The alarm goes off and I groan. For me, it’s 5:30am and darkness is a reminder that it is far too early. Alas my mother/wife/ business owner duty calls and it’s time to meditate, exercise and start the day.
I sit up and take inventory. How do I feel today? Is the back achy? Is my neck sore? Yes even posture specialists like me get stiff bodies from… well… life. It’s a large chance that anyone who has chosen this profession as a path, has done so as a result of experiencing some life changing pain that they solved through postural modification.
8 times out of 10, my body suffers from what I call “morning stiff back syndrome”. It takes an hour or so to get my body and back moving the way I would like. But what if we could do some exercises before we even get out of bed to combat this morning stiffness? In order to understand how these stretches can help, let’s think about what happens to your body while you sleep.
Your body is clearly very relaxed when you sleep, however the position you sleep in can have a great impact on how you feel when you wake. For example, when you sleep on your side your bottom shoulders will not only be scrunched up by your ear, but also that bottom shoulder is rounded forward and weight is placed on the joint. Remaining stationary in this position for hours on end can wreck havoc on your shoulder/chest alignment.
If you lying on your stomach, your situation is worse. This means you have your head turned to one side for hours at a time, which can place strain on the cervical spine. If you’re lying on your back you are better off than a side or stomach sleeper, but some back sleepers report soreness in the lumbar region (lower back) as a result of overarching their back in the face up position.
To combat these specific postural issues while sleeping, I would suggest the following 2 exercises to be done before you even get out of bed.
Pull off your sheets and be careful not to knock your bedside partner while doing the twisting stretch:
This is the feel good exercise of the century. Doing 10 of these simple pelvic tilting movements can help loosen up the stiffness you may be feeling when you wake. You can advance to a pelvic curl (lift your hips all the way up) if you want more but exercise, but this exercise is a perfect way to wake up the glutes and calm down the lower back muscles.
- Lie face up with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor. Start with the pelvis relaxed into the “neutral” position. This means that there is a little space between the lower back and the floor. The pelvis is flat as if you can balance a coffee cup on it.
- Engage the TVA muscle (stomach) and glutes and push the lower back into the floor. This means you are “tipping” the coffee cup towards your face. Be sure your TVA pushes down into the spine and does not “pouch” up. Be sure to exhale on this movement.
- Release the position back to neutral.
- Repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions making sure to hold the “tilt” position for at least 1 second.
Thoracic Spine Twist
This one is amazing and probably the BEST way to open up the shoulder you’ve been sleeping on. There is an important detail on this one… be sure not to let the KNEES come apart when twisting. It’s critical to the success of the stretch. And please, when you open your arm up to the side DO NOT hit your bed partner. That will get you kicked out of bed!
- Lie on your side with the body in a fetal position. Keep the knees stacked on top of each other. This is super important!
- Open up the top arm to the side and look at the top arms by rotating the head in the same direction. Be sure not to let those knees come apart!
- Hold for 1 to 2 minutes.
3 minutes later and you’re DONE. BOOM! These two techniques can give you some immediate movement into your day, before you can even have time to make your coffee.
If you’re looking for a more comprehensive solution to your posture problem you may want to check out my 5 minute solution to hunchback posture. In 5 minutes a day you can stretch out your chronically tight muscles, strengthen the chronically weak muscles, and find yourself standing taller and commanding the room. If you add this to the above morning routine, you’ll no doubt grow an inch taller before lunchtime.
Originally published at verticalign.com on December 9, 2016.