21-Day Meditation Challenge Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 10

Practice 4: Strong Spine

15 min - Practice


In preparation for meditation, try this simple practice of twists and baby backbends to help strengthen the little muscles around the spine.
What You'll Need: Mat, Block

About This Video

Jul 01, 2017
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So for this practice, we're going to start reclining and we're going to focus on some twisting and some small backbends, which should help us prepare for our meditation. So let's lie back. As you recline, just bend your knees and place your feet on the floor about hips-width apart and parallel and then take the arms out to the sides and close your eyes and give yourself a moment to relax and to focus on your breathing. Let's establish our ujjayi breath. So close your mouth, breathe through your nose.

And to elongate your breaths, five seconds if you can just to breathe in and five seconds to breathe out. Give yourself another full and complete round of breath. And then continue breathing deeply, gently open your eyes and now bring your knees in towards your chest. Hug the knees in and take a full breath, Apanasana. And then we'll move into our first twist, just an easy bent knee twist.

So you're going to exhale and release your knees over to the left, maybe gently moving your left shoulder, left side of your spine to the left. That hand can support the bent legs and then you're going to begin to twist the upper body to the right. So creating some movement in your upper spine. Still breathing really well, inhaling slowly, exhaling, twisting a little bit more. And if it's comfortable for your head and neck, turn your gaze to the right.

And if there's anything sensitive happening in your neck, just keep your head centered. Take another round of breath, twist just a little bit more as you breathe out. And then squeeze your knees together and as you inhale, come back up to the top and you're going to exhale, lower your knees over to the right, right hand can support. You might move your right shoulder, right side of your spine, a little to the right. And then begin twisting and turning the upper body to the left.

Keep breathing and use the exhalation to twist a little further. Take one more breath on this side and then squeeze the knees together. Try to keep them together and inhale, come back up to center. And then just draw the knees in one more time here. And then we'll release the feet for bridge pose, set to Bandha.

So place the feet on the floor, hips width parallel and near to your sitting bones. We're going to come in and out of the pose and the arms are going to be going up and overhead as you rise into your backbend. So on the next round of breath, stay grounded in your feet, inhale, push into the feet, lift the hips, reach the arms overhead, lengthen your tailbone towards the backs of the knees. Exhale, come down one vertebra at a time, bring your arms with you, returning to the mat. And then again, repeat, inhale, come up, strong legs, lift a little higher and as you exhale, lower down.

So opening the front body, really helpful for our seated postures, inhale and exhale. And on the next one, once we're up and into the pose, we'll hold there. So root into your feet, inhale, rise, and then just stay as you exhale, ground into your feet, lift a little higher. Hug in so we don't want the knees splaying, hug the midline or hug like you've got a block right between your thighs, and then lift a little higher. Take one more breath, keep reaching through the arms, big inhale, and then come down slow and steady, use your abdominal muscles to release as you exhale.

And then once again, knees draw into the chest, take a breath, and now we're going to return to those twists, but we're going to do them dynamically. So reach the arms out to the sides, T-shape, palms down, hug your legs together. Nice big inhale, exhale, lower the knees to the left without actually touching the floor. Exhale completely, keep the knees squeezing, inhale, use your abs, come back up to center. Exhale, lower the knees over to the right, hover, and then inhale, come back to center.

Exhale left, inhale right, warming up the spine. Exhale over to the right, inhale, come back up, let's do it one more time. Exhale lower to the left, inhale, squeeze and come back up. Exhale lower to the right, come back up, breathe in, and exhale, hugging knees. Take a single breath, and we're going to transition, we're going to roll over onto the belly.

So you can release your feet, even straighten out through one leg, and just flip over right onto the belly. As you transition, you're going to set up for Sphinx Pose. You're going to place your elbows directly underneath your shoulders, and make your forearms parallel. Spread your fingers wide. Resist sinking or collapsing, I want you to ground down and lift up.

And then firm your legs, so the legs are strong, feet pointed, the legs turn in slightly, lengthen your tailbone away from your waist. And then just pause here for a few breaths. We're trying to climb the back bend up into the upper spine. Breathe deeply, keep grounding and lifting. Draw your shoulders back so you feel a very clear sense of the chest opening.

