The Magic Midback and Grace

Have you noticed that some people move gracefully?

Graceful people seem to glide through the air as they walk. The chest and ribcage seem to balance effortlessly over the lower back, hips and legs. Upper body and lower body work in harmony. Other people don’t. What is the difference?

To begin, a disclaimer is appropriate. There are probably several issues at play. Seldom does a single cause explain everything. Having said that, the mid-back is a particularly rich place to explore. The pay-off is worth the effort.

At the mid-back, two spinal curves intersect. The upper back (chest and ribcage) arcs backward; the backside is longer than the front side. The lower back (lumbar spine) arcs forward; the frontside is longer than the backside. A general rule is: where two opposing spinal curves meet, the possibility for restriction is high. If no midback restriction exists, the body moves smoothly.

If a restriction exists, the body loses that smoothness. The upper body and lower body appear disconnected. Notice someone “who bends over to please” or “pops the chest out”; a pinched midback is likely involved.

If a restriction exists, how can knowledge and awareness help?

First, you can consider how the midback works. Three guidelines are offered:

1. joint work best when weight is carried through the center,

2. joints work best when coordinated with nearby joints to distribute the job, and

3. in the midback region, vertebrae should side-bend and rotate in opposite directions.

Second, with these guidelines in mind, increase awareness of your midback. Bring attention to it.

Picture your legs falling downward from the diaphragm and your chest rising upward from the diaphragm. This will tend to reduce both the upper back and lower back curves, which physically opens the midback. Then breathe to the midback and bring movement to that newly created space.

Lying on your back, rotate the legs to the right and the chest to the left. Feel the stretch in the mid-back. Then reverse directions – legs left and chest right. But don’t get stuck on learned movements. Make up your own stretches as you sit, stand or lie. Healing movements are usually best when born into the moment. Follow instinct. Be creative. Your body will tell you what it wants.

As movement becomes more graceful, expect additional benefits. For example, digestion might improve, and constipation (if present) is likely to decrease. Headaches may become less frequent. Predicting specific benefits is not an exact science, but associated benefits are highly probable. Almost certainly, you will feel a sense of freedom.

Enjoy your flexible midback and the feeling of grace that accompanies it.


Jack Menear