This “Freeing Your Middle Back” exercise is excerpted from the book, The Busy Person’s Guide to Easier Movement, by Frank Wildman, PhD, which has common-sense lessons connecting the mind and body through movement to help people move with more ease, comfort and efficiency.
This lesson will help you to integrate your upper and lower back, as well as your shoulders and neck, into a fuller, more efficient posture. This lesson could also be of benefit to people who experience stiffness or pain in their lower back.
1. Sit comfortably tall in your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Place your right hand on your left shoulder and allow your elbow to hang against your chest. Take your left arm across your chest underneath your right arm, and with your left hand, hold on to your right shoulder. Your right elbow should be resting on top of your left arm. You are now giving yourself a big hug.
2. Keeping your hands on your shoulders, lift your elbows straight up and point them forward, then bring them back down to rest against your chest. Repeat this movement several times, each time allowing your elbows to go higher until you can point at the ceiling, then down to the floor. Look up and down as your elbows are pointing and feel the movement in your upper and middle back, as well as your lower back. Rest in the middle of your chair with your arms in your lap.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 with your arms crossed the opposite way. Place your left hand on your right shoulder. Reach with your right hand underneath your left arm and hold on to your left shoulder. Allow your elbows to rest against your chest. As you point your elbows up and down, from ceiling to floor, be sure to let your head follow. Feel how your pelvis can assist you. Rest your hands on your lap or desk and observe any changes in your posture.
4. Cross your arms again as you did in step 1. Raise your elbows to point directly in front of you. Now turn your elbows to your left as if pointing at something on your left side. Look where you are pointing and move your elbows from the center to the left several times. What does your pelvis want to do? Let the right side of your pelvis slide forward and backward in your chair to assist you as you go back and forth. Rest in the middle and re-establish your hands resting on your shoulders.
5. Again, lift your elbows to point in front of you and point them to the right and back again several times. Be sure and allow your head to turn with your arms and let the left side of your pelvis slide on the chair. Rest completely, leaning back in your chair.
6. Once again, sit in the middle of your chair and cross your arms as in step 3, with the left hand going to the right shoulder first and the right arm underneath the left shoulder. Point your arms forward and begin to turn them right and left several times, while feeling your pelvis pivoting in your chair. Rest your elbows against your chest and re-establish your hands on your shoulders.
7. Lift your elbows again. Keep your nose pointing straight forward and turn your elbows left and right several times without moving your head. Pause. Point your crossed elbows from side to side again and let your head follow. Do you find yourself able to point farther than earlier? Rest completely.
Be sure you are relaxing your jaw and face. Some people have been caught smiling while doing these movements. It’s possible. Observe where you prefer to inhale and exhale.
8. Cross your arms again as in step 1. Let your elbows hang down and slowly raise them as you turn to the left so that you find yourself pointing up to your left side. Then bring your elbows down to your chest as you return to the center. Raise them up to the right as you turn to the right. Your elbows will be making a large arc reaching up at the sides and down at the middle. Rest in the middle with your hands on your lap or desk.
-Frank Wildman, PhD