Good Morning Yoga Artwork
Season 5 - Episode 3

Love Your Spine

40 min - Practice


Alana guides us in a fluid backbending practice designed to play with movement in the back body and to create more freedom through the spine. You will feel a new sense of ease in the body.
What You'll Need: Mat

About This Video

Jan 13, 2017
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(waves crashing) Good morning. So in this practice, we're gonna play with some movement through the spine, sensing the back of our body, and finding perhaps a bit more freedom through the spine. So join me at the top of your mat, and we're first gonna start with our feet wide, and stretch your arms out to the sides. And then begin to just feel and find the external rotation, so the arms turning out and then the internal rotation with the shoulders rolling forward, and maybe your spine might round a little bit here. And then as you come into that external rotation, emphasize a little bit by drawing the elbows under and up, creating a bit more space through the front of the body.

Palms might turn up. And then exhale. Begin to exaggerate the movement as you round, and maybe there's like a dull, achy stretch through the back body. Let's do this a few times, feeling the movement through the spine as you find the internal rotation, rounding, and the external rotation. Elbows, palms opening, and a few more times where you're initiating the movement from the shoulders but feeling that freedom through the upper back and the spine, this nice, fluid movement as you ground through your feet.

(inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) Nice, the next time you draw the elbows under and up and find that external rotation, begin to reach from the heart into your pinky fingers. Find a bit more ease up through your neck. Palms up, inhale, and then exhale, release your arms down. Together we'll inhale and draw our shoulders up around our ears. And then exhale, drop the shoulders down the back.

Walking the feet together, coming to the top of our mat and beginning to move with our breath, finding a sun salutation, so just take a few moments here to ground, feeling your feet, feeling the length up through your spine, and inviting your breath to deepen. And can you get a sense of the breath in the back body here? Notice the relationship with the back body as the breath moves and expands. As you ground through the feet, lengthening up through the spine and really wide through the base of your skull. Chin might draw in.

Let's draw our hands together at our heart. Taking a clearing breath, inhale. (inhaling deeply) Exhale everything. (exhaling deeply) On an inhale, circle the arms up to the sky. Reach up, lengthen.

You might linger here for a moment, and then exhale, navel into the spine, maybe a soft bend through your knees, forward fold, releasing the head and releasing the arms. On your inhale, lengthen the spine. Exhale, bend your knees, walk your feet back into a plank, and take a moment to pause in your plank. From here, lower the knees, and lower all the way onto your belly. Inhale, cobra.

Tops of the feet, draw the shoulders down the back. Inhale, rise up. Wide through the collar bones and the chest, drawing the heart forward, and then exhale, release. Tuck your toes under, press up, and back to downward facing dog, and let's take three full breaths here in our downward dog. Spreading the fingers, lengthening through our spine.

You might gaze towards the belly button to let the back of the neck lengthen. (inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) (inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) From here, walk or hop your feet towards your hands. Inhale, half arch, lengthen your spine. Exhale, forward fold, maybe a soft bend through your knees. On an inhale, strong legs, circle the arms up to the sky.

Linger at the top as you lengthen, and then exhale, release the arms down. Hands draw together at the heart, clearing breath. (inhaling deeply) Exhale, ground through the feet. (exhaling deeply) Inhale, circle your arms up to the sky, lengthen. Exhale, forward fold.

Hinge at your hips, release your head and your arms. Inhale, half arch, lengthen. Exhale, step back into your plank. Take a moment to pause in your plank, tune your feet, tune your legs, your belly, and then slow either the knees or all the way through a chaturanga. Nice and slow, keeping the elbows into your ribs, shoulder blades draw down your back.

As you come onto your belly, we'll take rolling cobra from here. Soften the shoulders down the back. Inhale, peel the heart up. And then slowly with the heart, release. Five more times.

Pressing down, head last, peel the heart up, cobra, and then draw the heart forward as you release. Inhale, press, chin draws in, and head lifts last. And release. Three more. Press up, lift, draw the heart forward, and release.

