Episode 003 – Spine Extension

Episode 003Hi! Welcome back to the Move Beautiful Podcast, this episode focuses on the movement of spine extension. We talk about how spine extension influences your mood, is there such thing as ‘too much extension’ and my top three things to look out for when teaching and practicing spine extension.

In This Episode You Will Learn:

Things to watch out for during spine extension;

  • Osteoporosis: For anyone who has osteoporosis or osteopenia spine extension is great! Spine flexion is the movement to be wary of here, but spine extension is wonderful for people with osteoporotic spines. So move gently and slowly at first but by all means extend away!

  • Canal Stenosis: This is a condition causing narrowing of the spinal canal due to excess bone growth or tissue. In these cases extension should be avoided. By extending the spine you are often decreasing the space in the spinal canal and if it is already decreased due to bone or tissue growth you run the risk of impingement of the central spinal cord. It is worth mentioning though that many people who have canal stenosis only have it in sections of their spine, not throughout their whole spine. If this is the case and you know what levels the stenosis is present in you are able to block those levels and extend in other parts of the spine. This will often do them a lot of good as you are increasingly the available ranges of freedom at the levels above and below the stenosis.

  • Disc Bulges: This is really person and disc bulge dependant. Much of this has to do with where the disc bulge is, anterior vs posterior and how the person moves into spine extension. This is another topic for another podcast, but let’s just suffice to say spine extension is not generically good for all disc bulges!


Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk can be found here

Home Play

  1. Length before Height: The biggest tip I can give you when practising spinal extension is to think about length and decompression BEFORE you think about range and height! What I mean by this is, before you begin the movement of spine extension lengthen your spine by picturing the side waist’s opening up. This way you are less likely to push into ranges of compression and irritability for your spine!

  2. Pay Attention to your Neck: Tip number 2 is pay attention to your head and neck. Because this is an area of the spine which often has a lot of freedom in spine extension, it tends to over compensate and do all the work. Be sure your head and neck don’t over work. Rather, think of the head as an extension to the spine and allow the head to ride on the neck.

  3. Pay Attention to your Lower Back: Tip number three is pay attention to your lower back. Similar to tip number 2 the lumbar spine is also an area of the spine which often has a lot of freedom in spine extension, and so it to tends to over compensate and do all the work. To ensure it is not becoming excessively loaded, pay attention and spend some time before you move gently activating your lower core and pelvic floor muscles. These will help to bring stability to this section of your spine.

  4. Use your Eyes: Tip number four is to use your eyes. Where your eyes go your spine will follow. So if your eyes are focussed downwards its incredibly hard to activate your spinal muscles into extension. Rather, think about your eyes as the guide, they are tracing the path out first so your spinal segments can follow along as the path ahead has already been marked out!

  5. Use your Breath: Tip number five use your breathing! This is an interesting one and its one I cant give you a recipe for as everyone and everybody is different. Some people prefer to use an exhale as they move their spine into extension while other prefer an inhale! So try both and notice which works best for you! For someone you, you may find the exhale helps you to stabilse your lower spine allowing you to gain more extension in your mid and upper back, while for others you may feel like a inhale into your chest allows you more freedom of movement increasing your spinal extension to a range which an exhale breath just doesn’t allow!

Thank you for listening to episode 002 of the Move Beautiful Podcast, I loved bringing all these insights and valuable pieces of information to you and I hope you have found them as valuable as I have and are now breathing easy!

If you liked this episode please share it with your friends, family, colleagues, or better yet leave us an honest review on iTunes these rating and reviews are incredibly helpful and help me to help more beautiful movers like you reach their movement potential!

Finally, don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes so you will be sure to never miss an episode.

About the author: Lana Johnson

Lana, a Physiotherapist and Pilates Instructor with 20 years’ experience in the dance and movement world, is driven by the overwhelming desire to help empower individuals to change their total health through efficient movement. She graduated from Sydney University with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy and went on to gain her Diploma in Professional Pilates in Studio/Rehab with Polestar Pilates and has since studied and now practices the ConnectTherapy (previously known as the Integrated Systems Model) assisting LJ Lee on her Thoracic and Pelvis courses.

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