Yin Yoga for the Spine
The spine has six degrees of freedom, meaning that it can move forward and backward, side-bend and rotate right and left. The following sequence explores all these movements, purposefully and carefully stressing the ligaments and fascia of the spine. Dull, diffuse and achey sensations are to be expected, but feel free to adjust the intensity or come out of the pose earlier if it feels too overwhelming. Practitioners with history of disc or sciatic nerve-related pain are cautioned not to push themselves to the maximal limits of their range of motion. A gentle firming action of the low abdominal and inner thigh muscles may provide additional support to the spine.
1. Supported Bridge
Lie on your back with knees bent and feet hips-distance apart on the floor. Lift the buttocks off, placing a block at the appropriate height under your pelvis (NOT low back). The low back is arched, with the arms, shoulders and head resting on the mat.
Target areas: Stretch to hip flexors, abdomen & chest, mild low back compression
2. Sphinx Plus
Lie on your belly and prop yourself up on your forearms with the elbows resting elevated on a bolster. Keep the chest slightly lifted and the chin slightly tucked in to lengthen the back of the neck. The legs are bent at the knees with feet resting against each other. If the intensity of low back pressure is too much, feel free to lower the forearms and legs onto the floor.
Target areas: mid to low back compression, stretch to hip flexors
3. Half Butterfly
Sit with both legs straightened out on the mat, then bend the right knee placing the sole of right foot against the left inner thigh. Bend forwards from the hips and allow the spine to round. Rest your hands on the mat while keeping the shoulders relaxed. Continue with #4 Deer Twist on the same side.
Target areas: Stretch to hamstrings and calf of straight leg, & entire back
4. Deer Twist
From Half Butterfly, bend the left knee to point the left foot behind you, keeping the right foot against the left inner thigh. Take hold of your right knee with your left hand and turn your chest further to the right.
Target areas: Spinal twist with hip joints in both external & internal rotation
Remember to repeat poses #3 and #4 on the other side.
Lie on your back with the legs straight and begin to walk your feet slowly to the left until you feel a stretch to right side of your hips. Cross the right ankle over the left. Then side-bend the trunk to the left and clasp on to your elbows overhead. Repeat the pose on the other side.
Target areas: stretch to convex side of outer thigh, hip, ribcage and armpit areas.
6. Final Relaxation
Finish the sequence by hugging your knees to your chest and then lying on your back with arms and legs comfortably apart. You may also wish to support the knees with a bolster under them, which will help to ease the low back. Let go of any remaining tension with each exhalation effortlessly. Allow your body and mind to rest in that calm, quiet space.