Good Morning Yoga Artwork
Season 4 - Episode 9

Good Morning Spine

40 min - Practice
42 likes
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Description

Engaging both Mula and Udayana Bandha, Alana leads us through a sequence to find opening in the upper back and chest through a series of Surya Namaskars with the assistance of two blocks. We then move through some hip opening postures in preparation for our peak pose, Ustrasana (Camel Pose). You will feel strong and expansive.
What You'll Need: Mat, Block (2)

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(waves lapping) Good morning, welcome back. In this practice, we're gonna focus on finding a bit more opening through the upper part of the back in upward facing dog using two blocks. You don't need two blocks for this practice, but we'll explore it together with the blocks if you have them, and there's a really nice moment to extend and open in upward facing dog, so we'll play with that together, and then find some opening through the hips in preparation for ustrasana. So join me on all fours, and we'll start in the usual fashion, spreading the fingers wide in table top and waking up the spine. Inhale, lengthening, exhale, curl in round.

Hips might draw back towards the heels. Inhale, shoulders over the wrists, arching wide through the collar bones. Be careful not to let the head come up and jam the neck, so finding that length through the neck, and then exhale, curl and get round. Again, hips might drop back towards the heels. Most likely there's a dull, achey stretch in the back of the body.

Let the inhale roll the pelvis forward, heart might draw through the shoulders, wide through the collar bones. Continue, exhale, a few more rounds, just moving at your own pace with your breath, waking up the spine. (deep breathing) Let the movement be interesting to you, so you might begin to lean from side to side, feeling the hips, the side body, the shoulders, up through the neck. Good, and then eventually come on to all fours, spread the fingers wide, we'll make our way towards plank pose, drawing the shoulder blades down the back, tucking the toes under. Walk your feet back into plank.

Pause here for a few breaths, then reaching back through the heels, forward through the heart, press down through the palms, the legs are active, and the naval is drawing towards the spine. Inhale, exhale, press back to downward facing dog. Taking a few breaths here, walking it off. It might feel nice to come high up onto the balls of your feet, and then begin to let the heels get heavy towards the floor. You might bend one knee and stretch the calf and heel to the floor, and then bend that knee, stretch the opposite calf and heel to the floor, gazing towards your belly button to stretch the back of the neck.

Good, one more inhale, exhale. Let the inhale bring you forward, back into plank pose, shoulders over the wrists. So you might, again, reach back through the balls of the feet, forward through the heart, shoulders over the wrists, and then lower the knees, keep the elbows into the rib cage, lower onto your belly. From here we'll find cobra. Press down through the tops of the feet, forehead on the floor, inner thighs spin towards each other as you draw the shoulder blades down the back.

Press lightly down through the palms, inhale, gently begin to peel the heart up off the floor, tractioning the heart forward. So you can use your fingertips here to draw the floor towards you, and then exhale, gently release. Three more times like that, pressing down, inhale, lifting. Exhale, releasing. Inhale lifts you up, finding length, wide through the collar bones, exhale lowers you down.

One more time, inhale, lifting, opening through the upper back. Exhale, release, bring the forehead to the floor, fingers towards the toes, spin the inner thighs up towards each other, inhale, lift up for a locust, shalabasana. Lift the heart, lift the thighs, reach the fingers towards the toes, spacious through the back of the neck. So if you find your head is looking up and your neck is cranking, check out looking towards the floor, find that length in the back of the neck as you draw the back body into the spine. Inhale, lift, exhale, release.

Bring the forehead towards the floor. Take a moment to pause here. You might shimmy the hips a little bit side to side, and then two more times, inhale, begin to lift the heart, lift the legs, reach the fingers towards the toes, and lift. Easy through the neck, exhale, release, forehead to the floor, or one cheek and ear to the floor. (deep breathing) Last time, as you're ready, inhale and lift, lift the thighs, fingers reaching towards the toes, inhale, lift, and exhale release, forehead to the floor, slide the palms underneath the shoulders, chin into the chest, and then press back, child's pose.

