Consistency Is Key!
To receive long-lasting mental and physical health benefits
from yoga we need to practice regularly, but how often do we have time to schedule in a 60 minute yoga class? It’s easier to stay on track with a short and effective practice that we can do daily at home. Stay tuned for a sequence that focuses more on quality over quantity.
Why Are These Poses “Important”?
Our spinal function affects our everyday quality of life from how we move (eg., sit, walk, pick up objects, turn our head to see over our shoulder) and sleep. The spinal cord is an extension of our central nervous system so an injury to it can have a far reaching negative impact on other bodily systems. The stretches we do in yoga promote good joint function and range of motion, which aids spinal health and reduces our overall risk for injury and back pain.
There Are 5 Major Movements The Spine Can Make Beyond Neutral:
1. Flexion (bend forward)
2. Axial Extension (straighten / flatten curves and lengthen)
3. Extension (bend back)
4. Lateral Flexion (bend to the side)
5. Rotation (twist)
Our daily tasks often do not require us to take our spine through its full range of movements, and as a result the spine gets stiff and loses its resilience.
This yoga sequence focuses on these 5 major movements. As an added bonus, the poses also stretch the hamstrings, hip flexors, and inner and outer hips for a quick yet comprehensive class.
♡ In every pose:
- Move with your breath as you transition in and out.
- Maintain deep, slow breathing as you hold each pose.
- Stay in each pose for 1-3 minutes.
1. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
- From a standing position near the top of your mat separate your feet hip width distance apart.
- Place your hands on your hips.
- Lengthen your spine upward.
- Fold in half at your hips, reaching your chest forward and sending your hips back until your spine is flat and parallel to the floor.
- Bend your knees enough that you can rest your ribs toward your thighs.
- Keep this connection and fold deeper as you hang the top of your head down toward the Earth and reach your sitting bones up toward the sky.
- Let your arms dangle to the ground and then grab for opposite elbows.
- Gently draw your elbows towards the ground.
- Softly nod your head ‘yes’ and shake it ‘no’ to double check that your neck is relaxed.
- You may choose to slowly sway your torso side-to-side like a pendulum.
2. Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Spinal Axial Extension
- From the Standing Forward Bend bring your hands to the floor slightly in front of your shoulders and walk your feet back until you are in an inverted “V” shape.
- Spread your fingers wide, align your wrist creases parallel with the top of your mat and push down through all 4 corners of your palms.
- Lift your heels high away from the floor pressing onto the balls of your feet.
- Bend your knees deeply and push through your hands to send your ribcage back toward your thighs.
- Spread your shoulder blades apart and spiral your triceps back.
- Keeping your knees bent, send the tops of your thighs back and up as you reach the top of your head towards the space between your thumbs.
- Focus on creating and feeling the sense of length and decompression in your spine.
3. Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
- From Downward Facing Dog step your right foot forward towards your right thumb.
- Bend your front knee to 90 degrees, aligning your knee directly over the heel of your front foot so your shin is perpendicular to the floor. Your feet should be hip-width apart with both feet facing forward. Come on to the ball of your back foot, lifting your heel and drawing it forward so it aligns directly over your back toes.
- Either keep your back knee lifted or to help you balance you can place it down on the ground.
- Walk your hands up on to your hips and square the front of your pelvis forward to the top of your mat. You may need to subtly pull your right hip back and push your left hip forward to find square.
- Reach your arms up overhead keeping them shoulder width apart with your palms facing in towards each other.
- Look slightly up above the horizon and lift the centre of your chest up towards your hands.
- Option to stay here or interlace your fingers behind your back with the palms facing in. Roll the heads of your shoulders back and hug the shoulder blades together and in as you press your chest more forward and up. Play with lifting your arms higher away from your back.
- To exit, plant your hands to the ground slightly in front of your shoulders and step back into Downward Facing Dog. Repeat on the opposite side.
4. Revolved Head-to-Knee (Parivritta Janu Sirasana)
Spinal Lateral Flexion
- From Downward Facing Dog bend your knees to the ground in a table top position, then sit back and over onto one side to slowly swing your legs in front of your body. Come into a seated position with your legs straight ahead.
- Open your legs into a wide “V” shape. Flex your feet drawing your toes back towards your shins as you push your heels forward. Take a slight bend in your knees so the back of them is a bit (½ inch) lifted away from the floor.
- Bend your right knee fully and place the sole of your right foot inside the left inner groin. Let your right knee drop out and get heavy towards the ground. If there is a lot of space between that knee and the floor, then place a folded blanket or pillow under it for support.
- Turn your chest to face towards your bent right knee.
- Place your left hand on the floor inside your left leg as close to your left foot as comfortably possible.
- Keep the base of your pelvis firmly rooted on the ground.
- Reach your right arm overhead as you lengthen your spine upward then reach it toward your left foot by bending your torso to the left side. Keep your chest facing your right knee.
- To exit, lengthen your torso upright and straighten your right leg out into the “V” shape again.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
5. Half Lord of the Fish (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
- From Revolved Head-to-Knee pose straighten your legs ahead of you and bring your feet together.
- Bend your right knee deeply and cross your right foot over your left leg bringing the sole of the right foot to the ground outside of the left knee. Keep the left leg straight OR bend the left knee and bring the foot outside of the right hip. If this causes your right sitting bone to lift away from the floor then keep the left leg straight out in front of you.
- Bring your right hand to the ground behind your spine. Use the help of your hand to press off the ground and lengthen your spine upright.
- Hug your left arm around the front of your right shin drawing your chest towards your right knee. Press your right sitting bone and foot firmly into the ground.
- Turn your chest to face the right side and turn your head to look over your right shoulder.
- To exit, release your arms so you can turn and face forward and then straighten your legs ahead of you.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
There you have it folks! Keep this well rounded sequence in your back pocket so you can pull it out and practice it at a moment's notice. As the saying goes, “You are as young as your spine is flexible.”
About Our Writer:
Lauren Dee Teaches Yoga Online and at International Yoga Retreats. Find Her on Instagram @laurendeeyoga or on Her Website laurendeeyoga.com to Receive Her Free eBook “Spirit Sweat” a How-To Handbook that Unites the Physical and Philosophical Practice of Yoga.