A big focus in my mornings is to extend my body as soon as I wake. This focus puts me in a growth mindset as I'm making my "low back issue" a strength by taking the time to set my nervous system and ultimately my body properly for the day.
Morning Posture Priming
Priming your position is motor memory. Our body gets used to habit. So if you move a certain way it will continue getting used to moving a certain way!
The body also has times of the day where it's more sensitive. Morning is especially a time to wash away old habits and plant new. That's why I spend at least a few minutes in this position every morning because as soon as I wake this is the clearest mind I will have all day! With this blank state I'm positioning myself into an extended, expressive state.
This goes a long way in setting the movement tone for the day and serves as a reminder for the neuromuscular system to hold you in that position.
Extension priming in the morning is good for overall posture. It strengthens and engages the posterior chain while opening the front line. This allows for you to access your diaphragm better and cue a more relaxed breath to your body. By lengthening this front line the diaphragm has more room to pump and thus can give the body more circulating oxygen and a more relaxing effect.
I like doing my morning writing and reading while focusing on long slow deep breaths. This cuing allows my body to find the optimal posture whereas if I kept a shallow chest breath my body would fall into a more forward flexed position.
Rather than allowing myself to flex forward at the waist which aggravates my low back I follow the McKenzie protocol.
This positions me prone on my elbows keeping my shoulders away from my ears while pointing my toes. This allows the front side of my body to lengthen by extending my hips. When I begin my day my body is starting the day in an extended position. This creates a foundation for me to approach the day with structural integrity. Foundation is everything especially early in the day because this is where the body builds it's habits for the remainder of the day!
Shoulders down away from ears
Posterior shoulder slightly engaged but keep shoulder broad and wide.
Chin tucked and crown lengthened. Elbows in towards side . Toes pointed. Lengthen through the quads and hip flexors.
Flexion vs Extension and Psychological States
Flexed positioning if allowed will trigger more depressive and anxious, fearful tendencies. This curled and flexed forward position resembles the fetal position, one which embodies protection of vital organs, a fear based approach called survival and security! Allowing your body to extend, on the other hand (hips extended forward, chest open) will allow you to express, create, and use energy constructively.
I follow this exercise with a basic bird dog series and some side planks to get my core container to fire to add to this structural integrity. This is something I will cover in future installments!
Having just read the above as I was proofing this post it was revealed to me how true these words are. For example, this past Thursday my training routine was different. I got a swim session at 9:30 then a light jog on my way to coffee. This meant I stood around for about an hour with some walking afterwards at the coffee shop.
Normally I do much more dynamic activity. Jiu jitsu is normally during this time period, an activity that requires tremendous energetic output and receptivity from my nervous system. It normally has to to stay primed for that primal stressor of combat.
This standing was less expressive of movement. It involves listening and yielding to the environment and absorbing what is being given rather than looking to create and etch your mark.
This made me anxious and forced me into these more flexed positions. But the more I become aware of this it reveals this incessant part of my mind that seeks to continually create or need to do more and make my mark in the world. This is an element of control and worry and perfection (FEAR!!!) that will never be enough as is. This is fear based while listening and allowing is all based out of love.
Even if you don't have low back issues starting your day in this fashion is an intelligent way to begin communicating to your nervous system. You set the tone for expression. You set the tone for vitality. You set the tone for growth. And those qualities, my friends, are instrumental in having a healthy day on all levels!