Two more times. Finding this fluid movement through the upper back, through the spine. And next time you lower yourself down, take a moment to pause. Bring the forehead to the floor. Stretch the fingers towards the toes.

On your inhale, begin to lift the chest and lift the legs. Coming into locus. From here, swim the arms out to the side and over the top of the head. Lift the thighs, lift the chest, and then interlace the fingers behind the back, draw the head into the hands as you lift. And then exhale, release.

Slide the palms back underneath your shoulders. Tuck your toes under. As you press up onto your knees nice and slow, get round through your back. Keep your toes tucked under as you find this kind of angry cat shape. Here's a nice, wide stretch through the mid-back.

Take a nice full breath. (inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) Nice. From here, inhale, come back into table top. We're gonna come on to our belly from here, and continue our back-bending exploration as we stretch our arms out, and inhale up into a sphinx pose. So from here, come up onto your forearms, and the elbows are in front of your shoulders.

And then take a moment to lengthen your legs. You might press into the outer pinkie toes a little bit, find that internal rotation. And then action here is to begin to, with the forearms, draw the heart forward as you soften the shoulder blades down the back. Wide through the lower back. And then releasing the head a little bit, softening through the jaw.

Here you usually in sphinx pose, I feel like a dull, achy pooling of energy through the mid, lower back. You're moving into this passive back bend, softening through the face. (exhaling deeply) Breathing. You might stay right here. You might turn your hands out and begin to press up and come into a variation of seal pose.

But really be attentive and listen to your back here. If you're here in seal pose, kind of arms are straight, you're softening a little bit through the front of the body. Right. You might stay here, you might choose to walk your hands a little bit closer in, really being attentive with your back. Softening through the jaw.

See if you can relax a little bit through the butt. When you're ready, slowly walk your hands out, release. Slide the palms underneath your shoulders. Tuck your toes under, we'll get round again, finding that like angry cat shape. Nice, full exhalation.

Toes tucked under. And then drawing the hips back towards the heels. Take a nice, full breath into the back of your body. (inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) Let an inhale bring you forward onto all fours into table top, and moving into cat cow from here. So releasing the tops of the feet.

As you inhale, roll the pelvis forward, wide through your collar bones, lengthening the front of your spine, and then exhale, pull the belly up and in. Get round. It might feel nice again to draw your hips towards your heels. This feels pretty great for me. And then shoulders over the wrists as you inhale.

Roll the pelvis forward, draw the heart through, without pinching your neck, and then exhale, pull the belly in, explore the back body. Nice, full breath here. Again, inhale, roll the pelvis forward, wide through those hip bones. And then exhale, get round, feel that stretch all the way through the back as you draw your hips towards your heels, child's pose. Walk the arms out in front of you.

(inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) From here, finding a side stretch, walk your arms, your hands over to the right, like about a two o'clock hour. Press through your fingers, and then reach your left hip away from your hands. So as you reach, begin to reach and lengthen, take a nice, full breath into your left side. (inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) Find a place where the neck and head are comfortable. Maintain length on that underside, that right side.

Walk the arms back through to the center, and then over to the left. And if we were a clock, it would be kind of that 10, 11 o'clock hour. Press through the fingers, and then draw your right hip away from your right hand. (exhaling deeply) Take a nice, full breath into the right side of your body. Maintain that length through the underside.

(inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) When you're ready, walk your arms back through to the center and then round your way up into table top, all fours. Shoulders over the wrists, setting up for plank. Spread the fingers, tuck the toes. Walk your feet back into plank. From plank, press back, downward facing dog.

From downward dog, we're gonna roll forward in the plank pose. When you're ready, curl the tailbone under, draw the navel into the spine, get round through the upper back, and then slow, round your way forward. Bring your shoulders over your wrists. You might need to adjust your feet as you come into plank, and then press through the fingers as you roll your way back into downward facing dog. Let's explore that a few times.

Inhale, rolling your way forward. Stay round through the upper back. Shoulders over the wrists, plank, and then root, get round, press back, downward facing dog. Now take slightly longer downward dogs. So lock your feet back.

