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Use This Spinal Exercise to Ease a Stiff Back & Move Like a Cat

Uncategorized Aug 20, 2016

 Have you seen the way a cat moves?

Hypnotic, powerful, graceful movement, only begins to describe it.

Especially when you observe their spine.

If you're looking to move better, for longer, with less pain - for martial arts, sports, hobbies or daily life - learning to move your spine more like a cat and less like a lump of concrete is something you may like to consider.

And that's what the spinal exercise I'm about to share with you in this article will help you do.



Why Create a Spine that Moves Like a Cat?

Why the heck not?

Just watch the video below and prepare to be mesmerised by the way the spines on these tigers move. 

 Can you see how valuable a fluid moving spine is, to support them moving so well?

Even though you may not be a tiger, you do have a similar spinal structure.

I neglected training my spine to move better for many years, as I wanted to get strong and lift heavy objects up and down.

While my strength definitely improved, my spinal movement became rigid, which contributed to a major spinal injury.

I lived with daily back pain that I realized was mainly caused by deeply stored muscular tension.

To undo it, I needed to learn how to release the tension from my back and restore it's natural, fluid, cat-like movement.

Thankfully I found a way after many years of research and practice. I discovered some deep practices that if approached sincerely, work wonders to free a stiff back.

So if you're like I was and your spine isn't moving as 'cat-like' and fluidly as you believe it can, the practice I share below can help you like it's helped me and hundreds of my students that I've shared it with.

Next, it's important you get a good visual of the human spine, so you can understand how to move it better.



An Internal View of the Human Spine

I see the role of the human spine to be a communication channel to transmit messages around the body and allow force to flow efficiently from limb to limb.

From an anatomy perspective, your spine runs from the base of the skull to the coccyx.

The spine is made up of a column of 26 bones / vertebrae in an adult body. This includes 24 separate vertebrae interspaced with cartilage, and then additionally the sacrum and coccyx.

Here's a video to give you an inside view of the spine:



The Spine Plays an Extremely Important Role in Our Bodies:

  1. To efficiently transfer force from the feet to the hands and vice versa,
  2. To protect your spinal chord, so you can efficiently send / receive messages from and to your brain,
  3. To provide posture and allow you to move with a quality of fluidity.

Beyond the general context, it's important to know that everyone's spine and body is unique.

So I recommend you get to know your unique spine as best as you can with a high-quality movement practice, or with a movement coach.

So this brings the next question ...

How do you train your spine so it can move with a more fluid, cat like quality?

There's many facets to this question, and a great place to start is learning how to segment, or open and close, your spinal vertebrae.

You'll get an overview of how to do that in the spinal exercise I'm about to share with you ...



Use the Standing Spine Segmentation Stretch for a More Fluid Moving Spine

Training and strengthening your spine while it's straight is useful for a strong back, but it can also lead to rigidity and excess tension being created, which inhibits your ability to move with fluidity.

My experience of only training my back while it's straight, contributed to my spinal injury.

To rebalance my body and rehabilitate my spine, I needed a more balanced approach to training my spine.

The Standing Spine Segmentation was inspired from my explorations into Taoist and internal martial arts practices.



A video posted by Benny Fergusson (@bennyfergusson) on


This a video from my Instagram of one of the many variations of the Spine Segmentation Stretch I teach. This is different to the spinal exercise I teach below.


Practice this movement consistently and you can experience:
  • Progressively improved feeling, strength and mobility in the tissue that connects each of your spinal vertebrae, so you can consciously control your spinal joints.
  • Better flow of fluids and nerve impulses that circulate up and down your spinal column.
  • Dramatically less pain in your neck, upper and lower spine and hips, and healing of spinal injuries (I recommend you seek professional guidance in this situation).

After some testing and upgrades I have found this practice very powerful for myself and my students, which is why it found it's place in the Big 7 Stretches I teach in the Embodied Flexibility program (included in Physical Freedom Academy).



Steps to Perform the Standing Spine Segmentation

These steps are general and basic guidelines.

If you have a spinal injury, I recommend you seek professional help, to ensure your individual needs are addressed.

Get more personal support for a better moving spine here.


Step 1. Get into the start position

  • Ensure your head gently lifts up and your hips sink down effortlessly, as I'm demonstrating in the image above.
  • This lengthens the spine and allows it to connect and segment more effectively.
  • Your arms should be relaxed down, like in the image in step 2.


Step 2. Soften and connect

  • Take a few deep breaths and feel your body relax into this position.
  • To further define the relaxation: here you're not fully relaxed / floppy, it's more the absence of muscular contraction that you're looking to allow.


Step 3. Perform the lowering phase

  • Imagine you're rounding over an invisible barrel as you perform the lowering phase of the spinal segmentation.
  • This is not a hinging action at the hips. If you do hinge you'll disengage the spine and compromise the releasing effect.
  • As you lower and segment the spine, imagine you're opening up your vertebrae from the back, as you relax and close your vertebrae from the front.
  • Inhale and feel your body expand, then exhale and release.
  • Segment and release your spine in as many segments as you can.
  • Begin releasing larger segments of your spine.
  • As your spinal sensitivity improves, you'll learn to release your spine one vertebrae at a time.


Step 4. Perform the Beak Twists

  • The beak twists help you to open the tissue in the middle back, shoulders and neck.
  • Inhale and turn the beaks out.
  • Exhale and allow the hands to hang down.


Step 5. Perform the raising phase

  • As you're raising, first sink your hips.
  • Then gently push your feet into the ground.
  • Imagine you're closing your vertebrae from the back, and opening them from the front.
  • Pay attention to keep your spine moving as one.
  • Don't relax or contract too much around any one area, as this can lead to overuse in individual vertebrae, and increase risk for potential injury (in the beginning of your development).
  • As you raise, inhale and expand. Exhale and release as you stack one vertebrae on top of the other.
  • Raise slowly. And continue the stacking action until you're standing.



Get More Detailed Teachings to Improve the Way Your Spine (And Whole Body) Moves

I've done my best to share this powerful spine rejuvenating exercise with the images and text above, to provide a great start to support your learning.

If you're looking to get more detailed videos and personalised guidance to create a more fluid moving spine (and whole body), I recommend you join our Physical Freedom Challenge.

The Physical Freedom Challenge is all about deepening your mind-body connection and growing your physical freedom.

On days 8 & 9 you'll discover our fluid spine practice to build more easeful movement around your whole back, and the areas that connect to it.

Click here to learn more and find out how to join.


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