Hips towards the heels, forehead towards the floor. Take a few breaths into the back of the body. (deep breathing) Wide through the lower back, wide through the sacrum, and then slide the palms underneath the shoulders, chin to the chest, slowly roll up to vajrasana for just a moment. We're gonna find a child's pose variation with two blocks, if you have them, and then bring the blocks from here, out in front of you, bring your hands to the blocks, and then draw your hips back into child's pose. And you might play with the position here, bringing the forehead towards the floor, feeling a stretch through the shoulders, pressing the palms into the blocks, wide through the lower back, wide through the sacrum.

What would it feel like to press your pinkie fingers into the block, to encourage a wrapping through the shoulders, wide through your scapula, breathing. (deep breathing) When you feel ready, inhale, come back onto all fours, bring the shoulders over the wrists, we're gonna find plank pose from here with the blocks, which is pretty cool. Press down, again find the alignment for you, heels, heart, crown of the head, gazing down towards the floor, active through your legs, and then press back to downward facing dog with the two blocks under the hands. Notice this might feel like a different sensation with the two blocks, feeling the length through your spine. (deep breathing) A few breaths here. So from here in downward dog, walk your feet next to each other, and then inhale, reach the right leg up towards the sky, inhale, reach, and as you exhale, bring the right knee towards the right elbow, coming onto that left foot.

And then inhale, reach the right leg high, exhale, bring the right leg across towards your left elbow. Inhale, reach the right leg up towards the sky, and as you exhale, bring the knee towards the forehead, get round, inhale, reach the right leg up, and exhale, release the right leg down. Take a moment to pause, lengthen the spine. And we'll find that on the other side. Inhale, lift the left up towards the sky, inhale, reach, exhale, left knee towards the left elbow.

Inhale lift the left leg high, exhale, left knee towards the right elbow across the body, inhale high, exhale, knee to forehead, get round, inhale, reach high, exhale, let it release. Take a few breaths in downward dog, you might widen your stance here. (deep breathing) Grounding your full hand on the block, and as you're ready, walk or jump your feet towards your hands, bend the knees, uttanasana, and then release the head. Hands might release from the blocks, finding some length through the spine, back of the neck is super soft. (deep breathing) From uttanasana, soften the knees, chin into the chest, slowly roll up towards standing, keeping the chin in all the way until you feel the heart rise, the shoulders roll up, back, and down.

From here you might widen the feet just a little bit, taking a few moments to ground down through your feet, spreading your toes, and awakening the bandha, so mula bandha, drawing up on the pelvic floor, feeling that energetic lift of support, and then uddiyana bandha, so drawing the naval towards the spine, so we're creating this, like an inner girdle of support, just like we would work a bicep. We're finding that action and engaging the muscles inside as we meet that with the fullness of the breath expanding into the rib cage, expanding the lungs into the rib cage, ujjayi breath. (deep breathing) Again, it sounds a bit like the Darth Vader breath, the ocean breath, spacious through the nostrils, (inhaling) breathing wide into the rib cage, and awakening the bandhas, mula bandha, pelvic floor, uddiyana bandha, naval towards the spine, letting the tailbone descend towards your heels, as the base of your skull draws back, chin draws back and it widens. (deep breathing) So being aware of the bandhas will be an essential play when we come into upward facing dog and ustrasana, so just to be mindful of this action here, and to find it in tadasana. And then moving with our breath through surya namaskar B variations, so we'll play with that.

You might bring your feet slightly closer together, grounding down through the balls of the feet, toes spreading wide, again awakening the bandhas. Ujjayi breath. From here, surya namaskar B, utkatasana, bend the knees, sink the hips back, bring the hands together, and then gaze up towards the fingers, press the pinkies towards each other as you wrap through the shoulders. Find a bit more ease in the neck, inhale, exhale, forward fold. Hands might come to the blocks or the floor, release the head, inhale, half arch, lengthen the spine, exhale, walk or jump back into plank.