This time you might round forward into plank, or round through into an upward facing dog. As you're ready, come high up onto the balls of your feet, and then round, draw your shoulders over your wrists. Maintain the roundingness through the upper back, draw the navel into the spine, stay in plank, or roll through into upward dog. Draw the shoulders down the back, peel the heart up, lift the thighs, engage the belly. Inhale.

Exhale, navel to the spine, downward facing dog. Walk it off a little bit, and breathe. (exhaling deeply) (inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) Nice, from here, walk or hop your feet towards your hands. If you're hopping, bend the knees, and hop. Inhale, lengthen.

Exhale, lower fold. And then press through the feet, inhale. Circle the arms up to the sky. Reach up, and then exhale. Release the arms.

And take a few moments just to feel the spine, feel the body lengthen. Moving into a variation of sun salutation B, arms down along your sides, spread your toes. When you're ready, bend your knees, and come into chair pose. Press the palms together, wrap the upper arm bones, sink into both hips, draw the belly into the spine, get a sense of lengthening out of the lower back. Inhale, and then exhale, come to standing, and bend forward.

Release the head and the arms. Inhale, half arch, lengthen, and exhale, step back into your plank pose. Taking a moment to pause in your plank, lower to your knees, or through your chaturanga nice and slow, keeping your elbows in, keeping your core engaged. Inhale to your cobra, or roll forward into upward dog. Press, lift, lengthen.

Exhale, navel to spine, downward facing dog. Take a few breaths here, walk it off. Can you feel the breath in the back of your body? (inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) As you're ready, inhale, the right leg high to the sky. Square your hips, and then exhale, bring the foot between your hands.

We'll come into a high lunge from here, so organize your feet, strong through the legs. The play here is to roll your way up into your warrior one, it's not easy. Press down and lift, and then the eagle wrap, wrapping the left arm underneath the right. Here you can play with rounding forward and feeling the sensation through the back body. Wow! Take a nice, full breath.

Keep the legs strong and active. (exhaling deeply) You might lift up. Release the arms, inhale, reach up. Exhale, lower the hands. Spin onto the ball of the back foot, lower the knee, and then rise up into a lunge.

We'll interlace the fingers behind the back, inhale, and lift the heart, brightening the chest. And then release the hands. Tuck the back toes, lift the back leg, we'll come into a pyramid variation, pressing into the ball of the right foot, lengthening the front of the spine as you draw the right hip back and in. You might fold over in pyramid, which can feel like a sweet release after a warrior one. (exhaling deeply) So one more, inhale, exhale, root the hands around the foot, bend the front knee, step back, downward facing dog.

Breathing. You might peddle the feet and walk it off a little bit. We'll find that on the other side. Inhale, the left leg high to the sky, square in the hips. And then step the left foot forward between the hands.

As we come into our high lunge, root through your feet, round through your spine, and you might play here with rounding your way up. So tricky. Arms reach up, and you kind of feel the spine peel up. Ooh. And then we'll bring our left arm underneath our right.

Might bend the back knee a little bit. Press through the ball of the left foot, and then play here with, the play is to breathe. (chuckles) And you might explore rounding a little bit here, drawing the elbows into the belly, and maybe you bring the elbows up towards the sky, breathing into the back of the body. (inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) Ooh, when you're ready, inhale, the arms up, and then exhale, lower the hands. Spin onto the ball of the back foot, find your lunge.

Inhale, rise up, interlace opposite finger in front, and then you might play with lifting, lengthening the spine, maybe a gentle back bend here. Breathing. (exhaling deeply) Okay one more, inhale, exhale, release the hands. Tuck the back toes, lift the back leg, and find a pyramid stretch. Drawing the left hip back, lengthening the spine, and it might feel good, or not, to fold forward and release over the left leg.

(inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) Taking a few breaths. (inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) When you're ready, bend the left knee, reorganize your hands, step back, downward facing dog. Beautiful job, beautiful work. Inhale, forward into plank pose, shoulders over the wrists. Lower your knees, or lower through your chaturanga, nice and slow, keeping the elbows in, keeping the shoulders drawing down the back.

