I hope that lately you’ve had the time and energy to honor your bodies by getting some regular exercise. If you’re currently working on strengthening and toning your abs, I have a word of advice: stop those crunches!
The Plank Pose
You might wonder how such a ubiquitous exercise like old-fashioned crunch can be harmful. Here's why: Crunches cause you to tuck your pelvis and hunch your shoulders, two habits that compress your spinal discs and nerves.
If you’re determined to achieve those washboard abs, take a page from yoga and try the plank pose. This position preserves the natural J-shape of the spine so you don’t have to worry about the back pain commonly associated with crunches and sit-ups.
- Begin this pose by assuming regular push-up position with the arms straight. Aim for a straight line from your legs through your torso to your neck. Resist the tendency to sag or elevate the buttocks out of this line.
- Then, bring your attention to your shoulders: are they tensed up toward your neck? If so, roll them open. Use your muscles to maintain the distance between the shoulder blades and spine as if you were standing naturally.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds, and up to one minute. If you find this difficult or have wrist problems, rest your upper body on your forearms rather than your hands. With regular practice, you will be able to hold the position longer and longer, strengthening the muscles that keep your spine happy and lengthened.
For ideas on other healthy abdominal strengthening exercises, see the appendix of 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back.
Esther Gokhale, L.Ac. is an expert in pain-free living and the Nautilus Gold Award-winning author of 8 Steps to a Pain Free Back. She's the creator of the Gokhale Method, an anthropologically-based approach to posture and alignment designed to eliminate and prevent back pain and other musculoskeletal problems. She's the founder of the Esther Gokhale Wellness Center in Palo Alto, CA. Visit her at egwellness.com