Too Tight to Stretch Artwork
Season 3 - Episode 5

Unwind Your Spine

20 min - Practice


This restorative class uses light, dynamic movement and mindful pauses to target and relieve tension in the spine. We explore the 6 movements of the spine in supine postures, open the heart and shoulders in gentle twists, and find space in the hips in Baddha Konasana. You will feel rested and rejuvenated.
What You'll Need: Mat, Square Bolster, Blanket (2), Block (2)

About This Video


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Welcome. Thank you so much for joining me today. In this practice, we're going to need quite a few props, and we're going to focus on unwinding our spine. It's going to be a restorative, restful practice with some dynamic movement to help you relieve tension through the spinal column, through the shoulders, and we're going to take our spine through the full six motions. So the props that you're going to need is a bolster and two blocks, and the blocks are set up in a T shape like so, so that the bolster can rest at this 45-ish degree angle. I like to call this the yoga lazy boy chair. And then you're going to take a single blanket wide on your mat, so we have some extra padding for the hips and the buttocks. And then you're going to take your second blanket and we're going to bring it into a nice short roll, what I like to call the short fat burrito roll. And later on in our practice, we're going to roll this into a long burrito. So those are the things that you're going to need to gather. Feel free to pause your video, get set up, and join me. So let's get started. Join me on your back. We're going to turn around and take the short roll high up underneath the thighs as you scoot your buttocks back until you feel connection with the upper pelvis, sacrum area with the back of the bolster. And then we're just going to let ourselves recline. And as you recline, allow the legs to go long, soften the arms with the palms facing the sky, and just allow yourself to land. And feel free to close your eyes as that feels safe and welcome and connect with the breath. A nice slow deliberate inhale and exhale everything.

And as you feel yourself land here, really allowing gravity to take over, we'll begin to start to creep our feet to the right edge of your yoga mat. So keeping the support under the thighs, just slowly walking the heels over towards the right edge of your mat, go as far as feels comfortable for your hips, your lower back. And then once you get over to where that angle feels correct for you, feel into that side body opening for the left side waist and ribs. This may be plenty, or feel free to deepen that experience by lifting that left ankle and crossing it over the bottom right ankle. And as that happens, really feel into the buttocks. Let the buttocks sink into that space between the bolster and your blanket roll. And again, feel free to stay here breathing into this experience, or if it feels appropriate for your shoulders, we can lift those arms up and just give a little bit of a side lean here, coming into a banana shape over to the right. So the whole body is curved in this gentle half moon sort of shape. Soften through the jaw to take it a little bit deeper. We can pull a little bit further through the arms. Take another big breath in. And with your exhale, softening through those arms if they came into play. And then we'll uncross the ankles slowly and begin to inch the heels back to the center of the mat. Pause it center and take a full cleansing breath. And just feel into the effects of that lateral side opening. We'll take it over to the other side, heels creeping over to the left edge of the mat. And please know that there's no destination. Just see how it feels. This side may be totally different for you today. And as we work our way over to the angle that feels right, perhaps that right ankle crosses the left. Snuggle those buttocks down into that blanket padding, either staying here or allowing the arms to come up. And we'll just start to gently lean those arms over to the left side, or feel free to take it a little bit deeper as we open to that C shape. Slow deliberate breaths. Another inhale. And as we exhale, releasing the arms, letting them land, uncrossing the ankles and slowly walking back to center. As you return to center, cleansing breath for you in through the nose. I'll invite you to release it with an audible. From here, when you're ready, slowly stepping your feet to the earth, knees to a bend. And we're just going to gently roll to our right side, almost like you're rolling over in your sleep. And as we roll over towards our right side, lifting up a bit and we're going to take this blanket roll and we're just going to tuck it right between the thighs and knees for a little support. That right hip is snuggling up to the bolster. And then we're going to bring that right elbow to a bend so that the hand is supported.

From here with an in breath, we're going to reach that left arm up to the sky, big open heart. And then with our exhale, begin these nice windmill motions through that left arm. Just start to lubricate into the shoulder girdle. See what's showing up. With your next inhale up, we're going to take that arm over and across the head and just let that elbow bend and the head drape across the arm. This may feel most supportive for your neck to keep the head supported here in your hand. Or feel free to extend that bottom arm out and just cradle that head between the two arms. We can clasp the hands and extend. Feel free to stay here as long as it feels yummy for you at any point in this practice. Feel free to press pause. To move on with me, we're going to inhale that left arm up and then we're going to bring the left hand all the way to the floor, to the side of the bolster. Right arm comes to the opposite side, so hands on either side. I'm going to begin to turn and twist my belly and my heart to face towards the bolster. Feel that nice yummy stretch across the back of the pelvis, that lumbar spine. And then with an exhale, we're just going to lower down and give the bolster a little bit of a hug. Allow everything to release. Again, feel free to stay here, just snuggling in. To bring a little bit more awareness to that top left hip flexor, we can also experiment with sliding that top left leg long. As you press your heel and your foot towards the edge of the yoga mat, feel that nice big extension through that left side. Feel free to close the eyes. Allow the bolster to support you. Slow, deliberate breaths. Again, feel free to breathe into this experience as long as you have available. When you're ready to rise up, hands come to the earth, either side of the bolster, left knee stacks back on top of that blanket. And then we're just going to gently press into the earth to peel the cheek up, peel the heart up, peel the torso up right, and we're going to switch sides. So we're just going to take our bolster and our two blocks over to the other side of the mat to set up our yoga lazy boy chair again. So again, blocks are in that uppercase letter T shape.

