About the Flows

Spinal Flow


Learn and practice Neutral Spine Postural Awareness, in five minutes.

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Spinal Flow


All body fitness, progressed from recovery to elite. In five total minutes per day.

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Brief History  


Spinal Flow Yoga was created to treat neck and back pain at home by taking an all body fitness approach. I created it by integrating and simplifying what I knew from physical therapy, exercise science, yoga, and strength training, incorporated principles from the best of modern spine biomechanics research; Stuart McGill’s among others. The program is generalized to the human body, but adaptable to the individual, a system not dependent on the gym full of exercise equipment I had in my physical therapy office. I would go so far as to say that I was able to implicitly fit about 85% of my ideas into what are now two 5-minute exercise programs that are unique, elegant, and state of the art. If yoga means union (and it does) Spinal Flow Yoga is certainly union of the best of what I know, periodically updated as I further research, test, and refine ideas.

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 Spine you ask? This is why. An hour long workout was what I thought necessary and what I was used to from yoga, weight training (lifting was often two hours), and physical therapy. However, as much as I liked SFOne, I knew it wasn’t delivering what my weight routines were. Yes, it was a decent workout, it burned calories, it was good for the spine, but it was too much of an ‘all in one,’ and not something I wanted to do myself. I also found that people who liked yoga would do SFOne with me leading them, but they weren’t doing it at home, which was kind of the point. And I don’t know anyone who does yoga at home, unless they’re taking pics for instagram. So I divided SFOne into two shorter routines. SFMetcon (the hard stuff), and SFControl (the easy but still important work to teach neutral spine postural awareness). 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 that it too intense. 23 minutes may not sound like much, but 23 minutes of max effort is an unpleasant eternity. Despite my job, I honestly don’t like exercise in and of itself at all, rather the results, and I knew if I wasn’t going to do an intense 23 minute flow, neither would most. Especially people with neck and back pain. So that became one of my guiding lights. If the results were’t worth it enough for me to continually do it, then it wasn’t good enough for anyone else. And if I kept doing it myself, it wouldn’t be a one-off good idea, but something I would continually work at, and improve over time. And that’s one of the problems I faced in physical therapy. You set someone up on a rehab program, get fit and fixed, but if they didn’t keep up with it, some injuries are the kind that come back. So I made Spinal Flow Yoga to have obvious fitness, and appearance (for form follows function) value, beyond rehabilitation, worth keeping up for it’s own sake, and something you could do at home.

Finally, I had an epiphany on a single exercise that was so simple, but worked, and when applied to the rest, it allowed me to shorten the workout time to 7 minutes daily, and later 5 minutes, all while the program took a leap forward with regard to results. With the culmination of Spinal Flow Yoga’s RESISTANCE-5 (R5), five minute daily exercise system. The “flow” is no longer flowy, but the results are SO MUCH BETTER, and it takes ONLY TIVE MINUTES. Details on how here.

As for the easy but important if you have neck or back pain, “neutral-spine-postural-awareness” exercises? I reasoned that if 5 minutes was enough for fitness, no way were people going to want to spend 20 minutes working on postural awareness. I worked down SFControl to 5 minutes also; what I’m now calling POSTURE-5 (P5). Details here.


The above said, while R5 is my primary flow, and my personal workout, it isn’t strictly spine rehabilitation. Nor is R5 exactly where I would tell someone to start if they currently had spine pain. Consequently, I wasn’t sure about releasing R5 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 posture, awareness, and coordination work. Work that’s crucial if you have pain and are lacking said posture/awareness/coordination, and unfortunately most people with spine pain are lacking it all. 

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 R5 over the longer flows. So I had to figure out how to make R5, 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 R5. To solve the problem, I reduced the Level-1 intensity of R5 so that it’s easier for beginners to start, leaving level 2 much the same and I keep learning ways to make L3 harder. At the same time I took what I liked best from R5 (efficiency) and streamlined SFControl into Spinal Flow POSTURE-5 (P5) to explicitly teach ideal neutral spine posture in varied positions (minus the competing focus on fitness) in a 5-minute sequence also. I reasoned that as with R5, a 5-minute flow done frequently, would be infinitely more effective than a longer exercise sequence that’s not done at all. 

Together P5 and R5 are a very a complete and customizable spine rehabilitation and all body 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 P5 is that once the spine recovers, and when P5 techniques are internalized, P5 can be omitted, leaving just R5 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 explicitly with P5.

My suggestion is for people with current pain is to start P5 first, use the stick as a cue to lock down, understand, and feel what a neutral-spine is. At the same time preview the videos of R5 and think about what you can start with, without aggravating your condition. Then when you can do the P5, 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 R5. Many, perhaps most, will be able to start R5 within a few days of P5, but be sure to keep the USER RULES in mind. When you can easily do P5, keeping the spine in perfect positions without the stick or hand positions, P5 can be discontinued. 

I should add that while P5 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 P5 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 POSTURE-5 (P5) works

Like R5, P5 only takes 5 minutes to finish. Even better, P5 is easier to learn, perform, and explain than R5, but is important for those who have, or recently had, neck or back pain. Learning P5 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 P5 is likely necessary, both for optimal recovery and to prevent relapse.With P5 you’re not trying for exertion, rather technical precision, so it’s also a good place to start if looking at the R5 videos you’re thinking, “no way.” Unfortunately, P5 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 R5. Therefore, P5 the yin to R5’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.


R5 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, R5 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 R5, I’m genuinely curious whether more people will be interested in doing it for overall health and fitness. It’s that good.

How RESISTANCE-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.

R5 is primarily based on multi-joint exercises that hit as many muscle groups as possible at the same time. More muscles worked per exercise means you need less exercises to work the entire body.

