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Season 2 - Episode 1

Shoulder Opening

30 min - Practice


Alana guides Elaine and Clella through a gentle sequence, designed to activate and open the rib cage and shoulders. This results in greater range of movement, and a deeper, fuller breath.
What You'll Need: Mat, Strap, Block (2)

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(waves lapping against shore) Welcome, thank you for joining us. Thank you, Elaine and Clella for being with us today. We're going to begin with a posture called, impressing the heart. So, at home, if you have two blocks, have two blocks with you, I'll show a variation, two blocks with Clella and then with Elaine we'll do a block supporting the shoulder blades and then a combination of a bolster and a blanket under your head. So you might have two blocks at home, you might have a combination of one block, a bolster and a blanket.

And you might play with it to see what feels best for you as you come into the posture. Okay, so, with Elaine, I'll ask you to scoot that way. And you're going to turn and face that direction. And so, the block is going to be, and just sit up for a moment. The block is going to be supporting the shoulder blades, so it's not so much of a back bend at the spine, but it's right between the shoulder blades supporting the back of the heart.

So you'll stay here just a moment and I'm going to place the block and the variation for Elaine, going to bring a bolster under her head for support and an extra blanket and we might play with this to find the right fit for Elaine today. Okay, so when you're ready, you're going to come on down. And then, so for Elaine, we're going to fold the blanket again and then she's going to release her head down. Yeah, and start with your feet on the floor, generally I find this helps to kind of get the back ready. So it gives the back some preparation. And then drawing your shoulder blades down the back.

Having the block between the shoulder blades can be quite dramatic, you'll feel a block like it's wedged between the back of the heart and the shoulder blades. How does that feel, Elaine? It's okay. So, drawing the shoulder blades down the back. Good, yeah.

And I'll set Clella up with two blocks so this is another variation. So, again, just sit up for a moment, so a block is going to be supporting your shoulder blades. So, you'll just stay where you are. And then the second block is going to be supporting the base of her skull. Okay, at the highest setting.

Okay, so as she's ready, she'll come on down. And it can take some time to really play with this and find the spot that feels supportive between the shoulder blades. And reach your arms out to the side and let's see how that feels. How does that feel? Pretty good.

It's okay? Yeah. Good and you might draw your chin towards your chest just letting the back of the neck lengthen. Good, with the feet on the floor and try bringing your heels in a little closer to your hips and see how that feels. And the knees might rest together with the feet just gently wide.

Good and drawing the shoulder blades down the back. You might keep your hands on the floor. This might feel best on your shoulders. You might explore letting your palms turn up. Again, this oftentimes helps to encourage this feeling, this quality of opening for the chest and the collarbones.

Good. Again, so this can be quite dramatic when opening, so bring some attention towards your breath. This is, usually the best place to start is with the breath. And then as you exhale, let the exhalation encourage the shoulder blades to release towards your block. So, inhaling, and as you exhale at the shoulder blades, and the back of the heart, we see that support, perhaps allowing the front of the body to open and soften.

Good and scanning the body for any gripping, softening through the eyes, the jaw, the shoulders. Good, allowing the weight of your head to release. And now, often times here, with that support, under the shoulder blades, the ribs kind of want to do this, so allowing the rib cage to soften. Good. Noticing the quality of the inhale and the exhale, again shoulder blades softening towards the support.

And here you might find keeping your feet on the floor feels best on your lower back, you might choose to find about a baddha konasana with the soles of the feet touching, the knees wide or extending the legs towards straight. Mmm-hmmm. So, here we have two different variations that you may try at home. Always checking with your lower back, so if you feel any compression in the lower back, you might readjust so that again, it feels supportive and just really holding your attention, letting your attention rest on your breath. Good, so at home you might stay here for a few minutes, some of you might choose, if you have two blocks, to lower the block to the second setting and I'll demonstrate on Clella, so the block is, a little head massage.

(laughter) So the block is supporting her head, so it's not jammed into the neck but it's supporting her head and then her shoulder blades are drawing down her back, and there's a widening through the collar bones. Good, and that softening of the rib cage, softening of the brow. Good. There's many variations so the arms might rest here, some of you might even find the cactus arms so the softening of the elbows here and the shoulder blades drawing down the back. Good, just about another minute or so.

