View Full Version : Exercises to curve the lower back

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02-06-2001, 10:13 PM
I have a physical peculiarity. (OK, OK, _one_ of the peculiarities I have is physical.)

My lower back doesn't bend forwards. I can arch it backwards, but it won't go beyond board straight when I bend forwards. This means, for example, that I can't touch my forehead to my knees (with legs bent). I am very bendy in all other ways.

I wouldn't care, but it makes rolling hard. I come to a stop resting on my lower back. I can't make a nice circle arc across my back, and we know how important circles are in aikido. If I roll faster I jar myself -- I get round, but it doesn't feel right.

I have searched for exercises that will help me to gradually stretch my lower back _forwards_ in order to gain a curve. I have not found any. All sports and stretching books seem to concentrate on stretching _backwards_.

I want to be able to slouch! (It would make sitting in those hard plastic moulded chairs possible too. At the moment I slide out of them.)

Any suggestions?

02-07-2001, 07:41 AM
Yoga is a good place to start looking as it can start quite gently. 'The Cat' I think you call it, is one I remember (but there are likely to be man, depending on the particular difficulty).

Basically you start on all fours and, whilst breathing out, arch your back and push your head down towards your groin and you groin towards your head. When you breath in you roll you head back, pushing out your chest and lift your lower spine/hips to curl your 'tail' upwards. Do thi slowly and deliberately. Better still take up yoga!


02-07-2001, 08:57 AM
Have you seen a chiropractor about this?

Anne Marie

02-07-2001, 10:39 AM
giriasis wrote:
Have you seen a chiropractor about this?

Anne Marie

Or a medical doctor or physical therapist? Sorry, it's just that you haven't provided any more detailed information relating to your condition. Is this something you were born with? The result of injury? The result of your physical condition? All of these questions (and more) should be considered before any advice should be asked or given in such circumstances, at least in my opinion. Regards.

[Edited by BC on February 7, 2001 at 10:43am]

02-07-2001, 10:54 AM

I passed your posting along to a good friend of mine who is a certified Feldenkrais (TM) practitioner. Here is what she wrote:

I suggest looking up http://www.feldenkrais.com and choosing the teacher at the most convenient location. If s/he is worth his or her salt, folding (body flexing) lessons will be initiated by gentle arching movements. These relax the back extensor muscles into being able to let go so the flexors can do their job.

If arching is the only thing that's being done, as you describe, the nervous system will not learn to balance these two muscle groups into being able to fully relax in order for the other to fully contract. The flexor muscles have to learn to relax fully as well, so that they may contract from their maximum length and not an already partially contracted (hypertonic) state, which is quite inefficient.

The gist is to get away from that vicious cycle of strengthening one muscle group to counteract the other, and then vice versa, to maintain the upright position. The opposite should be the goal: Being able to stand with both muscle groups being balanced in a way so that each needs to do the LEAST amount of work to accomplish this (or any other) task. And for that learning one needs Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lessons, many, many different ones, not only a single one that's then made into a routine "exercise". The learning must come from within, quite unconsciously, and not, like an exercise, from the will.

Now, there is, as usual, a caveat. If the vertebrae of your lower back are fused, or have some other mechanical obstruction that prohibits them from building a forward curve with one another, no amount of muscle relaxation will help in achieving a smooth roll.

[Edited by afwen on February 7, 2001 at 11:21am]

02-08-2001, 04:41 AM
I've contacted a couple of local Feldenkrais practitioners and we'll see what they have to say.

No, I haven't spoken to a chiropracter, or a doctor about it. A body psychotherapist I know believes it is long term muscle shortening caused by a desire to be "upright". The vertibrae are not fused -- you can clearly see the processes moving when I arch backwards. I do not suffer from any kind of back pain, nor ever have. People generally compliment me on my posture. They don't realize I don't seem to have a choice.

Thanks for all your advice. I expect it'll take months or years of gentle coaxing to fix. I just need a programme that'll work.

03-01-2001, 04:53 AM
Just to let you know, I went along to a Feldenkrais practitioner. We had a session in which she helped me to become aware of my lower back. I realized that it was a big hole in my body awarness. She gave me some breathing techniques which helped to "wake up" my awarness of the area. Once I became able to sense the position I was able to work out ways to extend the muscles. After a week of regular gentle stretching I am able to touch my knees with my forehead -- a novel experience for me -- and this is beginning to help my rolling.

So, thanks for the tip, afwen.

The exercise I've been doing is very simple. I curl up, bend my head towards my knees, hook my arms behind my knees, and pull gently. This was ineffective before, because I wasn't able to relax and extend the muscles. Now I'm able to feel them better I can get them to extend, and get that "stretching" feeling.

So, it wasn't finding the exercise that was the problem -- it was awareness.

Interesting, huh? (Well, not to you maybe.)

03-01-2001, 05:30 AM
The power of the mind is amazing isn't it?! It's ashame though that so many people underestimate its power (even many who recognize its strong). Great to see your overcoming your problem too. Thanks for the info...

Take it easy.


03-01-2001, 07:05 AM
Mabuse wrote:
Once I became able to sense the position I was able to work out ways to extend the muscles. After a week of regular gentle stretching I am able to touch my knees with my forehead -- a novel experience for me -- and this is beginning to help my rolling.

That's wonderful news! I'm so glad to hear it!


03-01-2001, 09:12 AM
Excellent! Good for you, and happy training!

benj langdon
09-23-2002, 11:25 AM
Most aikido people would discover things in a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement class that would enhance your Aikido or eliminate problems,speed up injury healing etc. I think Aikido and Feldenkrais dramatically enhance each other. If you experience and agree ,please post as I am looking for short accounts supporting the synergistic effects.

thanks, benj langdon, big sur

09-23-2002, 11:37 AM
IMHO, didn't Feldenkrais have a background in Judo? Yes, his exercises are a valuable adjunct to Aikido. Also check out the Alexander technqiue for postural alignment.

Until again,


Bruce Baker
09-23-2002, 11:57 AM
I know it is not a funny subject, but maybe a hump back padding would help? Turtle shell?

I can't help but think that a big half round piece of foam attached to a belt, like half a life jacket would not only be funny, but it might actually work.

Seriously though, can you round the top half of your back? You know, the shoulder area.

Almost 80-90 percent of falls and rolls are done across the upper back, not the lower back, and with squeezing your shoulders to the center of your chest to make the upper body round. Across the shoulders at a lesser angle than right shoulder to left hip style if perfectly valid for ukemi.

If we can't get you to round your back, I will make you a foam turtle shell to give you some roundness. It's not fun to hurt yourself with practice, and falling/ rolling is a big part of the learning process.

Hope you find a way to make practice better.

09-23-2002, 12:05 PM
IMHO, didn't Feldenkrais have a background in Judo?
Yes, he had a pretty extensive background in judo.

The Feldenkrais "Awareness Through Movement" classes were quite interesting for me and gave me some things to think about in my aikido practice.

-- Jun