9 Shapes: Yin Yoga for the Spine
Breathing in, create length. Breathing out, create depth.
~ 60 minutes
Come to lay on your backside with the block either on the lowest or middle height placed at the sacrum or the fused bone at the base of the spine. You may feel like keeping the knees bent with the feet rooted on the ground or you may be ready to extend the legs out completely. Settle in here and bring your awareness to the breath. Observing how the breath moves through the length of your spine. Grounding into your practice here for 5 minutes.
Easing through the transitions, go slow as you bend your knees, plant your feet down, and gently rise your hips to release the block from beneath your. Rest in savasana for about a minute to absorb and realign the spine.
Place the block between your inner thighs, press down into your feet and lift the hips up and over to the right a few inches before taking your knees over to the left. In your spinal twist, you may feel like placing your your left hand on the stack of the knees, extending your right arm out to the side and turning your head to the right. Breathing in, create length. Breathing out, create depth. Be here for 5 minutes and switch to the other side for another 5 minutes.
Once complete, release the block and reset in your savasana on your backside for a few minutes as you like. Slowly move your left foot over to the bottom left corner of your mat. Let your right foot follow. Bring the arms overhead to find opposite elbows, lift your shoulders to position yourself up and over to the right, creating a crescent moon shape in the body. Keeping the hips on the ground, you may take it one step deeper and cross the right ankle over the left. Lengthening into the side body, stay here for 5 minutes. To come out, slowly uncross the legs, move them back to the center, and hug the knees into the chest. Reset and take it to the other side.
Hugging the knees into your chest, start to rock and roll the spine along the length of your mat. Making your way to a table top position, bring some fluidity into the spine with a few cat/cows here at your own time. Starting with a neutral spine, keeping the knees hips width distance apart and hips stacked over the knees, slide your arms forward towards the front edges of the mat. With the arms long, come forward to bring the chest towards the mat. To start, place your forehead on the mat. If this is too much on the shoulders, widen your arms further apart. If you feel good here, maybe bring the chin to the mat and the gaze forward. Stay for 3 minutes.
Transitioning by sliding forward onto your belly, take a moment to rest with the forehead on top of the stack of the palms. When you are ready, bring the hands by your shoulders like you are pressing into a cobra. Lifting the chest, reposition your palms at the edges of the mat and hold for about 1 minute to intentionally compress the lower spine. Next, bring the forearms down with the elbows under or slightly in front of the heads of the shoulders. Lowering the chin into your chest, rock your head side to side for a few moments until you stop with the chin down and the heart melts between the shoulders. Breathe into the back of the neck for 4 minutes.
Sliding onto your belly again, rest in your savasana b with the forehead on your stacked palms for a minute or so. Press back to your table top, locate your block, place it between the ankles and sit on top of it. This is also a nice time to instead curl the toes under and sit onto your heels, to open the fascia of the feet. Sitting tall, find a few neck rolls with the chin to the chest and going from side to side. When you are ready, stop with your left ear over to your left shoulder. Lengthening into the side of the neck. If you need more, places the palms. Hold and switch. 5 minutes here.
Coming off your block or toes, find your seat with the right heel in towards the groin, the left leg fully extended. Option to bring the left elbow directly to the ground or on top of your block placed on the inside of your left thigh. Make a fist with your left hand, and rest your left temple on top. Reach the right arm up, bend the elbow, and place the right palm to the back of the head. Draw your right shoulder back and your right elbow to the sky. Breathe into your right side body for 5 minutes. Transition slow and switch to the other side also for 5 minutes.
Extend both legs forward, soften your toes, curl your chin into your chest and start to roll down, aiming to bring the crown of the head to the knees. If you have a lot of discomfort in the hamstrings, consider putting a cushion under your knees. This one is aiming to open the entirety of the spine and is not intended to be a hamstring stretch. Hold in the stillness for 5 minutes.
If you are ready to take it a bit deeper, you slowly roll your spine upright and make your way onto your backside. Rest in savasana as you need before continuing to lift the legs up and back to where the hips come to stack on top of the shoulders. The toes may or may not meet the mat so having your block there is an option but it is ok too to have your feet be suspended in space. Make sure to keep your gaze at the sternum. Hold here for 3 minutes.
Slowly make your way to a comfortable laying position free from any props. Allow the legs to go long and the arms to soften by your sides. Take 10 minutes to integrate the benefits of the practice in savasana. Let the breath release and simply surrender to the realignment of the spine.
It might be the appropriate time to come to an easy cross legged seat and meditate. Feeling the bones stack in the spine, the crown of the head extending upwards, the neck lower slightly towards the chest, bring the awareness simply to the breath. Allow yourself to visualize freedom of movement the spine, being able and capable of bending with changing winds.
Remember to take it slow and use the shapes here whenever your spine is calling out to you for attention. Have a look at your daily posture, the quality of your bed and sleep, and what kinds of daily action or inaction might be blocking you from feeling suppleness of the spine.