Inhale to cobra, or upward dog. Press, lift, lengthen, and feel the stretch in the front of your spine. And then exhale, press back, downward facing dog. Ooh, taking a few breaths here. (exhaling deeply) (inhaling deeply) You might bend your knees a little bit, and play here with some movement through the spine.

Finding this bit of a spinal wave through the spine. Good, from here, you might walk or hop your feet forward to your hands. Inhale, lengthen. And exhale, fold forward. Spread the toes.

Inhale, circle the arms up to the sky. Reach up and lengthen. Beautiful, exhale. Release the arms, taking a moment to pause. Grounding through the feet.

Taking a few moments to feel your feet and feel your breath. Feel the quality up through the spine. Now from here, we'll come down and we'll play towards camel, finding that length through the front of the spine as we begin to open the chest and draw the shoulders back. So, come onto your knees, and from here, if your knees are tender, you might bring a blanket underneath your knees, or fold your mat, which can be pretty cool to bring underneath your knees. And then come up onto your knees, your knees are about hips distance apart.

And depending on you, you might feel more, more secure, having your toes tucked under, or the tops of the feet down. And before we come down, we're gonna play with finding length through the spine. So from here, I'm gonna tuck my toes under, if that feels good for my knees, and then let's just inhale the arms up to the sky. And as you reach the arms up, think about drawing your hip points towards each other, feel a lift up through the pelvic floor, and then length, up through the front of your spine. So it's not like we're just dropping back into a back bend.

But so much of the back bend happens from feeling this length and integrity through the core and through the front of the body. So first step is we'll inhale, the arms up to the sky, and just take a few moments here to really stretch and lengthen. Draw your tailbone under towards your heels a bit. Lift up through the pelvic floor, and feel your ribcage lifting up off of your pelvis. Beautiful.

Yes, and then bend your knees, release your hands down. And then you can release the tops of the feet. Take a moment to pause. Okay, we'll try that again. Come up onto the knees, and inhale, the arms up.

Draw the tailbone under, lift up through the pelvic floor and feel the length up through your spine, brightening your heart without even dropping back. Just feel that length, feel that reach as you keep drawing your tailbone under. Yes, inhale. And then exhale, bend, and release. And as you release, it can feel nice to kind of sink your hips back, and feel the belly drawing in a little bit, sitting on your heels.

Let's try it again, come back up. Again you might tuck your toes under, or release the tops of the feet. As you're ready, we'll inhale, lift up. You might stay here. You might begin to bring your hands onto your hips, so you draw your thumbs just around your sacrum, and then begin to draw the shoulders under the back, and lift the heart, remember, drawing the tailbone under, lifting up through the pelvic floor and brightening up through the heart.

You might stay right here, keeping the chin drawing in to the chest. Inhale, and on your exhale, you might continue to release one hand, and maybe both hands. Keeping the chin to the chest, as you brighten up through the chest. And you might stay here for appropriate, you might begin to release your head, coming in to full camel. Breathing.

(inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) Keep drawing the inner thighs, the inner hip points towards each other. When you're ready, bring one hand to your hip, your sacrum, and then slowly come back up, and then sit back down. Take a moment to pause on your heels. (inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) Hands might rest on the thighs. Just like notice here, how you feel.

Check in with your body, that might be enough this morning. You might choose to take a second round. Readjusting. Inhale, lifting up and lengthening, bringing the hands behind you as you draw the tailbone under, draw the sacrum up and in, lengthen up through the front of the spine, and then again, maybe you're releasing the hands towards the heels, or the sole of the foot. Brightening up through the chest, keeping your chin in, or dropping your head back.

And breathing. (exhaling deeply) Find lift through the sternum, through the upper back. Drawing your thighs forward. Beautiful, one more, inhale. If your head is back, draw the chin into the chest, and press one hand, bring one hand to your sacrum, your pelvis, and the other hand.

