Is your back strong enough to withstand the workload of the holiday season? Over the coming weeks, your spine and its surrounding muscles may shift and strain in ways that differ from the rest of the year. Whether you are hunching over a hot oven, hoisting heavy shopping bags, or hanging decorations from hazardous heights, it only takes one minor misstep, or poorly executed pivot, to cause lower back pain. And while there is never an ideal time to blow out your back, the holidays are an especially inconvenient occasion to sustain such an injury.

A healthy spine is key to a healthy body all year around. So it’s important to implement exercises that support and safeguard this sensitive area from the wear and tear of daily activities.

Keep your spine in line this holiday season with these six spine-strengthening stretches. You will need a carpeted surface or yoga mat for support.

These stretches are most effective when practiced an hour after waking up and prior to bed, each day. If you suffer from chronic lower back pain, consult a physician prior to exercise.

Pelvic Tilts

  • From a supine position, bend your knees so your feet are firmly planted on the floor. Notice the natural curve of your lower back.
  • Engage your core muscles to tilt your pelvic bone up and push your lower back down against the floor. Repeat 10-12 times.

Bridges

  • Remain on your back with both feet on the floor. Your legs should be hip-distance apart, with arms out to your side.
  • Push through your heels to elevate your hips until they form a straight line from shoulders through knees. Keep your back relaxed, with glutes and hamstrings carrying the workload of this exercise. Lower your glutes down toward the floor, then repeat 10-12 times.

Knees-to-Chest

  • From the same position, tilt your pelvis up so your lower back is against the floor.
  • Slowly draw your knees in toward your chest and hold the outside of your knees with both hands. Gently rock your hips back and forth to massage your lower back against the floor. Continue this relaxing rhythm for 30 seconds.
Leg Pull-In
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Leg Pull-In

Back Rotations

  • While in the same supine position, keep your shoulders against the floor as you carefully shift at your hips rotating your knees down toward the floor. If you cannot comfortably bring your knees to the floor, use a yoga block or thick book to rest your knees on for support.
  • Hold for 10 seconds, then use your core muscles to rotate your knees back to center. When ready, twist to the opposite side. Repeat 10-12 times.
Ashley demonstrates a back rotation exercise.
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Ashley demonstrates a back rotation exercise.

Cat Cow

  • Adjust your body to a tabletop position, with hands stacked below shoulders, hips over knees, and spine straight.
  • Arch your back by drawing your belly button in toward your spine. You should feel a nice stretch between your shoulder blades as you round your back. From here, release your spine so it forms a U-shape as your belly drops down toward the floor. Repeat 10-12 times.
Ashley demonstrates a cat/cow stretch.
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Ashley demonstrates a cat/cow stretch.

Child’s Pose

  • Return to your hands and knees. Hinge back at your hips so your glutes lower toward your heels. For those with tight hip flexors, separate your knees wider to allow for a deeper stretch and to avoid having your stomach rest on your thighs.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds then release.

A strong, stable spine should be on everyone’s holiday wish list this season.