Stiffness and discomfort in the middle back can arise from a variety of problems. Imagine how the spine is shaped, like a repeating S-curve that moves from the curl of the tailbone all the way up to the arch of the neck. There is one point along the middle back, the juncture between the lumbar and thoracic vertebrae that is particularly vulnerable. This week we will focus on creating gentle movement in this part of the body through twists and back bends.
Draw feet to left side of pelvis, knees stay in front of torso. Try to press left hip towards floor as you raise left arm overhead. Exhale and twist belly, ribs, chest and head to right. Release left arm to outside of right thigh, right arm can support behind the back.
Hold for up to 2 minutes, then release and change sides.
Therapeutics: Opens hips, stretches muscles along spine & neck
Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)
Sit with left leg cross-legged and that heel beside right hip. Step right foot down on the outside of the left knee. Inhale and wrap left arm around front of right knee. Exhale and twist into right leg, compressing the belly. Twist from belly, through ribs, chest, and then head.
Hold for up to 1 minute, then release and change sides.
Therapeutics: Compresses the belly to increase digestion, wrings out muscles along spine
Pasasana (Noose Pose)
Come into Malasana with left side towards wall. Inhale and lift torso away from knees. Exhale and bring right elbow onto outside of left knee to twist body to left. Place both hands on wall and gently lean torso back.
Therapeutics: Compresses abdominal organs, stretches muscles along spine, opens hips
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Begin on all fours with hands slightly forward of shoulders. Turn toes under and lift knees off floor. Keep shoulders wide and palms flat, press thighs and sit bones back, scooping belly in.
Hold 1-3 minutes, release into Child's Pose.
Therapeutics: Strengthens arms and shoulders, stretches back of torso and legs
Lay on belly with legs together and toes pointed back. Bring forearms to floor with elbows aligned under shoulders and forearms parallel to each other, palms facing down.
Life sternum forward and up through crown of head.
If lower back feels vulnerable, engage belly away from floor. Hold 5-10 breaths and resease chest to floor with hands under forehead.
Therapeutics: Stretches front of body, creates space between vertebrae
Salabhasana (Locust Pose)
Lie on belly with arms to sides. Press pubic bone into floor and lengthen legs behind you. Inhale and press palms towards ceiling as you lift legs away from floor.
Hold 5 breaths and release.
Therapeutics: Strengthens lower back and spinal muscles
Supported Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose)
Sit in front of a bolster with a long folded blanket on the other side. Lay back over bolster and place shoulders on blanket, head on floor as you lift hips away from the floor. Place block under hips and turn toes slightly in. Rest arms in cactus with palms facing upwards. Rest up to 5 minutes.
Therapeutics: Opens front of belly and solar plexus allowing for increased breath in these areas as well as tractioning the lower spine.
I attend Cheryl's class regularly and feel that my practice has improved immensely over the past few years due to her expert coaching. Her teaching style is clear and compassionate and her previous experience in teaching adults is evident in her organized approach and easy to understand instructions. I also appreciate that Cheryl not only teaches us about how to correctly position ourselves, but also touches on many aspects of yoga philosophy, which in turn has deepened my personal practice and heightened my awareness of the connection between mind and body, breath and relaxation.