Take a moment to pause here in plank. You might lower the knees, and then bend the elbows. As you bend the elbow, stay above the block, so instead of dipping the shoulders down, keep the elbows into the rib cage, and then slide forward onto the tops of the feet, come into upward facing dog. Your knees can be on the floor, that's fine, or you might press down through the tops of your feet, active through the thighs, and then lifting fine and opening through the upper back, heart lifting, pinkie toes pressing towards the floor, keeping the bandhas engaged. And then exhale, press back, downward facing dog.

That's a lot of work. Taking a moment here, breathing, drawing the gaze towards the belly button. We'll find warrior one. Pivot onto the outer left edge of your foot, step your right foot forward between your hands, bend the right knee. On your inhale, rise up to warrior one, hands touching, and then wrapping through the shoulder, so bringing your pinkies towards each other, and then find length through the neck as you sink down to the right hip.

Drawing the right hip back, the left hip forward, gazing up, inhale, rooting through the outer edge of your back foot as you exhale, release. Step back into plank pose, pause here. You might lower your knees or lower chaturanga. Inhale, upward dog, pressing through the tops of the feet, wide through the lower back, wide through the upper back, lift, exhale, downward facing dog. Take a few breaths here.

(deep breathing) Pivot onto the outer right edge, step the left foot forward between your hands, take a moment to pause here, ground through the back foot, let the inhale bring you up, warrior one. Sink down into your left hip, and then find that wrapping action through your shoulders, left hip draws back, right hip draws forward. Can you feel this quality of lifting the ribs off the pelvis? Breathing, beautiful, inhale, exhale, release the hands, spin onto the ball of the back foot, step back into your plank pose, strong, beautiful plank, (laughing) and then lower down, chaturanga, inhale, upward dog. Press through the pinkie toes, lift, exaggerate the length in the front of the spine, shoulder blades draw down the back, wide through your collar bones, exhale, downward dog.

(sighing) It's alotta work to move slow and deliberately. A few full breaths, even through the side body, then gazing towards the naval. (deep breathing) As you're ready, walk or jump forward between your hands, your blocks. Inhale half arch, exhale forward fold. Bend your knees for utkatasana, spread the toes, sink back into your heels, inhale rise up, utkatasana.

Exhale, press down through your feet, rise up, release the arms. Take a moment to pause here, feel your breath, feel your heart, draw your awareness back down into your feet, and then joining the hands together at the heart. We'll find a variation together, utkatasana. Bend the knees, reach the arms up. Exhale, forward fold, release the head and the arms.

Inhale, half arch, lengthen. Exhale, walk or jump back into plank, and then lower, either on the knees, or through chaturanga, elbows into the ribs, inhale, slide forward, upward dog. Take a moment to pause here, again, drawing the shoulder blades down the back, heart through, pressing through the outer edges of the pinkie toes, thighs lifting, bandhas engaged. Exhale, downward facing dog. Take a few breaths here.

As you're ready, pivot onto the outer left edge, step the right foot forward between the hands, ground, inhale brings you up warrior one. Inhale, lift up a little, exhale, sink down a little. Inhale, lift up a little, exhale, sink down a little. Good, release the hands, spin onto the ball of the back foot, this time we're gonna come into a low lunge. Bend the left knee.

Together, inhale, draw your hips back, come onto your right heel, exhale, bend the front knee and sink in. One more time, inhale, drawing the hips back, flexing the right foot, exhale, bend the front knee and sink in. You might stay here, on the inhale you might bring your arms up towards the sky. Hook your thumbs, inhale, lift the heart, exhale, draw the shoulder blades, or the scapula, down the back, wide through the back body, and then feel the lift through the front body. Keep the bandhas engaged, mula bandah, uddiyana bandha, breathing into the rib cage, inhale, exhale, release the hands, find the internal rotation, bring the hands behind the back, let the inhale draw you up.

Lengthen through the front body. Gaze might look up. Lead with the heart, release the hands, tuck the back toes, lift the back leg, step back into plank. From here you might lower the knees, or chaturanga, to inhale, upward dog. Take a moment to pause in upward dog, feel that length in the front body, wide through the upper back.

