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The Basics of Stretching Your Back

By: Katherine Roberts

One of the greatest gifts I receive in my line of work is the ability to spread the word of the benefits of health, wellness and peak performance - on and off the course. This year has been particularly busy with my third season as the yoga / flexibility conditioning expert for the San Diego Padres, the second year of golf schools with Hank Haney and international personal appearances.
During my clinics, I begin by opening the floor for questions.  By far the most common question is "What are some basic stretches I can do to alleviate my back pain?" Considering the frequent incidence of lumbar spine injury in golf and in our society as a whole, this question is not surprising.
This series of back stretches is the foundation for the programs I teach everyday with the Padres, with my student's at Hank Haney's school and in my presentations to amateur golfers.  You will learn six basic, effective stretches designed to increase flexibility and strengthen your back.  Please pay attention to deep, diaphragmatic breathing, in and out through the nose. Move slowly and draw the navel towards the spine, stabilizing your core before each exercise.
NOTE: In my new DVD , Lower Your Score, this series on the basics of stretching is divided into sections targeting the lower body, core and upper body. The core section of the DVD I teach you the same fundamentals taught to my professional athletes.  Your will get flexibility and strengthening exercises in this DVD.
Let's get started!

Chest opener on the ball:
Sit on the ball and slowly walk the feet forward as the ball rolls under the upper back AND neck.  Note: keep the head and neck supported, engage the gluts and keep the hips parallel to the floor. The knees are placed at a ninety degree angle.
Extend the arms and focus on the stretch in the chest. Hold for five to ten breaths, place the hands back on the ball and walk the feet back to the starting position.
Chest opener on the ball 1Chest opener on the ball 2
Back stretch over the Golf Gym balance ball:
Roll the ball under the hips and allow your body to rest, stretching the back over the ball.  Hold for five to ten deep breaths. Come out of this pose very slowly.
Back stretch over the Golf Gym balance ball
Cat / Cow pose:
Roll off the ball, and get onto your hands and knees. Place the hands directly under the shoulders, knees directly under your hips. Inhale as you press your spine towards the floor, roll the shoulders back. Do not hyper-extend your neck. Exhale as you press your navel towards your spine, engage your gluts, press your spine towards the ceiling and tuck the chin into the chest. Repeat this pose ten times in each direction.
Cat / Cow pose 1Cat / Cow pose 2
Modified cobra to upward facing dog:
Begin by lying chest down, palms placed below your shoulders, elbows pressed against your body.  Bring the legs together, squeeze your gluts and on your exhalation lift your chest off the floor. Roll the shoulders back away from your ears and do not hyper-extend your neck. Return to the starting position and repeat five times.
Modified cobra to upward facing dog 1Modified cobra to upward facing dog 2
Upward facing dog:
If you feel you are ready to move deeper into the stretch, roll to the tops of the feet and lift the legs off the floor. Hold for three breaths.
Upward facing dog
Eagle twist:
On your back bring your heels to your gluts. Cross your right leg over the left. Place the arms perpendicular to the body and allow the legs to fall to the right. Hold for five deep breaths and switch sides.
Eagle twist 1Eagle twist 2