Using the wall as a tool to give us instant feedback is an awesome way to feel where our body is in space. Good alignment means less stress on the spine and more economical muscular activity. When the spine is aligned with gravity, the body works in harmony with the laws of nature. The natural curls of the spine are important as they act as shock absorbers for the body. It is therefore advised to strive for ideal alignment and to develop the musculature to support this alignment. Ideal alignment of the spine also facilitates normal and efficient functioning of the inner organs.
One of the biggest issues we see in people today is weak and tight upper bodies and neck. More often than not, the spine is not in neutral. The following exercises are specific to strengthening and stretching the upper body from a neutral alignment of the spine. Remember the neck is part of the spine.
Swishing the hips
This is a great exercise to reset the pelvis and spine. Start in neutral and send your hips along the wall to one side. Do this a couple times and then go the other side. To finish off send the hips both to the right and left side. You will hopefully find that they feel equally stretches and are not as tight.
Neck strengthening and stretching
I call this the “Traffic Light exercise” as you can do it from your car while keeping your eyes on the traffic light. Draw your chin towards your neck without pulling and straining it and thinking about the length at the back of the neck. This is great to teach the neck to work in a long neutral line and to work our stabilizers in the front of the neck.
Add turning the head from right to left and taking the head down and up to the sky. We can also add half circles up and half circles down. Note that you will probably need to take micro breaks between exercises as this can be a lot on the neck and even on the upper back.
Mini Roll Downs or Pelvic Curls
This is not an exercise for every body but it is a great tool of assessment in posture and alignment for those that are able to do such an exercise. The wall is a great way to offload much of the body and spine and to feel the articulation and elongation of the spine as you peel one vertebra off the wall at a time, and then place each vertebra back on the wall. It is also a good place to see where the back is tight and where the body needs additional work. Starting with a smaller roll down and building up the articulation through the spine is a great way to learn the movement pattern on a healthy spine.
What is also beneficial for a spine is a pelvic curl up against the wall as this too gives articulation. For this exercise the feet need to come forward from the wall and a slight softness needs to be in the back of the knee.
Foot Work You can play around with variations of foot and leg work and use the wall for balance and to challange alignment and stability. Parallel legs, pen v, prances, calf work, straightening and bending the knees are all great ways to work the feet and legs.
Upper back/Shoulders Start with the arms at bent 90 degrees and keep the neck and spine in neutral. Slide the arms up to the sky and then back down. Think of keeping the shoulders wide.
Take your arms out to the side, keeping your palms facing forward into a Snow Angels shape. This is great for the upper body and shoulders.
Keep your shoulder to the wall (your hip won't be touching the wall, however, give yourself a long neutral alignment through your spine and body). Take the arm closest to the wall up and around, keeping the hand “cleaning” the wall and then back to the starting position. Let your head follow the line of your spine for some extra rotation. Be aware that your hips remain facing the front. Remember to this on both arms.
Find some nice leg work and squat against the wall. Keep the spine neutral and bend the knees. You can slide up and down the wall or hold the position to get the leg work.
Wall Push Ups
Stand a couple feet away from the wall. Your body will be on a diagonal line, and your spine long. Co-contract your abdominals and your back extensors to support you. Bend the elbows down towards your hips and push your arms back up to work the triceps, and pectorals. Keep your shoulder stabilized - they must not adduct. You can make this more challenging by using one arm at a time.
Arm Standing Series You can do this series with hand weights or you can opt to just work on the stabilisation and mobility and use without the added load. Start with your arms out in front of you and bring the arms down to your side. Take your arms out to a T and bring them down to your sides. Circle your arms up and around and then reverse the movement to make circles down. Keep your arms down to your sides and bend only the elbow to get tricep work.
It is best to do all of these exercises with a mirror in front of you to give you feedback of what is happening in your body. Try to keep the body as symmetrical as possible and notice if one side feels stronger, weaker, tighter or more mobile. Focus on alignment, and the coordination of the movement while breathing into the back of the ribs. By practicing this little series you will notice the body muscularly develop and begin to open up more evenly.