If there is one good reason I can think of to take care of my back and keep it healthy, it is so that I am able to bow down in salaah and put my forehead to the ground, in prostration to my Rabb, every day of my life; until the day I return to HIM and can do so no more.
SOME EXERCISE RECOMMENDATIONS:
Below are some basic and easy to follow exercises and stretches that can be done in the comfort and privacy of your own home, requiring little or no equipment. Two or three of these suggested exercises per day could go a long way in ensuring a healthy, flexible and pain-free back for many years to come, InShaa-Allah.
Start by doing 2 sets of 8 of each of the exercises below, unless otherwise specified. As you get stronger, you may gradually increase the number of sets and/or reps you perform. Always keep your abdominals tight by pulling the navel towards the spine and holding that position through the entire exercise. This will help to take unnecessary pressure off the back while performing these exercises.
Begin this exercise by lying face down on the floor with arms and legs outstretched. Breathe in and pull the navel towards the spine, tighten the abdominals and use your back muscles to lift the arms (including shoulders) and legs as far as you can off the floor. Hold this position for a few seconds and as you breathe out, lower back down to the starting position.
This exercise is a slightly more advanced variation of the one above. Begin in the same position as described in the exercise above. As you breathe in, lift the arms and legs off the floor. While holding this position, and keeping the back muscles engaged, slightly lift the right arm (keeping it straight) and the left leg simultaneously. Slightly lower the right arm (keeping it off the floor) while lifting the left arm and alternate the legs in the same way. Alternate the lifting of the arm and opposite leg rapidly for a count of 8 and breathe out as you lower back down to the starting position to complete one set of this exercise.
A further variation on the “Superman” exercise is the one performed on the hands and knees. This works more of the back muscles than the two described above and puts less strain on the lower back simply by engaging more muscles and not isolating those of the lower back. Remember to pull the navel in towards the spine, keep the back straight, and try not to arch the back at any point during this exercise. Starting off on all fours and keeping the abdominal muscles engaged, lift the left arm straight out in front of you while lifting and straightening the right leg. Alternate by lowering the left arm and right leg and lifting the opposite arm and leg in a similar manner. Repeat for a count of 8.
This exercise is not only good for the back, but is also an excellent way of strengthening the deeper abdominals (referred to as the core muscles). Stronger back and core muscles ultimately lead to better posture and a flatter tummy.
Always remember to tighten up the abdominals when performing this exercise, keep the back straight, and don’t forget to breathe! Begin in the prone position (face down) with elbows and knees on the floor about shoulder width apart, keeping the stomach and hips off the floor. Breathe in; and as you breathe out lift the knees off the floor balancing on the elbows and toes. Do not arch the back, hold this position for a count of 8 (keep breathing). On an exhale, lower the knees back down to the floor. As your strength improves, you will find that it will become easier and you will be able to hold this position for a longer period of time, InShaa-Allah.
The above exercises are all geared towards strengthening the muscles of the back. Follow the next lot of stretches to open up these muscles and increase blood flow, keeping the back healthy, nourished and supple. Remember: never ever stretch a cold muscle. With the exception of the cat stretch, always do these stretches after a workout or if you prefer to stretch before, then ensure you have warmed up the muscles sufficiently.
The Cat Stretch:
This stretch is an excellent way to warm up the muscles in the back and create some movement to release any stiffness, allow the blood to flow and open up the joints between the vertebrae. It can also be performed as part of a post-workout cool-down.
Begin this exercise on all fours with the back straight and hands and knees shoulder width apart. As you breathe in, lift the middle part of your back towards the ceiling pulling the navel in towards the spine as you do so. While breathing out, reverse this position by arching the back and pushing the spine down towards the floor. Breathe in again and lift the spine up to the ceiling. Alternate the movement with your breathing and do not return to the starting position until you have completed a count of 8. Then sit back on your heels, stretching the arms out in front of you whilst touching the nose and forehead to the floor. Hold for a count of 8.
Some other recommendations:
For this stretch, start off lying flat on your back with the knees bent. Pull the navel into the spine, bring the knees in towards the chest (or as far as you can) and wrap your arms around your legs as you do so, in an almost foetal position. Bring your knees as close to your chest as you can so as to open up the spine as much as possible. Hold for a count of 8 and lower the legs to the starting position.
With the next stretch you start off lying flat on your back once again but this time with the legs stretched out. Keeping the right leg as straight as possible while lifting it up as high as you can, wrap your hands around the knee, interlacing your fingers behind the knee. It is important to keep the head and the shoulders on the floor throughout this stretch. If you are having difficulty keeping the other leg on the floor, bend the knee slightly keeping the foot on the floor. This will relieve some of the pressure on the back and neck. Hold for a count of 8 and lower the raised leg back down. Repeat with the left leg.
Remember, the main purpose of stretching is to release tension in the muscles and to loosen them up. Try not to tense up any muscles while performing a stretching exercise. A good way to prevent this is with proper breathing. Before you begin the stretch, take a deep breath in and as you breathe out, go into the stretch, relaxing the muscles as you do.
It is also important to never stretch a muscle to the point of pain. Stretch only to the point of tension and stop. As your flexibility improves and your muscles become suppler, you will be able to stretch further before that point of tension is reached, InShaa-Allah.
Written By: Sister Fiyona Valli for Idealwoman.org