One more deep breath in, exhale, lower all the way down, stack one hand on top of the other, rest your forehead, and take two breaths. One more deep breath. Now we're going to move into cobra, bhujengasana. So legs will be the same, the actions in the legs and the feet the same. This time place your hands down near your ribs, so a lot lower.

Plug the elbows in, flatten the palms, lift the fronts of your shoulders up away from the floor. Right, keeping the legs firm and the tailbone lengthening towards the feet, we're going to come in and out of cobra. So ground the palms, inhale, come up, exhale, lower down. You can rest your forehead, but keep your shoulders lifted. Repeat.

Inhale, come up, exhale, lower down. One more time holding, inhale, come up. Stay as you exhale, shoulders down and elbows in. Take another breath, pull your chest forward, and exhale, lower all the way down. Take a breath, a deep inhale, and a long exhale.

And then we're going to transition, engage your belly, inhale, lift all fours, and then move into child's pose. Walk your knees a little bit forward, toes together, and sink your hips back. Drop the forehead, and rest here, just a couple rounds of breath. One more deep breath. Now we're going to transition forward.

We're going to come to all fours and prepare for downward facing dog. So place your hands, shoulders width apart, knees, hips width apart, and then walk your hands a little bit forward, a couple of inches in front of your shoulders. This will give you better down dog distance. Tuck your toes as you exhale, lift your knees, coming up and into your first downward facing dog. Spreading the hands wide, get grounded, firm the arms, and lengthen your spine.

If your hamstrings are tighter, keep your knees bent, and that way you can accentuate the spine lengthening. But for those of you that can straighten the legs, go ahead and press the thigh bones back and move your heels down. And then let's give ourselves maybe two or three more complete breaths here. And one more round of breath. And then return to all fours, and we're going to take a twist here from hands and knees.

So from all fours, we're going to inhale, open the left arm, left palm up to the left, and then exhale, scoop down onto your left shoulder. And I always need to readjust my palm for better leverage. I'm going to push into the palm, big inhale, and then begin to open the chest towards the ceiling. Exhale. And let your right hip back, breathing, so you're not torquing in the pelvis.

And then there's a couple ways you could play here. You could tuck your back toes, lift your knee, and shimmy your foot back until your right leg is straight. And then turning the chest a little bit more, if you want to balance, take the top arm up and over and breathe here. Or even wrap it around for a little bit of leverage. One more breath, big opening, and then you're going to slowly bring it back, retrace your steps coming to all fours, to hands and knees.

And then you'll feel very lopsided, so we'll do side two. Inhale, open the right arm up, opening the right chest, exhale, come all the way down onto the shoulder. Again, you may need to move your palm for better leverage to twist. Big inhale, exhale, push into the palm and start turning your chest open towards the ceiling. And then if you opted to tuck the back toes on your first side, do it here, straighten the leg, cut the hip crease back, and begin to open up a little bit more.

And then if you worked the balance, you're going to hover, release, and reach up and out through that left arm, getting a little bit more opening, maybe even tuck the hand around and open the chest slightly with the breath. One more round. And then backtracking, releasing, coming once again to all fours, and one more time downward facing dog. So move your hands a little bit forward of shoulders, tuck your toes, exhale up and back. Let's do four breaths.

From your wrists to your hips, lengthen, and from your hips down towards your heels, lengthen. Last deep breath. And then releasing, final time to the knees, one last pose here to prepare you for meditation. You're going to grab a block, and placing the block flat and wide, you're going to sit on the block for Virasana. So you're going to come forward, knees together, and plant your sitting bones on that block.

And it takes a little bit of setup. So first of all, you want your feet aligned, not sickling the ankles. Draw your outer ankles in and stretch straight back through all 10 toes. You can even spread your pinky toe out there. And then the sitting bones centered, release your inner thighs down and align your pelvis so it feels very level, not rolling back.

And for flexible bodies, not overarching forward. And that middle ground where you're very centered on your sitting bones. And then hands on the thighs, spine tall, just pause a couple of nice deep breaths. And then you're perfectly warmed up and open and ready for meditation. Namaste.

Thank you.


1 person likes this.
for me, a great middle ground - not too much talk but just enough gentle clear instruction
still a great practice - thanks.

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