thoracic spine.

Perform these exercises with full attention to posture and form. Listen to your body and give it what it’s asking for, even if that means backing off the stretch just a little bit. Remember to consult with a healthcare professional or fitness expert before starting any new exercise routine, especially if you have pre-existing conditions or concerns about your spine. Additionally, perform these exercises with proper form and listen to your body to avoid overexertion or injury.

Vanessa LaFaso Stolarski is a certified nutrition counselor, weightlifting coach, life coach and stress-management specialist.

All health-related content and media provided by Cooperative Living or its website(s) is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.