And then release. Come back in, sit on your heels, taking a moment to pause. (exhaling deeply) (inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) Nice, let's come onto our back, and we'll find a variation of rolling bridge, and possibly a wheel. Come onto your back, now that the spine and the back is warm. Roll onto your back.

Hug your knees into your chest. Take a moment to pause here on your back. Hands might draw behind the thighs. Nice, full inhale, and exhale. (exhaling deeply) Bring your feet to the floor as you're setting up for bridge.

Spread the toes. Arms down along your sides. We'll take a few rounds of rolling bridge. On the inhale, we'll draw the tailbone under, press down, and lift. Reach the arms all the way over the top of the head, and then exhale slow, release the spine, one vertebrae at a time, and release the arms to the floor.

And we'll inhale for four. One, two, three, four. Thighs drawing towards each other, and then exhale. One, two, three, four. Mid-back, lower back and arms.

Again, inhale for four. One, two, three, four. And exhale. One, two, three, four. Last one, inhale, for one, two, three, four.

And exhale. One, two, three, and four. Relax. The effort, clearing breath, inhale. (inhaling deeply) And exhale.

(exhaling deeply) So for this last round, you might press up into bridge pose and hold. You might press up into a wheel pose. If that's something that would feel good for you, especially after all the spine work we've done and the shoulder work, so as you're ready, either press up into bridge, curl the tailbone under, press down through the feet, lift the pelvis. If you're coming up into wheel, bring the hands, palms behind you. Draw the elbows towards each other, so the hands are around just above the shoulders.

Scoop the elbows towards each other. Inhale, if you're coming up into wheel, exhale, just press up onto the top of your head. Draw the inner thighs towards each other, draw the elbows towards each other. And you might reset the hands a little bit here. Stay here, or inhale.

Exhale, press your way up into a wheel pose. And take a few breaths here, pressing down through the palms, and drawing your heart forward. Relaxing a little bit through the butt as you draw the inner thighs towards each other. You might stay right here. You might walk your hands in a little bit closer, if you need to feel more.

Breathing. (inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) Stay active through your legs, relaxing through the butt. Again, you're drawing your inner thighs towards each other. Allow for one more inhale. When you're ready, draw the chin into the chest.

Keep the chin drawing in as you bend the elbows, and then release the head, the spine, and the arms. (exhaling deeply) Draw the knees into your chest. (inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) From here, we'll rock our way up towards a seat. And come into a seated forward bend. Kind of pull the flesh out from underneath your sit bones.

Inhale, lengthen the spine, and then gradually begin to walk the arms forward. Finding a counter pose, inhale as your lengthen, and then exhale, fold forward any amount here. And remember the work of lengthening the front of the spine. (inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) Your hands might be on your knees, your shins, your ankles, your toes, and eventually, you might round your spine if you're still in an extension. (inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) Breathing into the back of your body.

Offering a little flex through the feet. (inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) Softening the shoulders down the back. Let's take two more full breaths here in this forward bend. Nice, slow, chin into the chest, rolling up. And then roll onto your back, using your belly, drawing your chin in, rolling all the way down.

Draw your right knee into your chest, extend through your left leg. Take an inhale here, lengthen the back of the body, and exhale, switch. Draw the left knee in, extend through the right heel, lengthen the back body. Inhale, exhale, and switch. Keep the left heel off the floor as you lengthen, and then switch.

Right heel off the floor, right leg lifting. And switch, right knee draws in last time. And switch, left leg. Draw both knees into your chest, let yourself rock a little bit from side to side. From here, extending the legs up towards the sky.

Now depending on what you're working with in your neck, you might choose to stay right here, if plow is (inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) if that would be a nice release. Begin to press your hands into the floor, and roll onto your spine. Rolling onto your shoulders. Hands might reach, and lengthen. You might interlace your fingers, drawing your palms towards each other, and then pointing your toes if you're in plow.

Taking a few breaths here. Softening through the face and the jaw. Now when you're ready to release, if your fingers are interlaced, go ahead and release your arms. Now look up towards your toes if you're in plow. Lengthen the back of your neck, and then use your belly to slowly release you down.