Exhale, downward dog. A few breaths in downward dog. (deep breathing) As you're ready, pivot onto the outer right edge of the foot, step the left foot forward between the hands, root through the outer right edge of the back foot. Inhale, come up. Let the inhale lift you up, let the exhale sink you in.

Let the inhale bring you up, and let the exhale sink you in, breathing. Left hip draws back, lengthen the front line of the body as you draw the ribs up. Inhale, exhale, release the hands to the blocks, spin onto the ball of the back foot, lower the right knee into the lunge. Inhale, draw your hips back, come onto your left heel, exhale, sink in. Continue, inhale, draw the hips back, exhale, sink in.

Taking a moment to pause here. You might stay right where you are, you might let the inhale bring the arms up into a lunge. Hook the opposite thumb, let the inhale draw you up out of the waist, so the ribs are lifting up out of the pelvis, and then exhale, wide through the scapula, drawing the shoulder blades down the back, finding an alter for the heart. With the bandhas engaged, you might begin to lean back. Beautiful, inhale, exhale, release the hands, find that internal rotation, and then bring the opposite finger on top as you interlace.

Inhale, lift the heart, and then exhale. Find a place where the neck is comfortable. Good, let the heart draw you up, release the hands, tuck the back toes, lift the back leg in the shape of the lunge, step back into plank, and then lower down, chaturanga. Inhale, upward dog, wide through the collar bones, last one, press into the pinkie toes. Feel that stretch in the front body, open through the back body.

Find a place where the neck feels comfortable, inhale, exhale, press back downward facing dog. Take a few breaths here, you might walk it off, lengthen the back of your neck. (deep breathing) From here when you're ready, walk or jump forward between your hands, inhale, half arch, exhale, forward fold. Bend the knees, utkatasana, strong legs. Imagine the block was in between the thighs and you're drawing the inner thighs towards each other.

Breathing, naval towards the spine, sit bones descend towards the heels. Exhale, press down through your feet to rise up, release the arms. Taking another moment to pause, and observe, notice how you feel. You really tune into this sensation, the movement, the energy, rushing through the body. (deep breathing) Together making our way down to the floor with surya namaskar A, nice and easy, grounding through the feet.

Again, aware of the bandhas, the ujjayi breath in the rib cage. (deep breathing) And then moving with our breath, let the inhale reach the arms up, gaze might come up, exhale, forward fold. Releasing the head, releasing the arms, inhale, half arch, lengthen. Exhale, walk or jump back, find plank, lower through chaturanga, elbows into the rib cage. Inhale, upward dog, I said that was the last dog, but this will be the last updog, promise.

Exhale, downward dog, nice work. Lower the knees, take a moment to rest in child's pose. And if you like having the blocks under your hands, you might keep 'em there. Or you might prefer to release your arms along your sides, giving your arms a break, letting the shoulders release. And maybe there's a little wobble in there somewhere.

You might emphasize your exhalation, letting yourself settle. (deep breathing) As you're ready, palms underneath the shoulders, chin into the chest, rolling up for a moment to vajrasana, and pause. And now from here, we'll begin to feel our way towards ustrasana, camel pose, now that we've warmed up the upper back. So, for this you might like a blanket under your knees, especially if your knees are sensitive, so you might pause and go get one. If you have two blocks, set them up so that they're in line with your feet, the edge of the block is in line with your toes, and then take a moment here to come up onto your knees.

So the idea, as we begin to approach ustrasana, remember the feeling of lifting up through the pelvic floor and drawing the naval towards the spine. So again, the bandha is this inner quality of support inside as we lift, to help us not collapse through the lower back. So we're lifting and engaging, and then think about, let's do this together, bring your hands to your ribs, and then just begin to lift your rib cage up. Lifting your rib cage, wow, I felt that. Big lift up, lifting the ribs off of the pelvis, softening the shoulders down the back, aware of your breath.

