The nice thing about wiggling around on the ball (Ball Trick #1) is that it loosens, limbers up, and relaxes you. The other tricks then flow naturally as a form of play – and just happen to also be healthy.
From the sitting-on-the-ball position you just walk forward with your feet and let the ball move up your body until your back is resting on the ball. Position the knees over the feet so they are bent at a 90-degree angle. (The further apart your feet are the easier it will be to keep your balance.)
You can do whatever you want with your hands and arms but if you throw them back in the opposite direction of your feet (further apart maybe) you’ll find various places that stretch various parts of your chest and shoulders and enhance the overall effect of draping your spine “back over the ball.” If you are limber enough to reach the floor, great – if not no problem.
By rolling the ball toward and away from your feet you can shift the fulcrum and mobilize and massage the spine throughout most of the rib cage area.
There are two main precautions, which if you are young and healthy can probably be ignored; but if you are less young and less healthy can be a deal breaker and hurt you.
First, as you drape your back over the ball your head will fall backward toward the ground into an extended position. This can be and often is a high-risk position, causing pain or dizziness, and potentially much worse trouble. DON’T DO IT if you or your health care professional have any doubts or if after doing it you experience any problems with pain, dizziness, visual disturbance or anything else that makes you uncomfortable.
There is a modification, which will allow you to avoid any extension of the neck, it goes like this: leave your head and neck on the ball and do not go back as far. This will limit the stretch and spinal motion to the top part of the spine, but it is still much better than nothing. You can also lift and support your head with one hand.
The second precaution has to do with over extending the lower spine. When you are over the ball and your knees are over your feet, the thighs are level with the floor. As you roll the ball further up your spine, the lower spine becomes suspended in the air. It is important maintain a “neutral” spine or pelvic tilt while doing this or there may be too much backward bending of the last vertebra on the tailbone (sacrum). Again, if you are young and haven’t been hurt too bad yet, this isn’t really an issue; if not, then doing the move the way I’ve described it will enhance your spinal stability and exercise your “core.”
While you could do the “back over the ball” trick longer, I generally recommend doing it only during the commercials (60-90 seconds at a time).
Have fun, and if you have a questions or concerns about how to do the exercises or whether you are a candidate, ask your health professional. There are a number of issues having to do with your balance, weight, health conditions such as heart disease, or other reasons why it would not be a good idea for you to do the ball. Ask your doctor first.