Fall is here. We are entering a season of change. The leaves of the trees are turning colors and they are already falling from their limbs. Have you begun to rake up those dropped leaves yet? A typical Fall day chore, right? For some reason, raking leaves makes me think of the back muscles: the bending, the pulling, the twisting, the repetitive motion. Or how about those that work in a job where one sits at a desk all day. I think of the many software designers, secretaries, or teachers that find themselves glued to a desk chair staring at computer screens, spreadsheets, or Timmy’s history assignment hunched over their work. Or perhaps you work in a job where you stand all day. One of my yoga students is an anesthesiologist and he finds himself standing for up to 18 hours a day. I can’t help but think with these professions...what is happening to their backs?
This home yoga practice will focus on finding release in the back. We find ourselves in a constant state of "forward folding:" sitting, bending, etc. This, among other things, can cause stress, tension, and tightness in the back. Let's find a way to counter that state of the body to find release and opening. We will focus on two simple poses that flow from one to the other...
Cat Pose and Cow Pose
Start by coming to your hands and knees on your yoga mat. Feel free to place a blanket underneath your hands and knees to relieve any tension on your joints. Be sure your wrists are directly underneath your shoulders and your knees are underneath your hips. With an inhale, lift and head and heart toward the sky. At the same time, arch your back creating a U-shape with your back. Further, tilt your pelvis back toward the wall behind you. This is Cow Pose. As you exhale, tuck your pelvis drawing your navel up toward your spine. you will create a bow shape with your back as you round it. Finally, your chin will tuck in toward your chest. This is Cat Pose.
Continue to move between these two poses. Focus on each breath and the flow of the body. See if you can initiate movement with the breath. That is, start the inhale first, then begin to move your body. Likewise with your exhale. Further, see if the tail-end of your body can be the first body part that moves as you initiate the breath. For example, begin the exhale, then tuck the pelvis creating the rounded back.
As you move through this fluid sequence, you may experience an undulation of the spine, I like to think that you are giving yourself a gentle spinal massage with this simple flow. Perform this vinyasa flow 5-10 times. Finish your practice in Child's Pose.
Hopefully, with this practice, you will have experienced a release and an opening of your entire back.