(exhale) Breathing. And so, one of the intentions here is to create, to have a feeling, an experience of this quality of opening for the chest and as I mentioned, we can tend to spend some of our day rounding forward so that there's a curve happening through the upper back, so this helps to bring us into the opposite shape. And just notice as you're here and pressing the heart, what's happening with your breath. So you might find that you can actually access the breath, it's much more fuller here. And then as we move through our practice, we'll reference this feeling as we come up towards standing, we'll do some standing postures.

Moving into tadasana to help us find that alignment in standing pose. Okay, so, whenever you feel ready, at home, you can bend your knees, so bringing your feet on the floor. Now, always coming out of this posture, it's a bit awkward, you've got all these props here, so do your best, take your time to roll to the side, you roll all the way off your blocks to your side, and you might pause on your side for a moment and then bringing your blocks, props off to the side, roll onto your back. And here's where a yoga buddy comes in handy. I'm going to bring some support in under Elaine's head.

Thank you. You're welcome. Okay, and just, as you come onto your back, take a moment to just prelax the effort and notice how you feel. Good. And you might perhaps notice or feel an impression where the block was supporting your shoulder blades, just taking a few moments to simply notice.

Good and then a clearing breath. Inhale (inhale). And exhale, release. Good and as you're ready, stretching your arms overhead so, into the center, letting your arms release down along the floor, the elbows might be slightly bent, so you can just curl up your arms, reach over the top of your head. Exactly, moving into the windshield wiper.

So, feet on the floor, soles of your feet slightly wider than your hips, exactly. And then, as you're ready, you'll inhale and exhale, let your knees fall to one side, coming onto the edges of your feet and inhale, let your knees come back at the center, exhale, roll over to the other side. Beautiful and just continue to move back and forth with your breath so, it's just initial movement to just checking with your body, notice how you feel. Beautiful, Elaine. So, here Elaine is demonstrating the arms, like this.

And Clella lengthening through the arms and the fingers and just a few more moments. Tuning in to the movement and the spine so from the tailbone up through the base of the skull, your head might move with your knees or away from your knees. And the key here is to initiate the movement with the breath. So, you're coordinating the movement with your breath. Beautiful.

Good, and then let the knees come back up to center. And releasing the arms along your sides. Good. And then from here, reach your right arm up towards the ceiling, towards the sky. Good, you're just going to reach your right arm up and then your shoulder blade will release up off the floor as if you were reaching across your body, like you were picking some fruit.

Good. And now releasing the right arm down to the floor. Good, and then reach the left arm up, reach across your body, let the shoulder blade lift up off the floor, and then release it down and do that a few times, reaching the right arm up and keeping it relaxed for the neck, releasing it down, and the left ram reaches up and across. Good, and down one more time on both sides. Right arm reaching, shoulder blade lifting and release, beautiful and the other side.

Ah, good and then release. Good and then draw your knees into your chest. Good, roll to your side and then use your arms to press yourself up towards the seat. So, you can just roll to your side, use your arms, press yourself up. Good.

Okay. And now, we're going to be making our way towards standing, so it's nice to take a few moments to just pause, because usually as we make our way up, it's like, it takes a few minutes because (exhale) you feel a little lightheaded. So just take a few moments to sit up and then making our way towards standing, so there's many different ways to come up in your own fashion. So, with Elaine, I'll demonstrate bringing a block here. And now at home, you can use a block, you can use a chair, a sofa to make your way up.

Just don't use a pet because those things like to run around. So, really taking your time to come up towards standing, beautiful, beautiful. And then, yeah, pushing your props off to the side and props are wonderful but they can be obstacles if we're not careful. Exactly, and then taking a few moments, we're going to stand in tadasana so feel free to face each other, good. And now, sort of feels like to come into a wider stance, so just finding a wider, stable stance.

Good, spreading the toes. Good and taking a moment to lengthen up through the spine. So, generally a wider stance can feel more supportive. It's like there's a quality of ground beneath your legs and your feet. You notice that?

