It’s Monday again! The back is a very large space and when we spend most of our lives sitting down, maybe slouching, it is challenging to really move freely in your body. We’re going to focus on a few stretches for different parts of the back today, using a yoga block as an assistant!
Elevating your hips when sitting on the ground can help with alleviate hip tightness and open flexibility. Sit on the block in a cross-legged position, with your hands on your lower thighs/knees. Take three deep breaths. On an inhale, bring your right hand behind you, touching fingertips to the ground. Bring your left hand to your right knee and twist from your lower back on an exhale. Inhale reach your torso taller, imagining you’re growing a few inches, and exhale from there twisting more, pushing fingertips into the ground and left hand into the knee. Take four breaths like this and then on an inhale return to center, hands on knees and exhale. Inhale and begin on the other side with four breaths of stretching and twisting.
Repeat once more on each side.
Concentration: full back
SHOULDER WARM-UP/HANDSTAND PREP:
Sitting cross-legged on your mat (or on your knees if that’s more comfortable), bring the block straight out in front of you, at shoulder height (you should still be able to see over it). Plug your shoulders down away from your ears and down your back. Elongate your neck upwards and root your sitting bones down. Sit very tall.
Slowly raise your arms overhead, keeping the shoulders away from the ears, the sides of the body long and the sitting bones down. Stop when the block is directly above your head, squeeze it together and work towards straightening your arms.
Repeat 5 times, slowly. (Hold at the bottom for 20 seconds, and move between point A and B slowly, around 10 seconds).
Concentration: shoulders and upper back
SEATED FORWARD BEND:
Having your hips elevated helps your lower back expand and can help you reach forward further in the fold. Sit on your block, rooting your sitting bones down, feet straight out in front of you. Inhale your arms straight above your head (like we did in the previous exercise, just without the block this time) and come forward on the exhale, reaching your arms towards your feet. Keep your back straight and look beyond your feet at first. Really broaden through the shoulders and back and think about breathing into the middle and lower back. Place your hands on your legs, where flexibility permits; either on your feet (over the top of your toes or around the outsides), on your calves or on your thighs, just not directly on your knees. Activate the thighs and if you’re feeling very comfortable there, you can fold in and release your head.
Hold for five full breaths and then slowly roll back up.
Concentration: full back
SUPPORTED SHOULDER STAND:
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet planted on the ground, heels under the knees so that you could graze your heels with the tip of your middle finger. Lift your hips up into a bridge pose and slide the block on its lowest height under your sacrum (bony part at the bottom of your spine). Release your body weight onto the block and once you’re comfortable there, lift one leg at a time, straight up. Stack your heels over your hips. You’re in an inversion! This is a wonderful option if you’re not ready to hold your full body weight 100% in an inversion.
Hold for three to five minutes.
Concentration: full back, including shoulders and neck
Begin the exact same way as the supported shoulder stand, and slide the block under the sacrum, releasing your full body weight onto it. You can adjust it to the lower or high height as needed. Your hands can remain at your sides, palms up, or in “robot arms” with your elbow on the ground and your hands up, facing each other.
Your hip flexors can get even more of a release if you straighten your legs out in front of you on the ground.
Hold for three to five minutes
Concentration: hip flexors and lower back
Outfit: Ellie (This is the September Box, and I absolutely LOVE these pieces)
Photography: Mel Denisse