We all know or have heard that regular practice of the ancient Chinese Mind & Body exercise of taijiquan is very beneficial towards maintaining and improving back & spinal column stiffness and tension. I have lost count of how many individuals have come to my classes with a back problem and gain tremendous benefit in helping them to manage and control their back problem, helping them to regain their flexibility and mobility within the muscles and joints of the back and spine, raising their vitality levels and balancing their emotions.
It is through the rolling of the shoulders and the gentle turning of the waist within the practice of taijiquan using its slow, soft, circular movements that gradually stretch the muscles of the upper and lower back and gently stretches open the joints of the spindle column. It is through the rolling of the shoulders in various circular directions that both the shoulder joints, muscles and tendons that surround the shoulders are stretched, which in-turn connects and works the scapulars and the muscles of the upper back including the thoracic part of the spine. Whereas, it is the turning of the waist from one side to the other, plus through action of the upper body learning forwards slightly as seen in the accompanying photo of Laoshi Keith Ewers practicing the Li Style (Lishi) Taijiquan that stretches the muscles of the lower back and lumber area of the spinal column.
Obviously within the practice of taijiquan the turning of the waist (Yao) guides and leads the movements of the upper and lower extremities. So the turning of the waist and the rolling of the shoulders are usually performed at the same time in the practice of taijiquan, some times the waist turning and shoulder rolling are performed moving in the same direction and on other times they are moving in opposite directions to each other. It is the through this action of turning the waist and rolling the shoulders that causes a traction within the muscles and joints of the back and spinal column that stretches the muscles and opens the joints of the shoulders, spinal column to release tension and joint stiffness helping the back to remain relaxed and pliable.
Practicing any of the Li Style (Lishi) Taiji Qigong exercises repeatedly on both sides of the body can greatly benefit individuals who suffer with muscle tension in the back and joint stiffness of the spine helping them to either prevent or manage better the health of their own back muscles and spinal column.