Relax Your Back!

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times from your riding instructor, relax your back! You try and try to relax, and still you hear about it. It is not easy to relax your back on demand and probably impossible for most of us! If you look at the statistics of back pain in this country, it’s not out of line to say that most people over the age of 25 have chronically-tight back muscles.
Check your own back. Gently press with flat fingers on your back just above and below the waist area, all across your back. Chances are, it’s not exactly soft to the touch. Most of us are somewhere between hardened clay and steel. There should be some give when you press lightly, as if you’re pressing on Jello. When muscles are this tight, they are not under your voluntary control. The brain stem is sending contraction orders to those muscles 24/7. But there is a way out of this! And, I’ve been trying a new approach with my equestrian clients that appears to have some promise.
In most of our Somatic movements, we focus on doing movements in a sequence of 3 moves before going to the next one. Here’s something to try for yourself before your next riding lesson. And, I might add, doing this routine several times a day helps a lot too!
It’s a three-part movement sequence designed to bring suppleness and voluntary control to the low back area. I recommend that you do 5 sets of this sequence. Please move slowly and mindfully. Not only will you begin to unravel your back muscles with these movements, but it also feels great!
Here are the 3 moves, if you’ve taken classes or sessions with me, you probably already know them. If not, here you go!
1) Somatic Bridge
2) Arch and Release
3) Arch and Curl
Somatic Bridge 
Lie on your back, with your knees bent, arms alongside your body. As you inhale, slowly push down with your feet and gently use your legs/belly to lift your hips off the floor, just a bit at first, start with 1” to test your comfort for doing this move. Try to keep your lower body straight as you lift. When you reach your limit, exhale and slowly release your hips down to full rest, try to come down one vertebra at a time, unraveling your back as you release. As you continue, you might notice that you can lift a bit higher with each move, while using less energy (as the muscles relax, natural strength returns).
When you touch down, take a breath and then move into an Arch and Release move (next).
Arch and Release
Lie on your back with your knees bent, arms alongside your body. Inhale and slowly let your belly come up toward the ceiling, gently arching your back. Once you reach your movement limit, exhale and let your back slowly lower to the floor (one vertebrae at a time), releasing all tension.
When you touch, down take a breath and then move into an Arch and Curl move (next).
Arch and Curl
Lying on your back with knees bent and both hands behind your head, first do an Arch & Release. Once your back is flat on the floor, bring your elbows up near your ears and tuck your chin, gently lift your head in a curl (lift only 1-2” at first). Bring your attention to using your abdominal muscles to lift rather than your arms.  Then, slowly lower your head/shoulders to full rest, relaxing your belly muscles. You might find it simpler (when doing these in a sequence) to curl your head up without putting your hands behind your head, leaving them alongside your body. Either way will work to release the abdominal muscles.
When you touch, down take a breath and then move into sequence #2, beginning with the Somatic Bridge.