Most people have experience back pain at one time or another. Quite often our back pain is caused by poor posture. One of the benefits of Pilates according to STOTT Pilates is “relief from stress and back pain.” Pilates helps restore the spine’s natural curves which helps improve posture. Here are 5 stretchy Pilates exercises that will help to alleviate back pain.

Cat stretch

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This stretch is great for articulating your spine, making it mobile and flexible. You begin this exercise on your hands and knees. You want your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.

Make sure you have a flat back when you start and your eyes are looking down at the floor directly under your head. Start by taking a breath in, and as you exhale you will begin to curl your tailbone under and progressively curl your spine from your tailbone all the way to your head.

You should look like a cat arching its back – hence the name.  You should really feel your belly pulling up to your spine and your head should drop while your ribs are rising higher. In your arched back, take another breath in, and on your exhale start again from the tailbone and articulate through your spine to a flat back again. You should finish in the position you started in. Do this 3-5 times.
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Spinal Rotation

Begin by lying on your side with your back straight and your knees and hips bent at 90 degrees. Your bottom arm can be bent with your hand under your head, or you may place a small pillow under your head to keep it in line with your spine.

Your top arm will be extended in front of you at shoulder height. Take a breath in and reach your top arm to the ceiling. On your exhale, take your top arm back and follow your hand with your eyes.

Your legs should not move when you are reaching back with your top arm. Inhale and hold that position, and then on your exhale, bring your top arm up toward the ceiling and all the back to where you started. Repeat this 2-3 times on each side.

It’s important to rotate your spine in order to be able to move in all directions. This stretch is also great for opening your chest and stretching the front of your shoulders.

Hip Rolls

This is another great exercise for spinal articulation and stretching your hip flexors. Tight hip flexors can be a contributor to low back pain. Lie on your back with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor. You want to feel your tailbone on the mat and there should be a small curve in your lower back.

Arms will be resting at your sides. Breathe in before you start, then exhale and place that curve in your back against the mat gently and continue to roll up off the mat one vertebra at a time until your hips are lifted but your shoulder blades are still on the mat.

You want your hips lifted but you don’t want them so high that you feel like you are choking. Hold your hips up and take a breath in. On your exhale, begin to roll your spine back down to the mat one vertebra at a time. Repeat this 3-5 times.

Spine Stretch

Forward This can be done sitting with your back against a wall and your legs straight in front of you. Having a wall behind you is very helpful because it will make you sit with a straight spine. If you can’t sit with your legs straight, let your knees bend slightly.

Legs should be apart but no wider than your shoulders. Your hands can rest between or outside of your legs. Look straight ahead and take a breath in. On your exhale, nod your chin and begin to peel your spine away from the wall as you bend forward over your legs.

You are not reaching for your toes, but rounding forward as if going over a beach ball. Breath in while you maintain this position. As you exhale, roll back up to a straight back position starting with your lower back allowing your head to roll up last.

As you roll up, you can feel the wall behind your back to make sure you are sitting tall with a straight spine. Just make sure to keep your shoulders pulled away from your ears.

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Shell Stretch

This stretch is also called child’s pose for those who are familiar with yoga, and is an excellent way to relax and stretch the back.  In this exercise, you are sitting on your heels with your legs bent underneath you.

Your body should be bent forward over your legs with your forehead resting on the floor. Your arms can be extended in front of you or lying beside you resting on the floor. All you have to do is take deep breaths in this position and relax.

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These five exercises will help keep your back mobile and will help to alleviate pain. You can perform these exercises on a daily basis or as often as you need. Proper back care is so important to staying pain free. Pilates is a great way to improve your posture and relieve back pain.

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