Everyone these days has a stiff lower back. Well 80% of everyone does, according to research. Why? Because we've prioritized things like productivity and quarterly profits over our personal well-being. Ever heard the catchphrase "sitting is the new smoking?". While recent research has added more nuance to the picture, a sedentary lifestyle has been clearly linked with depression, diabetes, and even cancer.
Further, this lack of natural movement leads to loss of mobility, which turns out to be a leading indicator of life span. Meaning less mobility, less life. Mo mobility, mo life.
What is mobility?
While there are many scientific definitions, I like to think of it as simply your ability to move naturally without limitation. Can't touch your toes? Not perfect. Can't get up off the floor without using your hands? Not ideal. Can't walk long distances without pain? Worrisome. Can't get up off the chair unassisted? Getting bad. Can't move around without a rollator? Trend line to the wheelchair, sick bed, and ultimately death bed. Yes, it matters. You want to fight to avoid getting on that trend line as long as humanly possible. Once on it, you don't tend to come back.
Humans were designed to move, not binge watch 7 seasons of Game of Thrones.
I used to be like you. Like average Joe. Still in my thirties, with no major health scares (knock on wood), but gradually building nagging pain and stiffness here and there. Nothing worth a doctor's visit, but an easy excuse not to be more active. Oh, my back is sore, rain check.
So I tried stuff. I did the research. I wanted something easy, that didn't require special battery powered equipment or an online video course. I found it. So this is me passing it on.
What would a Tibetan monk do?
To me, that's a reasonable way to approach any problem. Seriously though, through my research, I found that there is a mobility tradition that has been going on for thousands of years by now, and it's called The Five Rites. Human sacrifice not included.
Supposedly, if you do this morning routine you'll not only live to an old age but retain your highly valued mobility to the sweet end. Don't just take my word for it though, this guy has been doing it for 550 years, and I've had hangovers worse than he's looking.
I've been doing this routine on and off for a year now. Don't even break a sweat doing it, more like a little stretch than a workout. Quickly, I could notice less resistance in the movement and joints, more range-of-motion, and decreasing stiffness and pain in my back and neck. Now I don't even need to do these every day anymore, just on-demand when I feel even a hint of stiffness coming on.
So let's go through typical issues us cubicle lemmings get into, and how to address them through four simple movements, for free, in the comfort of your home. In your pajamas, in just 5 minutes. I've made some adjustments to the original recipe since I'm assuming monks spent fewer hours per day on the MacBook. And I have more use for fast WiFi than aligning my chakras with the rising sun. To each his own though!
NOTE: None of these movements should cause pain. Don't walk away from a little discomfort, that's how you know it's working. Sharp pain means stop and try again tomorrow.
Lower back stiffness from sitting all day
Jefferson Curl is like a slinky movement for your spine. Super easy to try, but will take time to perfect. Imagine rolling through each vertebra of your spine starting from your neck down. Then reversing up.
Don't worry about how low you can or can't go. Focus on eventually increasing the bend in your spine. Once you get a hang of this, it'll become a lifesaver. Literally.
Hunching over the laptop and smartphone all day
Neck Extensions are my personal favorite, as I'm a regular Quasimodo when it comes to being glued to my laptop. I like to focus for long periods of time, sometimes on completely random stuff like the morning routines of Tibetan monks, and my neck pays the price.
In either extreme end position, you should either feel your upper back tightening or your abs stretching. You can take a short pause at the ends to really stretch it out.
Stiff shoulders from lack of actually using your arms
Table Rocks are the most convenient way to build flexibility and movement into your shoulders. That can overcome your lack of arm activity. No, texting is not an activity.
Don't be that guy who can't even lift their arms over their head. Shoulder mobility is genuinely a survival tool for humans. Don't let it go too far. It doesn't come back easily!
Lack of back extension from one-dimensional movement
Cobra Dog sounds like a cool rap name, but also the toughest test of your mobility in this series, hence it's last. If you can't pull it off, you can start with either part of the movement and build up eventually. Cobra or Dog. You should feel a real stretch in your calves and abs in either end position.
If your back experiences sharp pain, take it easy on this one initially. Build up towards a full range-of-motion gradually. This is a race against yourself only.
Need some help getting started?
I got you covered (Cobra) Dog. I've been developing an intelligent fitness app for the last 3 years, specifically for this kind of thing. Measure where you're at fitness-wise, tell you what to do to improve, and measure then your progress.
Missionready has just been approved for Beta launch, so I'd love it if you gave it a spin and gave me some feedback. You can invite your friends too!
Scroll below to leave your email address and request for an invite.