(deep breathing) And this first one, we won't go back but we'll begin to tap into the elements of ustrasana, so hands might find each other at the heart. Again, engaging the bandhas here, and think about, instead of dropping into the back body, we'll play with, just like an upward dog, finding length in the front body, so it's a front body stretch. So hands together at the heart, softening, drawing the shoulder blades down the back, and just begin to, again with the bandhas engaged, begin to lift the heart towards the thumbs. Keeping the chin towards the heart, lift the heart towards the thumbs, and then lift the ribs up off the pelvis. Find that action, uddiyana bandha, drawing the naval towards the spine, lengthening the front of the body, lengthening the front of the body.

Keep the chin towards the heart, find the stretch, the action, the upper back. Beautiful, and then inhale, lead with the heart to come up, sit on your heels. Take a moment here. Relaxing the effort, and if it feels good, you might stretch and extend out through one heel, reaching the heel back, and on the other side. Good, and then come back, so we'll find that the same elements, actions again, you might stay with the hands together in prayer, or you might begin to play with bringing the hands back towards your blocks, because we've found a bit of opening through the hips and through the shoulders.

Okay, so awakening the bandhas, lifting the ribs up off the pelvis, hands together at the heart, shoulder blades draw down the back. Especially if you're working with any neck mischief, keep the chin into the chest the entire time without dropping it back. And then from here, begin to lift. And as you lift, draw the heart towards the hands. Think about opening the back of the body, before collapsing into the mid-back, the mid-spine.

You might stay right here, you might begin to reach one hand back, find your block, and reach the other hand back and find your block. Now from here you might readjust your blocks, keep the chin into the chest, and then begin to find that length in the front of the body, bandhas engaged, chin towards the chest. If appropriate, you might begin to play, might begin to play with dropping the head back, feeling that length through the front of the body, upper back, bandahs, breathing. Beautiful. When you're ready, keeping the bandhas engaged, using the belly, heart draws you up, and then sit back on your heels.

Take a moment to pause, and just check in with yourself. How did that go? How did that feel? Was it curious? Did it feel awesome? (laughing) Let's try it one more time together.

You might keep the blocks on the same level, at the highest setting, like I have them. You might choose to lower the block to the second side, if you went into the expression of camel. You can always take child's pose. Listen to your body. If you're joining me, come up onto your knees, stacking the hips over the knees about hip distance, pressing down through the tops of the feet.

I didn't mention this, but you might keep the tops of the feet pressing, or you might prefer to tuck the toes under. It just has a different flavor. For this one, I'll tuck my toes under, just for the sake of experimentation, see how it feels. And then engaging the bandhas, find that lift through the front body, upper back begins to open, shoulder blades draw down the back. Hands might stay together in a prayer, drawing the heart towards the thumbs, and then begin to lift the ribs up off the torso.

Again, you might stay right here, you might begin to play with reaching one hand back towards your block, the other hand back towards your block. You might stay with the chin towards the chest, or begin to open and release the head. Drawing the inner thighs towards each other, breathing. (deep breathing) Beautiful, and then slowly coming up, and sitting back on your heels. Taking a moment to pause here, can check in.

(deep breathing) And then we'll release our legs, so you can bring your block, your blocks off to the side. Come on to your sit bones, and we'll find a counter pose, paschimottanasana. If you have a blanket, you might tuck it underneath your sit bones, to just encourage the pelvis to roll forward. And for this, and you might try this at home, bringing a block right up against your feet. And then taking a moment to inhale, and then begin to bring the hands to the shins, and finding that length in the front of the body, that stretch in the front of the body before you round.

And then some of you might play with bringing your hands around the block, pressing the soles of the feet into the block. Inhale, lengthens the spine, oh this feels very nice, rounding through the sit bones, drawing the shoulder blades down the back, and then exhale brings you in. Just nice and easy breathing. (deep breathing) Making any little micro movements to lengthen the spine, and then round the spine, round the back. (deep breathing) And I have found, I'm discovering over the years of practicing, that it's not about the pose itself, it's not about how far we go in the posture, it's about the process.