Let's see what it feels like to bring the feet closer together. So, generally this is less stable, a bit more demanding, requires a bit more attention, balance, focus, Elaine's nodding her head. (laughter) Good. And let's go a little bit wider now. So, find the stance for you at home that feels supportive and comfortable, good, the feet are underneath the hips, beautiful.

And stay there for just a few moments, lengthening up through the spine. Now here, see if you at home can remember that feeling of impressing the heart in the opening posture. So as you spread the toes and lengthen up through the spine, can you remember the feeling of the block supporting your shoulder blades? All right and can you access that feeling as you find that alignment, as you lengthen up, as you soften the shoulders down the back, as you widen for the base of the skull. And I'm just going to have a visual here.

So, remember the feeling of the block supporting your shoulder blades, good, that widening for the base of the skull. Shoulder blades softening down, tailbone reaching towards the heels. Good. And then from here we'll move towards some shoulder, shoulder opening with a strap. Okay, so you'll open your strap up, again at home, you can use a strap, you can use a belt, a tie, can be creative.

Now, the closer the hands together, the closer the hands are together, just like our feet, it's a big more demanding in the shoulders. So, finding a slightly wider grip and bringing the strap between the thumbs and the fingers, and let the strap come down towards the thighs, good. And we'll inhale, let the strap come up over the top of the head. Beautiful, go down through the feet and go up through the spine, so you're really lengthening from the hard end of the hands and then soften for the neck. Good, let the shoulder blades come down.

Yes, shoulders away from the ears and then exhale, release the arms down. Good. And now, as you move, think about engaging the whole upper body, so I'll just watch, I'll just demonstrate for a moment. So, it's one thing to be moving the arms like this, it's another to really engage the upper body, the rib cage, the shoulder blades, so notice the difference as I inhale and reaching up the rib cage, the shoulder blades, there's an opening here. Now, often times, the temptation is to, is to do this through the lower back, you see that compression happening?

You see that? So, as you reach the arms up, the action will be reach up and lengthen, shoulder blades draw down the back and then ew want to draw the tailbone under a bit. Does that make sense? So, instead of coming into this shape, we're really bringing attention towards the lower belly, navel, towards the spine action. Okay, so let's do that together.

As you're ready, inhale, reach the arms up and again, feeling the rib cage, the shoulder blades, the collarbones and then exhale and release. And a few more times. Inhaling. And exhale, and release. Let's do this two more times together.

Beautiful and release. And one more time. Good, this time we'll hold, reaching and lengthening up through your spine, yes, lengthening for the back, for the neck. Good, inhale, exhale, release. Okay, last time, we're going to inhale.

And you might stay right here. If it's comfortable on your shoulders, you might play with widening the strap and reaching the strap slightly behind you. But remember that temptation to roll the pelvis forward and have that compression through the lower back, so there's an opening through the shoulders, good. Exhale and release. Okay, one more time.

Inhale, then you might stay right here with the arms overhead, you might begin to take it up, out and over to the right, looking down towards the right as you lengthen through the left side. Good, breathing into the left side. Use that top arm, inhale, come all the way back up. And then taking it up, out and over to the left. Oh, that feels good.

Letting the right side lengthen, again you might look down towards the left. Relaxing the neck. Beautiful, inhale, come all the way back up and exhale, release. Whew! Okay, and then squeeze the shoulders up behind your ears, exhale and then release. Now let's fold the strap in half while we have it.

And we're going to bring the strap behind our back. Okay, I'll demonstrate so you can stay where you are and I'm just going to turn so you can see it at home. So, bringing the strap behind the back, about shoulder width apart, and thew action is to reach the hands towards the heels and the shoulder blades drawing down the back. Okay, so this is active here and the shoulder blades are squeezing in towards each other into the spine. Good and lengthening up through the spine, yes.

Shoulder blades relaxing, hands stretching towards the heels and the front of the body lengthening, breathing. (laughing) Good and the shoulder blades, yeah, drawing towards each other, can you feel that work? Oh yes. Oh yes. (laughter) Good and take one more breath here.

Good and then release. Okay, your strap. Good and let's find tadasana. We'll just simply standing with the feet underneath the hips, the arms along your sides, again lengthening up through the spine and then letting the hands join each other at the heart. And then moving with our breath so we'll find quarter sun salutations.

