Feeling Stiff? Sit Your Way to a Supple Spine!

“These days my back often gets stiff and sore. The discomfort saps my energy and I’m feeling older by the day.  It’s also starting to interfere with my ability to hike with my dogs and ride my horse. Besides turning back the clock, is there anything I can do?”


Mary responds: Absolutely! I’ve heard a version of this question countless times from people of all ages, many of whom have spent years dealing with back pain or stiffness.  As a practitioner of the Feldenkrais Method®, I help them move out of pain and limitation, and into easier movement. They feel younger and fitter than they have in years. And you can too!


I’ve included below a free Feldenkrais® Awareness Through Movement® lesson to help you increase the flexibility and comfort of your spine.  And you don’t even need to get off your chair to do it!


We also offer a Rollercise video that can further your improvement, helping relieve chronic back and shoulder pain and stiffness. And your posture will improve without effort. All in just minutes!  Rollercise is available as a download so you can start feeling better immediately!

I also offer  private, hands-on Feldenkrais® Functional Integration® sessions at my office in Encinitas, California and at various workshops and clinics internationally.  These private sessions offer you the opportunity to receive a customized session tailored to your unique needs, helping you progress quickly.


A supple spine not only feels good, but it will allow you to enjoy activities with your dogs and horses. You’ll be able to effortlessly bend to pick up that ball to throw to your dogs, and you’ll hike easier and farther. You’ll ride your horse in a more balanced, effective way. Your animals are depending on you, so please take the time to care for yourself.  You CAN get better with age!

As you do the following lesson, it is important to move slowly and gently. If you find a movement or position to be at all uncomfortable, adjust it so that it feels pleasurable.  Make the movement smaller or simply do it in your imagination. Since we are communicating with the brain and not merely strengthening muscles, the size of the movement doesn’t matter. It is the quality of your attention that determines your improvement. Your progress will be greater if you attend to your comfort and ease of movement. Remember to breathe easily.    

If you have an acute or painful condition, please consult a physician before beginning these movements.  

A Feldenkrais® Awareness Through Movement® Lesson 


1.     Sit a bit forward on a flat-bottomed chair. Have your feet flat on the floor, slightly spread.  Feel how your seatbones make contact with the chair. Does one side feel heavier than the other?  Does one foot press heavier into the floor?  Just notice differences; don’t attempt to change them.

2.     Cross your right arm over your chest to hold onto your left shoulder with your right hand.  Your left hand then goes underneath your right arm and holds onto your right shoulder. Not everyone can easily hold onto their shoulders, so adjust this position so that it is comfortable for you to maintain. You might need to hold onto your upper arms.   

Cross arms and hold onto shoulders. Right arm is on top.

3.     Letting your chin drop downward, gently round your back so that your weight goes onto the back of your seatbones.  Your feet stay quietly on the floor.  If you exhale as you do this movement, your chest will be freer to soften and assist the movement of the spine. Your elbows will be hanging down.


Round your back and look down. Move gently, noticing how you move.

Round your back and look down. Move gently, noticing how you move.

4.     Now arch your back, putting your weight onto the front of your seatbones.  Your face and elbows will point up. Put your attention on your entire spine, so that all of it gently participates in this arching movement. 

Arch your back and look up. How much of your back participates in this movement? Make sure that you don’t do all the movement in your lower back or neck.

5.     Alternate these two movements a few times, rounding your back and looking down, and then arching your back and looking up.  Go slowly and easily.  Move only as far as it’s comfortable. Breathe easily. After a few movements, lower your arms and rest. Remember it’s not the size of the movement that is important, but the quality of your attention and the ease you feel.


 6.     Cross your arms the other way, with your left arm on top, holding onto the right shoulder.  Your right hand will hold onto your left shoulder from below. Look down, rounding and your back and then look up, arching your back.  Repeat a few times.  Does the movement feel different with your arms crossed this way?  Lower your arms and rest.       


7. Cross your arms with the right arm on top, holding onto the left shoulder. The left hand holds onto the right shoulder from underneath. Let the elbows hang comfortably. Push your right foot into the floor a little bit as you lift the right side of your pelvis off the chair.  At the same time, tilt your right ear toward your right shoulder.  Then straighten back up, sitting on both seatbones and keeping your arms crossed.  Repeat a few times and rest.

Side bend by lifting the right side of your pelvis off the chair and tilting your head to the right

Side bend by lifting the right side of your pelvis off the chair and tilting your head to the right

8.     Now try it on the left side.  Lift your left seatbone and tilt your left ear toward your left shoulder.  Repeat a few times and then rest.

Now side bend to the left

Now side bend to the left

9.     Alternate lifting the right side of your pelvis off the chair, then the left side. Do easy, light movements. Lower your arms and rest.

10. Reverse the crossing of your arms and repeat the alternating movements. Let your head gently tilt side-to-side.  Lower your arms and rest.


11.Cross your arms with the right arm on top.  Hold your elbows straight out in front of you and move your body in a circle.  I like to pretend that I have a large spoon hanging from my crossed elbows and I’m stirring a big pot of soup.  As you “stir the soup”, feel how you shift your weight on your pelvis. Feel where it’s natural to round your back and shift onto the back of your seatbones.  Then feel where you lift one side of your pelvis off the chair, followed by arching your back as your elbows reach out in front of you.  Do several circles in each direction, then lower your arms and rest.

Move your body as you “stir the soup”!

12.Cross your arms the other way and keep stirring the soup! After several circles, lower your arms and rest.

13.Notice how you are sitting in your chair now.  How is your weight distributed on your seatbones?  How do your feet make contact with the floor?  Gently look up and down.  Is that easier to do now?  Does your whole spine and pelvis help you look up and down now? This can improve the suppleness of your spine, free up your arms and help reduce your chance of overuse injuries.

14.Slowly stand up and walk around.  Slowly turn to look around you. Notice your ease of movement!   

Mary Debono
Mary Debono, is a Certified Feldenkrais® Practitioner who teaches people how to increase mobility and confidence while minimizing the effects of aging and injury. She is the author of the award-winning, Amazon #1 bestseller, "Grow Young with Your Dog," and the creator of Debono Moves. Mary travels internationally to teach workshops with an equine, canine/feline or human focus. She also offers online consultations. Mary lives in sunny Southern California with her husband, horse, dog and cat. Visit her at www.DebonoMoves.com
Mary Debono
Mary Debono

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