A little bit goes a long way.

In our society, it can be very easy to get carried away with trying to fix a problem with a dramatic solution — in this age of instant gratification, it is normal to expect the answer or the solution to happen now. However, when it comes to back and neck pain, it’s important to remember that the ache is often a result of years of sitting a certain way or not exercising a specific muscle, and trying to wrench that muscle back into place after all the muscles and tissues around it have grown used to its position. Also, it is possible to injure yourself or increase the damage by over-stretching or working the area as you seek the quick fix.

This gentle exercise takes just minutes to perform, and yet can make a huge difference with pain and muscle tightness when done regularly.

Cat and Cow

This classic yoga pose helps the muscles around the spine loosen. Start on your hands and knees, with your knees directly below your hips and your hands directly below your shoulders. If you have knee pain, place a folded blanket or mat under your knees before you begin. Start by lifting your head to look up at the ceiling as you arch your back and drop your belly — imagine a cow raising its head to moo and letting its back sway low.

Second, keeping your knees and hands where they are, lower your head so that you’re looking toward the floor, arching your back like a cat.

Gently move back and forth between these two positions, breathing in as you move into the “cow” position and breathing out as you move into the “cat” position. Let your breath guide you on when you move from one position to the other. Once you’re comfortable, you can close your eyes as you move from one position to the other, letting the movement relax your muscles as you move. Repeat 10 to 20 times as you focus on your breathing.