Your arms are there to support you as well. And then feeling like, ooh, the upper back, middle back, lower back, and look up. Ooh. Beautiful work. Release your legs.

Keep your belly nice and drawn into the spine. From here, fish pose. Slide up onto your forearms, press your elbows into the floor, and come up onto the top of your head, opening the throat, opening the shoulders. Nice counter pose here. Active through your feet, active through your legs.

Inhale, exhale, chin into the chest. (exhaling deeply) Bring your hands underneath your head and your skull, and then gently with the elbows, pull, or with the fingers and the opposite pull and lengthen the back of your neck. Might even do like a little sit up here as you lengthen. Maintain that length and traction as you release the head down. (exhaling deeply) Draw your knees into your chest, and we'll take a spinal twist, 'cause I think that would feel so nice.

Okay, draw your knees to the right. Stack your shoulders, stack your hips, inhale, your left arm up, and let it open. Breathing. (exhaling deeply) Your head and the neck might release over your left shoulder. Lie between the eyes and the base of the skull.

And breathing into wherever you feel sensation. Maybe it's in your hip, your ribs, your back, your shoulder. When you're ready, slowly unwind. Come back up through the center, and then roll onto your left side, or your opposite side. Stack your shoulders and hips.

Inhale, your right arm up, and then let it open, softening the right shoulder towards the floor. Inhale. (inhaling deeply) And then exhale, release into your twist, and the gaze might come over your right shoulder. You might keep the eyes soft as you breathe into where you feel it. (exhaling deeply) When you're ready on this side, slowly inhale.

Come back up. Last time, as you draw your knees into your chest, you might curl up. Bring your chin in, forehead, towards your knees. Get round. And then release into shavasana, taking a full body stretch on your way there.

Inhale, reach through the fingers, the toes, feel the back body lengthen. Inhale, reach. And then exhale, relax all of the effort. Take up space, arms reach out, legs, release. (exhaling deeply) Receiving the support beneath you.

You're welcome to stay here as long as you'd like. I might. (chuckles) You're ready. Draw your knees into your chest, and then roll to your side. Take a moment to pause, keeping the eyes soft.

(inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) Breathing into the back of the body. When you're ready, press your hands into the earth, head heavy. Make your way into a comfortable, seated position. (inhaling deeply) (exhaling deeply) Keeping the eyes soft. And you might feel or sense some sensation through the spine wide through the base of your skull.

Joining your hands together. Clearing breath, inhale. (inhaling deeply) Exhale. (exhaling deeply) Breathing in, we'll exhale, om. (inhaling deeply) ? Om Namaste.

Thank you.


Hi Alana! I have to say that I have watched almost every one of your episodes and I just love waking up with your practice each morning. Thank you for sharing. Do you ever teach any classes in NY?
Hi Elana! Thank you for being here! So delighted to be practicing together on Yoga Anytime. I teach regular classes in Ojai, California at the Ojai Yoga Shala. If I'm ever teaching in NY I will let you know! xoA
1 person likes this.
Alana, this felt great. My back kinda clicked a couple of times during it which I think is a good thing? Just another wonderful practice. Thanks as always. x
1 person likes this.
Hi Alana  - came to this class for back pain relief and got it!   Love how you explain "feeling the front spine" and moving from that place to extend.  In Gratitude,  Terri
Hi Terri, I'm so happy you found relief from this practice! I do love the feeling of moving slowly and mindfully into backbends--lifting, extending, and lengthening the front of the spine. I hope you continue to find relief and ease in your practice. Stay close. Warmly, Alana
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This was a blissful exploration. Thank you Alana.
Wonderful, Ali! May you carry the bliss into your day. xoA
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Brilliant for the back. Great teaching. Thanks so much !
Thank you, Guillaume, for joining me! I hope your spine feels a bit more open, fluid, and free after this practice. All the best, Alana 
1 person likes this.
This was a perfect practice. So sweet, Alana Mitnick !! Your instruction is such a treasure!
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