On Wednesday, I wrote about the importance of spinal articulation and why we need to break out of doing only the movements our bodies are already good at. The WAVE is one of my favorite spine exercises for doing just that. It feels so good to move when we pay attention to both the muscles we use all the time and the ones that never seem to come into play in our daily life and/or fitness “routine”.

My challenge as a teacher of movement is to make poses and exercises simple and enjoyable—even for folks who might not find them so simple. Sometimes I have trouble locating the right words, but I love breaking down complicated movements into bite-sized pieces. The WAVE might seem like a lot to keep track of at first, but you’ll find that it helps you explore your body’s blind spots , establish new neuromuscular connections, and become aware of how the diaphragm, TA, multifidus, and pelvic floor all interconnect.

On Wednesday, I also talked about the importance of being able to differentiate your pelvis from your spine, or your lower back/lumbar spine from your ribcage/thoracic spine. I discussed how this lack of proprioception can lead to undifferentiated global back pain for many of my students and clients. They had pain, but couldn’t articulate where the problem was.

That’s where the WAVE comes in. This exercise has helped many students strengthen and traction their spine on their own.  It’s prevented their back pain from recurring and has given them a firmer grasp on what’s doing what inside their backs.

My husband often says, “Trina, use your words!” when I get tongue-tied. So here it goes… I will attempt to explain the WAVE exercise in words. For those who are visual learners I’m also including a video. We’ll be using the YTU therapy balls, which kinesthetic learners will find helpful. Some of us like multiple ways of learning; I know that I do. I hope you catch the wave and enjoy the ride!

The Wave

1) SET POSITION with BREATH CHECK: Lie on the floor in ardha savasana/constructive rest position. Inhale and swell the belly, then the ribs, and then exhale. Repeat this breath pattern 3 more times. Noticing if there is any tension in your neck or the tops of your shoulders.

2) SELF MASSAGE: Place 1 YTU ball under your sacrum and the other one on or just slightly under your bra/bro strap. Rest and allow the balls to sink into these two areas of your body. The sustained compression will begin to soften the muscles and fascia here. On an exhale, round your lower back toward the floor slightly—use your abdominal muscles and pelvic floor. On an inhale, arch your lower back using the deep low-back muscles in conjunction with the transversus and pelvic floor. Continue this pattern for 5 more breaths, getting a sense of your body in the area from below the ribs to just above your tailbone. As you exhale and round your lower back, imagine rolling a marble from your pubic bone to your belly button. As you inhale, roll the marble from your navel back to your pubic symphysis. Notice if it feels easier to arch your lower back or to round your lower back. This will give you information about any front-to-back discrepancies in the strength of your tubular core muscles. Rest.

RE-SET POSITION in ardha savasana with BREATH CHECK: Take the balls out and notice any new sensations in your lower back. Does it feel heavier? lighter? warmer? cooler?

Inhale and swell the belly, then the ribs, and then exhale. Repeat this breathe pattern 3 more times. Is there less tension in the neck and tops of the shoulders?

3) THE EXERCISE: We’ll begin with WAVE UP in Flexion. Still lying on the floor, place 1 YTU ball on your xiphoid process – that’s the bony tip at the bottom of your sternum. Place the 2nd YTU ball on your pubic symphysis between your pubic bones. A muscle called the rectus abdominus attaches at these 2 places. This is the famous “6-pack” muscle on the cover of all the fitness magazines at the grocery store. It flexes your spine. Your feet are hip-distance apart with the toes pointing forward. Place one block between your feet and the other block between your thighs. On an exhale, press your lower back into the floor and peel your spine off of the mat one vertebra at a time until the pubic bone ball is much higher than the xiphoid ball near your sternum coming into your bridge position.

4) WAVE DOWN in Extension: Embrace your inner Beyoncé and let the spine arch and lower your tailbone down to the floor.  Then sequentially roll through the sacrum, low back, and middle back, and finally return to the lifted bridge position.

Continue to wave through 5 more times repeating steps 3 and 4.

5) THE EXERCISE in Reverse: WAVE UP in Extension: Inhale and bridge up your pelvis with slightly extended spine.

6) WAVE DOWN in Flexion: Sequentially lower the upper back, middle back, lower back, sacrum, and tailbone. Continue to WAVE through 5 more times. Imagine that your spinal vertebrae are like dominos. One gets tapped and the others follow suit in a rhythmic sequential fashion.

7) RE-SET POSITION with BREATH CHECK: Inhale and swell the belly, then the ribs, and then exhale. Repeat this breathe pattern 3 more times. Is there less tension in the neck and tops of the shoulders? More movement available to you in the belly and ribs on the inhalation.

If you want to know more about spinal articulation and the breath, check out this Yoga Tune Up® video of an exercise called “Bridge Lifts.”


Read more about back pain.

Rebuild core strength and spinal stability with Coregeous.

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