Your back is one of the most important parts of your body. Keeping it mobile and flexible is a concern for many, especially those who work at a desk. Decreased movement and stiffness can lead to other health problems down the line.

Mostly through exercise, but also stretching. Yoga is often recommended as it is a form of exercise that both encourages fitness and more movement, but also works to stretch and twist the spine in many ways.

The most important thing to remember when stretching your back is to start slowly. This enables you to loosen the muscles surrounding the spine so you can prevent injuries when advancing to more strenuous exercises or activities. Always perform more basic stretches before moving on to new ones, and stop doing an exercise if it hurts. That being said, the following are some recommended exercises to help stretch your back and keep your spine in line. Use these before or after your work out or after every work day. Be sure to start gradually and work up to more mobility as time goes on.

Back Press to the Floor

Lie on a hard surface with both of your feet planted on the floor and your knees bent above you. Make sure your entire back is against the floor. Slowly press your back to the floor and hold the movement for five to seconds. Relax for a second, then repeat the movement 10 to 15 times.

This movement helps you better align your lumbar vertebrae in your lower back, which according to a chiropractor in Charlotte NC, is where most injuries occur. When doing yoga, you’ll probably use this move or a variation of it to engage your core and move through other positions like wheel or bridge. Take time here to really feel and stretch your spine before moving on to others.

Knee-to-Chest

While still lying on your back with your knees bent, grab your right knee with both hands and slowly pull it toward your chest. Simultaneously, fully extend your left leg until the back of your leg is flat against the floor. Hold your knee by your chest for five or ten seconds, then return to the starting position. Repeat the same movement by grabbing your left knee and extending your right leg.

Do five repetitions with each leg, then relax. In yoga, this move is often accompanied by core strengthening pulses. Be sure to keep your legs straight and feet flexed as you do this to keep your core engaged while you work your back.

Butt Lift

Stay on the floor in the same position as the other two exercises, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Slowly lift your rear end and lower back off the floor while keeping your back and butt in alignment with one another. Hold that position for five seconds, then lower yourself to the floor. Perform 10 repetitions of this exercise. This is a form of bridge and is a starting point for many in yoga.

Keep your back in line and be sure to breathe through the movement. More flexibility into other moves comes with time.

Cobra Stretch

Lie on your stomach with your head and torso up and forearms planted on a mat or carpet. Keep your forearms and upper arms at 90-degree angles, and make sure your palms are facing downward. Next, move your hands closer to your body, push yourself up and arch your back. Hold that position for 10 seconds, then return to the starting position. Repeat five to 10 times.

Luckily this move is often done as part of a beginning sequence. You’ll probably move through it several times during a yoga session. Treat it carefully and be sure to stretch the vertebra in you head and neck as well as lower back.

Performing these exercises several times per week can help to stretch and strengthen your back. Not only will they help align your spine, you’ll be surprised how they can help relieve pain and stiffness. If you’re suffering from an injury or chronic pain, you may want to see a chiropractor about more spinal decompression exercises that might help your condition.

It also helps to talk with your yoga instructor to see what other moves or stretches can help you increase back and spine mobility. After a few repetitions after work you should notice a difference in how your whole body feels.