Okay, so spreading the toes, lengthening up, and allow for an inhale and as you exhale, let the hands come down to the floor. As you inhale, circle the arms up, lengthening, reaching and then exhale, hands together at the heart. And continue moving with your breath, inhale, exhale, press, inhale, circling the arms up, reaching with the fingers and exhale, hands together at the heart and four more rounds. So moving at home with your breath and engaging the whole upper body so the rib cage is moving, the collarbones, the shoulders. Finding that nice fluid breath.

Keeping the eyes gently focused. (exhale) Again, completing the round you're on. Nice. And then releasing the arms and finding tadasana mountain pose. Spreading the toes, lengthening up through the spine, remember the feeling of the block supporting your shoulder blade, so this is active and the shoulder blades drawn towards each other.

Yes, the heart lifting. That widening for the base of the skull. Letting the palms turn open. Beautiful and then relaxing the effort. Okay.

We're going to make our way down towards the floor and as you make your way down towards the floor, you might have a block nearby, you might have a chair there, a sofa, no cat. (laughing) At least not for support, but it can be supporting you in other ways in your practice. Good, and then find your way onto your back and draw your knees into your chest. So, we're gonna come down towards savasana. Drawing your knees into your chest, get your own speed.

Might have a blanket supporting your head. Beautiful. Good and let's do this. Keep your right knee under your chest, extend your left leg and as you extend your left leg, flex your foot, lengthen through the heel, soften the shoulders and the jaw and then let your thigh bone descend towards the floor. This is just getting a nice opening through here, can you feel that, Clella?

Good. Elaine showing a variation with one hand on the knee and lengthening, good. And then as you're ready, you're going to switch. So, draw your left knee to your chest, extend through your right heel, beautiful. Good, letting the thigh bone descend and this leg that's extended is active.

Good. And exhale and switch, draw the right knee in. And here you might begin to bring some attention towards the abdominals as you switch, do you feel that? Good, and then switch, draw the opposite knee in and keeping the leg that's extended active, and we'll do that one more time, switch. Exhale, draw the knee in, extend, beautiful.

Inhale, exhale and switch. This is the last time. Draw the left knee in. Good and then release. Okay, now as you come into savasana, the legs might be simply extended, you might bring your feet up on the floor to support your lower back.

You might have a bolster nearby to support your knees. Which I know Elaine prefers. And as you come into savasana and relaxing the effort, eyes soften, the head release. And lasting in the space you created in your practice. And so at home you might rest in savasana for a few minutes, just really giving yourself the permission to drop in and relax before getting up and moving through your day.

And then eventually, as you're ready, bringing some attention back towards your breath. And taking your time to gradually invite some movement back into your fingers and your toes. And then eventually drawing your knees into your chest. Good and rolling to a side using your arms to press yourself up. And we'll just take a few moments to sit together to close our practice.

And taking a breath in and exhale. (exhale) Bring the hands joined together at the heart. And namaste.


Irene Lugsdin
Great cueing, thoughtful and responsive. I would drop "the Granny" from the title and keep using "gentle" as this is good for all ages, limitations and experience. Thanks
Alana Mitnick
Hi Irene! So glad you enjoyed the practice. I teach Granny Yoga in Ojai, Calif. through Lulu Bandha's and an organization called Help of Ojai. We decided to keep the name online as a way of creating a connection. While most of the practices are gentle, some are more vigorous and designed to increase balance and vitality...and yes, good for all ages, limitations and experience. Thank you for sharing!
Irene Lugsdin
I appreciate your reply. Thanks Alana.
Jamie M
1 person likes this.
I hope you will create many more Granny Yoga. I am in my thirties but not as flexible as before after a bicycle injury (knees). I find these to be great and still challenging, which I love. Thanks!
Alana Mitnick
Hi Jamie! Welcome to Yoga Anytime. We are so glad that you are here, and that these practices are a good match for you. Please stay in touch and connect in with any questions. xo
Kavita S
1 person likes this.
Class is amazing ....lil surfing problem in yogaanytime site ...
Alana Mitnick
Hi Kavita, Thanks for joining us! Love these ladies (and practice) so much. Warmly, Alana

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