Have you ever questioned the mainstream, straight back approach to training your spine?
I have …
It’s commonly talked about that to keep your spine in good health, and for better posture, you’ve got to keep your back straight and tense up your core muscles.
Sure this can definitely be helpful, but after discovering an approach to successfully re-balance my busted back …
I’ve learned that the straight back strength solution is only half of the puzzle of having a back that feels resilient and joyous when you move.
My Shaolin Monk teacher once said, “your spine is designed to move like water, not a brick.”
Which led me down the path of exploring Spinal Waves …
Here’s a short video on my how the practice of Spinal Waves have been an important part of my journey from daily back pain to physical freedom:
The practice of Spinal Waves has helped me and those I’ve taught it to over the years tremendously.
It’s a powerful movement practice to relieve lower back tension and restore our backs to move more naturally.
And today I’m going to share with you the first step I commonly teach my students to help you integrate Spinal Waves into your daily movement training.
Spinal Waves 101
There’s lots of eastern esoteric texts that talk about sending waves of mystical energy, kundalini and all that jazz up and down your spine. And I have an interest in that sort of stuff, but I prefer to focus on the physical, rather than flood your brain with new age mumbo jumbo.
In essence, my perspective on Spinal Waves is:
A movement practice that develops a relaxed, but strong spine, through exercising it in undulating patterns.
Spinal waves enhance your ability to:
- Open and close your spinal vertebrae to their full range of motion (they really improve back bends, without all the lower back tension)
- Transmit force more effectively through the spine in a wave like manner from one extremity of the body to another (hands – feet / feet – hands). This is important for martial artists to develop more powerful punches, kicks and throws.
- Move with a more fluid quality, which I’ve found leads to greater strength, power, mobility and endurance for a range of activities from martial arts, dance, climbing, and playing.
How to introduce Spinal Waves into your movement practice
I teach the application of Spinal Waves in a range of ways, each with unique benefits:
- Standing spinal waves
- Hanging spinal waves
- Climbing spinal waves
- Crawling spinal waves
I know, that’s more waves than at Bondi Beach. Dad jokes aside. There’s lots of ways you can do Spinal Waves.
But I highly recommend you begin this practice gently, as the waves may seem easy on the surface, but there’s a lot going on underneath the skin.
One of the most gentle ways I’ve found to introduce spinal waves into your movement practice is Kneeling Spinal Waves.
How to perform Kneeling Spinal Waves
The images below are screenshots from one of the detailed teaching videos featured in Phase 1 of the Tension Release Technique.
Follow along and practice consistently. And in time you’ll feel the joy and freedom that this practice can bring to the way your spine can move …
Let’s get into it.
- Get onto your hands and knees like in the image above, and come into the present moment.
- As a general guide start with your hips over your knees and your shoulders over your hands.
- Your elbows should remain straight, and the pads of your toes gently pressing into the ground.
- If you have wrist problems: I recommend you address the issue properly with this. But in the meantime you can elevate your hands on a step, to reduce the resistance placed upon them.
- Relax your body as best as you can and breathe deeply.
- Allow your breath to sink down into your hips, and slowly fill your torso (front, back and sides) with air.
- Feel the inhale creating a rounding effect on your spine (like a camel’s hump).
- Feel the exhale creating an arching effect on your spine (like a cat stretching).
- Do not force this process. Just relax and allow it to happen naturally.
- The breathing is the foundation of your Spinal Wave practice. Do not underestimate its power.
- Imagine your spine is gently being lengthened (do this by moving the head and hips away from one another)
- Stay relaxed and don’t hold your breath
Think of this part like tuning a guitar string: Too much tension and the string can snap, not enough tension and the string doesn’t vibrate enough to make music.
To send the wave up from your feet to your hands:
- Rock your hips back, then gently press your toes into the ground.
- Allow this force to move up through your hips and into your lower back.
- If you’re relaxed enough the wave can effortlessly flow from your lower spine to your neck. But be gentle, you don’t want to give yourself whiplash.
- As the wave moves from your feet to your hands, your back will round.
To send the wave down from your hands to your feet:
- Reverse the action by slowly relaxing and arching your spine from your hips to your neck once again.
The waving action:
- Repeat the rounding and arching process and look for increasingly detailed and complex ways of moving your spine.
- Your aim is to gradually feel and map more of your spine, so you’re able to consciously open and close the vertebrae during the undulating action.
The below video from my Instagram page shows what the waving action can look like.
This quadrupedal locomotion based movement is called the Kneeling Crab Waves. It’s a more advanced practice, that I suggest you only begin after you master the basic kneeling Spinal Wave.
One of the principles I teach my students is develop strength from the centre and allow it to wave outwards. The Circular Crab Waves are a great example of this principle. This is the kneeling variation and a great place to begin. There’s many ways to scale this up for greater complexity and difficulty when the time is right. Today’s lesson: move your spine more often 🙏 #spine #movementmonk #natural #spinalwave #crabwave #mobility
Three principles for better Spinal Wave practice
- Find where is right for your unique body to begin your explorations, without pain.
- The key is to feel your breath move through your body and aim to feel as much of your spine as you can … Instead of just trying to think the waving action.
- If you can’t feel it on the inside. You’re rushing it.
While learning and consistently practicing Kneeling Spinal Waves provides a great place to begin releasing tension from your lower back, there’s more ways we can explore the way your spine moves.
For even greater benefits Spinal Waves can be explored in many planes of movement like:
- Kneeling Circular Spinal Waves
- Standing – Squatting Spinal Waves
- Crawling Spinal Waves
And so much more … I’ll be sharing these deeply strengthening movements in the new Spiral Strength online program I’m getting ready to release for you.
Get resources to safely begin your Spinal Wave practice
I highly recommend you don’t rush into the practice of Spinal Waves, or you could hurt yourself.
It’s important you get the basics of this practice right first, to build a robust foundation. This will set you up for better results and help you create a more tension free, fluid moving back.
You can learn the basics safely with the Spinal Waves Series, taught in the Phase 1: Tension Release Technique online course.