Spinal Flow Yoga was created to treat spine pain at home by taking an all body fitness approach. I did so by integrating and simplifying what I knew from physical therapy, exercise science, yoga, and strength training. Also incorporated were principles secondary to an in depth understanding of the best of modern spine biomechanics research; Stuart McGill’s among others. In doing so I wanted a generalized but adaptable program that anyone could apply at home, not dependent on the gym full of exercise equipment I had in my physical therapy office. I simplified all of this into what are now two 5-minute yoga sequences that are a truly modern, if unconventional. If yoga means union (it does) Spinal Flow Yoga is certainly union of the best of what I know. To better appreciate what Spinal Flow is now, I think it helps to understand from where it came.
The first Spinal Flow Yoga (SFOne) was an hour long all body flow, performed with a neutral spine (why neutral you ask? this is why), being what I thought necessary and with a duration I was used to from yoga, weight training, and providing physical therapy treatments. However, as much as I liked it, I knew it wasn’t delivering what my weight training routines were. It was a good compromise, but because it wasn’t the best, I didn’t want to do it. I also found that people who liked yoga would do SFOne with me leading them, but they weren’t doing it at home, at least not for long and I had to think as to why. I then divided SFOne into two shorter routines. SFMetcon (as my strength and conditioning flow) and SFControl (to teach neutral-spine awareness and coordination). At first I thought SFMetcon was the answer. It was only 23 minutes long, it was intense, and something you could do quickly. The problem was that SFMetcon was too intense, yet not done quickly enough. I literally had to psych myself up for it, and once developed, like SFOne, I didn’t want to do it either. It was intended to be a 2-3 day per week workout that but because it was so hard I to put off until the end of the day, then put off until the following day, and then I wouldn’t want to do it at because I had missed a few weeks and my performance had backslid. It was effective, but I hated it. I honestly don’t like exercise, but walking through Walmart I’m it becomes obvious most people like exercise less than me. I knew if I wasn’t going to do a 23 minute flow, neither would my target market.
I soon realized that if I wanted to make Spinal Flow do what I wanted I was going to have to do it myself as my sole form of exercise. Only then would I know with any certainty what did what, and this was in relation to not only muscles but motivation. It had to be clearly worth the effort. For me spine pain is no longer an issue so much as overall health and fitness was. Thus I wanted to make Spinal Flow not only the best spine rehabilitation workout, but also the best all body home workout, bar none. I wanted Spinal Flow to effectively optimize health, performance, willpower, and (forgive me) appearance, at the same time that it helped eliminate spine pain, delivering for all of us what I think we want; the most gain for the least pain. Finally, I had an epiphany on a single exercise was so simple, but worked, and allowed me to shorten the workout time to 7 minutes daily. I took my new concept further, reducing Spinal Flow to 5 minutes and it was even better. With the culmination of Spinal Flow Force-5 (F5), my 5-minute, admittedly not very flowy flow, I think I nailed it. F5 is my routine, it’s what I do for overall fitness, and it’s good for the spine.
The above said, while F5 is my primary flow, and my personal workout, it isn’t strictly spine rehabilitation. Nor is F5 exactly where I would tell someone to start if they currently had spine pain. Consequently I wasn’t sure about releasing F5 as a rehab workout. Part of what I removed from SFOne to make it faster and more effective for strength and stamina, was the slower, low intensity, neutral-spine awareness and coordination work. Work that’s crucial if you have pain and are lacking said awareness/coordination, and unfortunately most people with spine pain are lacking both.
I also knew people with spine pain would have as many, if not more, barriers preventing exercise as anyone else, and I was sure that like me, most would prefer F5 over the longer flows. So I had to figure out how to make F5, and Spinal Flow Yoga as a whole, work for people currently in pain, as that was and still is my primary focus. Yet I didn’t want to dilute the effectiveness of F5. To solve the problem, I reduced the Level-1 intensity of F5 so that it’s easier for beginners to start, leaving levels 2 and 3 alone. At the same time I took what I liked best from F5 (efficiency) and streamlined SFControl into Spinal CONTROL-5 (C5) to explicitly teach ideal spine mechanics (minus the competing focus on fitness) in a 5-minute sequence also. I reasoned that as with F5, a 5-minute flow done frequently, would be infinitely more effective that a longer exercise sequence that’s not done at all.
Together C5 and F5 are a very a complete and customizable spine rehabilitation and fitness system. Good enough for the vast majority of spine pain sufferers, unique, and for which I don’t know of any viable competitors. What’s cool about C5 is that once the spine recovers and when C5 techniques are internalized, C5 can be omitted, leaving just F5 to be continued. Which will take one’s fitness about as far as most would want to go, but still reinforcing the neutral-spine awareness and coordination achieved with C5.
My suggestion is for people with current pain is to start C5 first, use the stick as a cue to lock down, understand, and feel what that neutral-spine is. At the same time preview the videos of F5 and think about what one can start without aggravating their condition. Then when you can do the C5, without the stick, and without any increase in pain, using the ‘axis’ hand positions to maintain a neutral spine, then begin some or all of F5. Many, perhaps most, will be able to start F5 within a few days of starting C5, but be sure to keep the USER RULES in mind. When you can easily do C5, keeping the spine in perfect positions without the stick or hand positions, C5 can be discontinued.
I should add that while C5 is designed for people with spine pain, it’s not only for people with spine pain. Poor spine awareness and motor control is common in those without pain also, thus learning C5 will go a long way towards prevention of future injury and degeneration, being well worth the short time it takes for most anyone to learn.
How CONTROL-5 (C5) works
Like F5, C5 only takes 5 minutes to finish. Even better, C5 is easier to learn, perform, and explain than F5, but is important for those who have, or recently had, neck or back pain. Learning C5 will go a long way towards prevention too, so it’s well worth the time it takes for anyone to learn. But, if you currently an injured spine, perfecting C5 is likely necessary, both for optimal recovery and to prevent relapse.With C5 you’re not trying for exertion, rather technical precision, so it’s also a good place to start if looking at the F5 videos you’re thinking, “no way.” Unfortunately, C5 won’t make you strong, but it will teach what postures and movement patterns keep the spine healthy, allow it to heal, and lessen pain, so strength can better advance with F5. Therefore, C5 the yin to F5’s yang, where you are learning what not to do, as much as what to do, learning how to NOT bend and twist your spine while standing, moving, sitting, lying down and rolling over, etc. These simple postures and movements that are seemingly no big deal if alls well, but overdone, either sustained, or repeated, they are the primary causes of spine injury and pain. And after which everyone, physicians included, often think, “it came out of nowhere.” And for which unfortunately, many people come to expect as just a normal part of life.
F5 turned out better than I ever expected. It’s not a compromise for me to not have a gym membership, it’s a preference. In less time than it took me to get dressed for the gym, F5 is done for the day. Now I’m no longer doing Spinal Flow just to learn, test, and develop for others. I’m doing it for me, because I think it’s the best workout, not only for myself and people with back pain, but for most anyone, in most situations, period. So while Spinal Flow was originally intended to treat neck and back pain, with F5, I’m genuinely curious whether more people will be interested in doing it for overall health and fitness. It’s that good.
How FORCE-5 works
Admittedly a highly effective 5-minute total body workout sounds a bit too good to be true. If it wasn’t me I don’t think I would believe it. But working on it for about two years now, I think I’ve worked out the whys, and how scientifically it makes sense.
F5 is designed to work with for virtually ANY FITNESS LEVEL. If you can walk without limping, you can probably do F5. This individualization is accomplished by: