Oh, your aching back! Put down the painkillers and try these therapeutic relaxation exercises from End Back Pain Forever: A Groundbreaking Approach to Eliminate Your Suffering, by Dr. Norman Marcus. They take 10 minutes, and for maximum benefit, you should do them every day, exactly as described. Remove your shoes, wear loose clothing, and lie on your back on a firm surface, preferably on an exercise mat–not a soft mattress or hard floor.
1. Diaphragmatic Deep Breathing
The first exercise is to help you relax through proper breathing. Lie down in the basic position: on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the mat, and your arms at your sides. Breathe in through your nose so that your stomach expands and your chest does not move. Exhale slowly through your mouth as your stomach flattens. Do this exercise three times, and be sure to wait three seconds after exhaling.
2. Deep Breathing with Shoulder Shrugs
This time as you breathe in through your nose, shrug your shoulders up toward your ears as far as they can go and hold for a moment. Now, as you exhale slowly through your mouth, let your shoulders return to a relaxed position. Do this three times, pausing three seconds before each successive shrug.
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3. Frog-Leg Release
On your back in the basic position, take a deep breath and exhale as you let your right leg flop to the side like the leg on a frog. Now slowly bring your right foot forward so that your right knee is pulled back toward the center. When your leg is fully extended, slowly slide it back to the basic position. Do this two more times and then do the same with the left leg three times.
4. Head Rotation
The purpose of this exercise is to relax your neck muscles. On your back in the basic position, inhale through your nose as you drop your head to the left side. When your head is all the way to the side, slowly return it to the central position, while exhaling. Now do the same as you rotate your head to the right side. Do this three times, alternating sides.
5. Knee-to-Chest Leg Release
This exercise is similar to the frog-leg exercise except that it has a knee-to-chest movement before the frog-leg release. On your back in the basic position, inhale as you raise your right knee as far as it can go back toward your chest. Try to keep your chest relaxed as you’re doing this. Do not touch your knee with your hands. Your knee should move up on its own without any help. When it is as far back as it can go toward your chest, exhale slowly as your leg returns to the bent position. Now let your right knee flop to the side like the leg on a frog. Slide your foot down so that your leg straightens. Slide your foot back so that your leg is in the bent-knee position. Do this two more times with the right leg and then three times with the left leg.
6. Side Slide
The side slide exercise is intended to limber your hip flexors and the muscles that extend and flex your legs. Lie on your left side in a relaxed semi-fetal position, with your knees bent but your upper body straight. Keep your upper body straight as you slide your right leg on your left leg up toward your chest. As your right knee passes the lower left knee, let the right knee touch the mat as you continue to slide the right knee toward your chest. Slide the leg; do not lift it. When your right knee has reached maximum movement toward your chest, begin to extend your right leg downward in the opposite direction. When your right leg is completely extended, slide it back to the bent position—the right knee resting on the left knee—and let go of all muscle effort for a moment. Do this exercise two more times with the right leg, then turn onto your right side and do the exercise three times with the left leg. Again, this is a sliding exercise. Do not lift the moving leg—and don’t forget to breathe.
7. Buttocks Squeeze
Lie on your stomach with a pillow underneath your pelvis to support your hips. Breathe in through your nose and squeeze your buttocks for three seconds; then exhale and let go. Do the buttocks squeeze two more times. If you have a problem feeling a tight squeeze, rotate your feet so that the toes are facing outward. As you do so, you will feel more tension in your thighs and buttocks, and when you attempt to squeeze again, you will get a tighter squeeze.
After performing the Buttocks Squeeze, complete level 1 by doing the exercises in reverse order, starting with the Side Slide.
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