Shoulder stand with knees bent

If you're looking for an exercise for your back that's a bit more advanced, this stretch is for you. I wouldn't try this stretch if you're a beginner because it requires a bit of strength to be able to hold the position, as well as a good sense of body awareness that only comes with experience. With that said, it's a great stretch for your entire back and neck, focusing especially on lengthening the erector spinae to prevent tightness and injury.

Don't try this stretch if you're new to exercise or stretching. This stretch is advanced and sometimes controversial, so be sure to follow the steps exactly. Avoid rolling too far back so your body weight isn't supported only by your neck. The small vertebrae in your neck weren't made to support the weight of your entire body, so don't risk any strain or injury to your neck.

To do this stretch, follow these steps:

1. Lie flat on your back on your exercise mat or carpeted floor.

2. Bend your knees and pull them all the way up to your chest.

3. Rest your arms at your sides with your palms facing down (see Figure 6-5a).

4. Inhale and as you exhale, press against the floor with your hands, pull in your abdominals, and lift your hips off the floor so your knees move toward your forehead.

5. Lift your hips until your body weight is supported on your shoulder blades (see Figure 6-5b).

6. Place your palms against the back of your hips to support the weight of your hips.

7. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, and then slowly roll your body down one vertebra at a time, using your abdominals to control the movement.

Figure 6-5:

The shoulder stand with knees bent.

Figure 6-5:

The shoulder stand with knees bent.

A few do's and don'ts for this stretch include the following:

^ Do support your back with your hands as you hold the stretch. ^ Do keep your abdominals tight throughout the entire stretch. ^ Do keep your shoulder blades on the floor.

^ Don't excessively flex your neck or bring your chin toward your chest.

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