Strengthen Your Spine, Part 2

By Claire Diab and Dennis Boyle
When firefighters have to deploy a hoseline, they never know exactly what direction the hose will have to be stretched. It may be straight, left, right, up, down, or turning right or turning left. A firefighter’s spine will encounter a similar variety of positions. Strengthening and lengthening the spine in all of these directions with an integrative yoga routine will help keep the spine strong, flexible, healthy, and ready.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “Preventing back injuries is a major workplace safety challenge. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one million workers suffer back injuries each year, and back injuries account for one of every five workplace injuries or illnesses. Further, one-fourth of all compensation indemnity claims involve back injuries, costing industry billions of dollars on top of the pain and suffering borne by employees.” 1
Flexible body/flexible mind

The wisdom of being flexible physically and mentally reflects in a healthy, active spine throughout a firefighter’s career and into retirement. This wisdom is timeless and can be found in many ancient wisdom texts. The Tao Te Ch’ing (551 to 479 BC) states:

“The flexible are preserved unbroken.
The bent become straight.
The empty are filled.
The exhausted become renewed.”

–Lau Tzu, Tao Te Ch’ing


Flexibility strength training has become so recognized that the American College of Sports Medicine has added flexibility training to its general exercise recommendations, advising that stretching exercises for the major muscle groups be performed two to three days per week. We recommend a three- to five-minute daily routine such as the one we explain and teach in these two articles.

In our previous article, we practiced four basic positions: Table Top, Dog, Cat, and Child’s Pose. These positions are rounded off for a complete workout with the following sequence:
Table Top Pose: Side Bend Right

Inhate, Table Top Pose

Exhale, Side Bend Right

Inhale From Table Top Pose (on your hands and knees) Exhale sliding the feet to the right, slightly bending your right elbow, look over the right arm at your right foot.

Inhale back to center or Table Top

Table Top Pose: Side Bend Left:

Inhale, Table Top Pose

Exhale, Side Bend Left

Inhale from Table Top Pose.

Exhale, sliding the feet to the left, slightly bending your left elbow, look over the left arm at your left foot.

Inhale back to center or Table Top.

Table Top Pose: Turning Right

Inhale/Exhale, Table Top with Knees Widened


Inhale Turning Right

From Table Top Pose, bring your knees wider apart. Inhale and exhale.

Inhale, reach right arm up toward the sky, looking at right fingertips.

Exhale, bring right arm down to Table Top.
Table Top Pose: Turning Left

Inhale/Exhale, Table Top with Knees Widened

Inhale Turning Left

Inhale, reach left arm up toward the sky, looking at left fingertips.

Exhale, bring left arm down to Table Top.

This sequence completes the six directions of the spine. Beginning in Table Top, do six to eight repetitions of Dog/Cat (Forward Bend/ Back Bend from Article 1), then six to eight repetitions of Side Bend Right and Side Bend Left, and finish with six to eight repetitions of Turning Right and Turning Left. The six directions of the spine, when performed daily for three to five minutes, strengthen and lengthen the spine and calm the central nervous system, which leads to maintaining internal and external balance on and off the job.
An essential difference between youthful vitality and the languor of old age is flexibility. By combining flexibility with balance and strength, the firefighter can maintain optimum health throughout his firefighting career and enjoy good health in retirement. Flexibility allows one to be more adaptable.
Remember: Add life to your years and years to your life. A healthy spine is the key to health and longevity while on the job and into retirement.




Claire Diab is an internationally recognized Yoga therapist. She is the director of the Yoga Program for the Chopra Center founded by Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. David Simon. She is an adjunct professor of Asian Studies at Seton Hall University. She is the author of several books and DVDs on Yoga including “Yoga For Firefighters.” 


Dennis Boyle is a retired fire director and acting chief with the West Orange (NJ) Fire Department. He was the recipient of the 1999 New Jersey Deputy Fire Chiefs “Fire Officer of the Year” award.

For more information, visit Read “Strengthen Your Spine, Part 1” HERE.

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