Bolster lies across the blocks to create that lazy boy. And then we're going to come into our side lying position with that blanket tucked between the thighs and knees. Left elbow onto the bolster to support the head and just allow yourself to snuggle in. So when you're ready, we'll inhale that right arm up towards the sky to open the chest. And then with an exhale, begin to explore some rotations through that right arm can be windmills, circles, see what feels good for you, going both directions. And then as we bring that right arm back up towards the sky, turning the palm to face the head and then we'll extend the arm over and across to rest. Let the elbow bend, let the wrist relax, feel free to close your eyes here. Perhaps staying here with the head supported, or maybe you want to drop that bottom left arm and just let the head be hugged between the two arms. As we breathe into the side body opening, feel right side ribs, right side waist. As always staying as long as you'd like to come out, let the right arm reach up, start to lift the head up. And then that right hand is now going to come to the side of the bolster. We're going to press into the floor, let that left hand slide behind, rise up through the chest a bit and begin to gently turn and twist. Only going as far as it feels comfortable for you. Bringing the heart a little bit closer to the bolster and then allow yourself to slowly drop and rest. Left cheek comes down and we give the bolster a little hug. Feel into your diaphragmatic breath here. So even though the belly is contracted and twisted, see if you can allow the diaphragm to find a little bit more freedom of movement. Either staying here or to explore the right side hip flexors, blanket remains where it is and then the right leg starts to slide out. And as the right leg starts to slide out, long pressing that heel towards the edge of the yoga mat. Allow the belly and the heart to relax. Slow, deliberate breaths. To deepen the stretch on the hip flexor, you can also start to slide that right heel a little bit backwards, more towards the wall behind you. That'll help open even further still through the front side waist and hip flexors. When you're ready to come out, we're going to start to place the hands back on the earth, either side of the bolster. That long leg, if you took it, comes back, stacks on top of our blanket roll. We press into the earth slowly with the hands to lift the head, to lift the cheek, peel up the heart, peel up the torso and rise upward. We're going to turn once again so that the bolster is at our back. And as the bolster comes to our back, we're going to take our short fat burrito roll and we're going to unwind it and roll it up this time from the horizontal end of the blanket to create our long burrito roll blanket. So take your time, finding that at home, and you'll end up like so. Soles of the feet coming together into a nice, easy bada canasana. I'm not trying to bring my heels in tight to my groin, just wherever it feels soft and easy and accessible. Placing that long blanket roll on top of the feet and ankles, I'm going to grab a hold of one end, lift my knee and tuck it around and under my ankle. Same thing on the other side. So you end up almost with this horseshoe shape around your ankles. Hopefully it feels nice and comfy and supportive. And you have a couple options here for a forward fold. So the first option is to take it more yin-like with more of a rounded spine, rounded upper back and cervical spine through the back of the neck and just soften the arms like a rag doll. If this feels uncomfortable for you through the hips or the back, another really beautiful option is to take your bolster from behind you, bring it in front of your feet, and then you're just going to allow your forehead to rest on the front edge of the bolster. So that's a really nice supportive option as well. Today, I'm just going to take it a little bit more yin, just a few breaths here into that rounded back.

I invite you to soften the jaw and release so that there's a little bit more space between the molars, allowing the muscles of the cheeks and the lips to let go. Becoming so soft through the face that it almost feels like you could drool down onto your blankets. Staying here as long as feels comfortable for your body. And when you're ready to rise up, let that chin tuck into the chest. So just slowly roll up the back, stacking low back, mid back, upper back, shoulders neck, and very lastly the head. Take a couple of slow shoulder loops, move that head and neck around intuitively, whatever you need. And then we're going to recline into a supported Supta Baddha Konasana. So hands coming to the floor to help support the weight of your torso. Feel the low back connect with the bolster. Feel the middle back connect with the bolster. And lastly, allow your head and neck to land. I'll invite you to rotate the palms open so that there's this feeling both of surrender as well as receptivity. Take a big inhale through the nose, exhale your day. Resting here for as long as you'd like.

Sometimes this feels so comfortable and yummy that this may be where you choose to stay for Shavasana. So please feel free if your body is so comfy you don't want to move. But if Baddha Konasana is not a resting position for your hips, an alternative option is to use your hands to slowly close up the legs. So we're going to support the legs to help those hips out. And then you're just going to use your feet to gently open up your blanket a little bit longer. I'm going to tuck my feet on the back side of the blanket and then just use my heels so I don't even need to lift my head. I don't even need to lift my spine. So I'm rising the blanket up a little higher so that as I extend my legs there's a nice little support underneath the backs of the knees. Feel free to bring that blanket even higher up underneath the hips wherever it feels yummy for you. Let yourself snuggle in and land here for Shavasana.

I invite you to bring your hands to the lower belly. Take a nice big breath in. Feel the belly rise up under the hands. And then let the hands slide up to the ribs. See if you can take another sip of breath into the ribs. And then hands up to the chest. Another final sip of breath up into the heart. Open mouth, exhale everything. Let the arms rest and repeat that three-part breath without the hands this time. Inhale into the belly. Inhale into the ribs. Inhale higher up into the chest and under the heart. Exhale to surrender. One more round. Belly to ribs to upper chest.

Exhale, let it all go. Letting go of the control of your breath and just allowing yourself to rest in stillness. Giving your nervous system time here to calm and soon. Again, feel free to pause the video to stay in this shape, but when you're ready to join me in slowly awakening, begin to wiggle the fingers and the toes, rotate the wrists and the ankles. We'll step the feet to the floor. Hands to the earth. Gently lift up the head so there's no straining of the neck. Press in with the hands to slowly peel up the back body.

Coming up towards a seat and bringing our hands together at the center of our hearts. My hope is that you feel a little bit more restored and rejuvenated from that practice. Namaste.


Sandra Židan
Thanks, Kari, for this Nice restorative practice! Namaste! 💖🌼🌹

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