It's meeting ourself in the process. Good, and then slowly make your way up, and just take a moment here. And then roll on to your back. We'll find our way into a spinal twist. I'm gonna roll around, and make your way onto your back, engaging your abdominals, and lowering down.

And then it might feel nice to draw your knees into your chest. Allow for an inhale and exhale, curl up. Bring the forehead towards the knees, get round into a ball, and then release. Let's take a spinal twist over to the right, so bring both knees over. You might roll onto your right side, and then let your left arm lift, reaching the right arm out to the side.

(deep breathing) And here unwinding, and... Breathing into the shape. You let it feel spacious between the eyes and right through the base of the skull. Wide through the upper pallet of the mouth, the jaw, letting the left shoulder and arm get heavy. A few more moments here.

When you're ready, inhale, lead with the top leg, come back up, and then roll over to your left side. Spinal twist, and you might stack the arms on top of each other, and then reach the right arm up. Let the right shoulder release, inhale, lengthening and then exhale, right shoulder towards the earth. (deep breathing) Releasing the back body, allowing the right shoulder to get heavy towards the floor. Feeling the breath ripple through the body.

When you're ready, inhale, lead with the top leg, come back. And last time, draw the knees in, again you might draw the chin into the chest and curl up, and then release into savasana, extending the legs, extending the arms, shoulder blades draw down the back, away from the ears, perhaps the palms are up. (deep breathing) Allow yourself here to take up space. You are welcome to stay here as long as you like. When you feel ready to begin to transition, invite movement into the body, and might feel nice to stretch the arms overhead, reaching from the toes to the fingers.

And then drawing the knees in, rolling to your side. You might take a moment to pause on your side, just allowing yourself to settle. When you're ready, pressing your way up towards the seat, closing our practice. (deep breathing) And getting the alignment of your body just right for you, drawing your awareness towards your heart, letting your hands join together there at the heart. Let's close together with an Om.

We'll take a clearing breath, breathing in, exhale, inhale, Oooommmm. Namaste. Thank you for your practice.

Comments

Christine L
1 person likes this.
Hi Alana,
What a great practice this morning! My upper body feels open and alive, and I am ready to lead with my heart today. Thank you so much for your clear instructions and your warm, engaging manner. I really appreciate your presence and your style of teaching :)
Namaste,
Christine
Alana Mitnick
HI Christine, I am so delighted to hear from you. Wow, what a beautiful discovery! I feel so grateful to get to share what I love and believe in...thank you for being here! Please keep me posted on your yoga journey. Namaste, Alana
Deana G.
Wow! I have major spine issues so naturally had to join you for this one. Camel has always been one move is need to skip -- or do a split/half variation. It always saddened me a bit as it looks amazing. Well, Alana, you did it. You eased me, slowly but surely into a full Camel (well, with blocks). Twice. It felt amaaaaazing. I'm in awe. Namaste, Deana
Deana G.
1 person likes this.
I've been on YogaAnytime every single morning. This practice continues to be my all-time favorite! Thanks Alana!
Alana Mitnick
Hi Deana, You are inspiration! I admire your dedication to daily practice and learning. Thank YOU for sharing!
Frederic M
1 person likes this.
Thanks Alana, great practice to open up the front body in updog or Ustrasana. As you say, it is the journey more than the destination that matters!
Lori
2 people like this.
Working with blocks in this way is awesome. I love this practice, thank you. :)
Alana Mitnick
Hi Lori! Yes, I love working with blocks in this way to find support, extension, and opening. So good. xoA
Ali
Ali
1 person likes this.
I really enjoyed using the blocks for plank, upward and downward-facing dogs. It gave a sense of spaciousness and of strength. Thank you Alana!
Alana Mitnick
Good morning Ali! Yes... blocks are my favorite for allowing support, space, and length in those postures... especially upward facing dog. So happy you found the practice useful and felt a sense of spaciousness and strength. Awesome work! xoA
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