Though R5 is strength training, Levels-2 and 3 of R5 are high rep enough, and incorporating enough muscle mass to raise the heart rate to aerobic conditioning levels, both during and for several minutes afterwards. Thus I think exploiting the same conditioning effects achieved with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Surprisingly, in spite of the fact that I do no additional aerobic training besides R5, my resting heart rate is 35 BPM. That’s well below the low 50s I was in years ago, when I was running 5 and 10Ks, and just 3 beats above Lance Armstrong’s reported lowest. So I feel like this is an amazing, if unexpected achievement from the program.

R5 is a split routine, such that you are training roughly one third of the body each day. This allows each day to be shorter. Because it’s short, you can train each exercise harder. Short and intense despite not being easy, ‘feels’ easier, physically and mentally, than long and intense, and even long and slow. Being quick and feeling ‘relatively’ easy, means you hate it less, miss less workouts, equating to greater progress. Also being able to focus on just 2-3 exercises per day, allows you to genuinely focus on them, working to make each one better, every time, instead of just going through the motions. I won’t lie, it’s still not easy per se, and I still hate it, but the gain per pain ratio is better than any workout I have ever tried. In short, it’s worth it, and within just a couple weeks you can tell it’s worth it.

Because it’s a 3 day split routine, each exercise gets 72 hours of recovery before it’s performed again, much reducing risk of overtraining, equating to better relative progress.

Because it’s the same exercises repeated every third day, you know if you are making progress. If you are not making progress REGULARLY, you’re not doing it right. It’s honestly not about doing any of the exercises by themselves, it’s about MAKING PROGRESS on those exercises. START EASY for sure, but once feeling good, confident, and adapted to the routine, every exercise becomes an all out effort. Each exercise is also a test, and you test yourself daily. Knowing where you stand with regards to percent of max performance per level, lets you know where you are in relationship of one muscle group to another, to where you started, and to your ultimate potential.

R5 is designed for balanced muscle development. This was done by choosing or creating exercises and goals that target balance between all body parts. Weak hips and legs means people use, and thereby strain their backs more when they lift. Weak hamstrings leads to increased risk of knee, back, and hamstring pain/strains. Weak hip muscles have even been associated foot pain like plantar fasciitis. Therefore, even if your focus is purely spine rehabilitation, total body fitness is still one of the best keys to recovery.

Because you are training daily, you are creating a habit. If you string together several weeks without a miss R5 becomes more and more like brushing your teeth. It’s just something you feel more weird if you don’t do it than if you do. A fitness habit you develop is infinitely more effective than any workout that’s been quit.

R5 is capped at 5 minutes, all but guaranteeing you won’t push it to obsession or burnout, and again making overuse injuries tough to get (assuming you are following the USER RULES).

R5 is presented via a website rather than a book. Therefore as quick as I can, learn or conceive and then test a variation or idea, I can immediately update the program. Preferring simplicity, I’m not wanting to add additional sequences, however, I am always testing to optimize the two I have, as well as my way of sharing the information. However, should a complete change prove better, as R5 did over SFOne, you’ll certainly see it here first. 

R5 is designed to work with for virtually ANY FITNESS LEVEL. If you can walk without limping, you can probably do R5. This individualization is accomplished by:

Having each exercise broken down into three levels

-Level-1 (L1) for people new to exercise and/or those currently injured.

-Level-2 (L2) for those of average fitness that are starting to feel better, and gaining confidence.

-Level-3 (L3) is challenging for just about anyone. I still can’t max out all the reps of Level-3 and I have been at it for 2 years and counting. 

Breaking difficulty level broken down by exercise, rather than by the whole routine. This way you can fully customize your routine to work with your individual strengths, weaknesses, and current injuries. Such that you may be L1 on some exercises, and L2 or L3 on others. For example, I do L3 on all of R5 with the exception of SideOuts, where I stay at L1, because of a prior shoulder injury. FR was able to accommodate my unique injury history, and is designed to do the same for most people.

Each level is further individualized by varying the repetition number, range of motion, and speed. For example a person just starting L1, unsure of what to expect, might do just 10 repetitions, slow and controlled, through a small range of motion. Over time, as confidence and strength increase they progresses through L1, increasing range of motion, repetitions, and speed. If and when the L1 goal is met, it’s a smooth transition to L2, where the exercise intensity and complexity increases, but repetitions, range and speed are reduced as needed. Transitioning from L2 to L3 is similar. Small ways of making progress helps ensure continued progress is made. 

L1 is designed to be ‘weight insensitive’, meaning that even though the exercises are bodyweight oriented, L1 is has you only lifting part of your body, through a partial range of motion. In other words, if you are fat, or scrawny, you can probably still do R5.

R5 encourages weight optimization. Once you have your habit in place and appreciate the appeal of evident progress, with L2 and L3, it becomes more and more weight idealizing, steering your diet in the best direction. As I was approaching the upper limits of my L3 exercises, I had to think hard about whether I wanted to gain or lose a couple pounds. And if I made a wrong decision, my performance on each exercise very quickly let me know. The answer for me has consistently been that I need to gain muscle, but not too bulky of muscle, and continually become leaner. So more like a sprinter than a weightlifter or bodybuilder. I use intermittent fasting to do this, aggressively to burn fat, but not too aggressive or I’d feel weaker. I’m sure the fasting has helped with the lessening of my resting heart rate. As there is less mileage of blood vessels, and less fatty occlusion that I need to pump blood through.

And finally, again, the USER RULES keep you safe. Common sense and well tested over the years in my physical therapy office helping discern if something is a “good pain” you should work through, or a “bad pain” you should avoid. With self testing and confidence in their use the user rules should keep you progressing while keeping you out of trouble.