Today, I wanted to share a sequence I recently taught that focuses on stimulating the meridian lines on the back body. I hope you find it refreshing and helpful. As always, do not hesitate to comment your questions and thoughts.
CHILDS POSE (5 min) – Begin your practice by dropping the hips back to the heels and allowing the chest to rest onto the thighs. You can stretch the arms overhead or just keep them at the sides toward the feet. Take a few moments here to let go of the thoughts of your day and focus in on the moment at hand. Allow your breath and attention to expand in to the back body – creating physical and mental space for the practice.
CAT/COW (2 min) – Come into a table top position and begin to move through a few rounds of cat and cow. Inhales bringing your gaze forward, tailbone high and exhales allowing you to round the spine toward the ceiling and relax the weight of the head. Continue to wiggle through these and any other shapes that are calling out to you.
Utilize these stretches to observe where you feel resistance in the back body.
STRETCH LEG BACK (2 min) – Come back to a neutral spine and take your right foot to the back of the mat. Tuck the toes under and begin to press into the heel of the foot as you find a nice stretch through the back of the ankle, calf and knee. Allow your head to relax to add on a stretch through the back of the neck. Try not to make this too active, allow yourself to be heavy in this shape.
LIZARD (5 min) – Step the right foot between the hands at the top of the mat. You can stay here with the hands on either side of the foot or begin to heel toe the foot over further to the right and bring both hands to the inside of the foot. Pause in the first surge of sensation and then over time, if your body finds more release here – begin to move to your forearms on the blocks or the floor. You can also slightly angle the foot to the right and roll to the pinky edge of the foot if that feels nice. Be gentle on your ankle and knee – there should be no pain here!
PIGEON (5 min) – From lizard, walk your right foot across and over to the left side of the mat, setting your shin down at the top. You can tuck the heel of the foot in closer to the hips to alleviate the intensity here. Utilize your props as necessary (perhaps a blanket under the right hip if there’s space there). Allow your body to begin to melt forward, but take your time. Pause in the intensity and breathe. When the sensations quiet down a bit, then go deeper. You have time here – so utilize it and do not rush.
WIPERS side to side (3 to 4 times) – From pigeon, roll up and remove any props from underneath you. Begin to roll onto the right hip and open out to the long edge of the mat. Drop both knees over the left and the right a few times.
WIPER TWIST (2 min) – Drop the knees over to the left side and pause. On an exhale, begin to walk your hands and torso over to the left until you feel a good rotation in the spine. Use your breath to create more release here. Inhales will lengthen the spine taller and exhales will allow you to twist slightly deeper. Make this more subtle than dramatic as for how deeply you rotate. Pay attention to every sensation and pause when you find your sweet spot. You can also rotate the gaze toward the left shoulder and even drop your chin into the chest if that feels nice for the cervical spine.
HEAD TO KNEE (3 min) – From your twist, rotate around to the back of your mat and extend the left leg straight and keeping the right knee bent, just plug the foot to the left inner thigh. Take a few breaths upright and eventually allow yourself to fold forward toward the extended left leg. Bend your knee and use your props here as needed.
SUPINE TWIST (4 min) – Roll up from your head to knee pose and begin to roll onto your back, hugging the right knee into the chest. Holding onto the shin with your left hand, extend your right arm out to the side and draw the knee across and over to the left. You can prop your knee onto a block and just let the foot hang if it’s elevated. Allow your gaze to drop to the right if it feels okay in the neck. As before, focus on the length in the spine on your inhales and the depth of rotation on the exhales. Nothing should be forced here, gravity will do most of the work.
SPHINX/SEAL (3 min each time) – From your twist, roll onto your belly and face the front of the mat once more. Take a moment on the belly to observe and relax and then begin to make your way to the forearms coming into sphinx pose. The elbows will be underneath or just beyond the shoulders as for alignment. You shouldn’t feel like you’re going to face plant, so allow yourself to find a place where you can lengthen the spine. Your head can stay lifted and active or relax it down to a block or to hang mid-air. Relax the glutes and breathe here.
*repeat poses on the other side – starting with stretching your leg back in table top*
(second side) – After completing the poses on the other side, come back to your sphinx pose and then pursue a deeper variation. You can elevate the forearms to a blanket or a couple blocks or find your way to seal pose by widening the hands and lifting the elbows. The closer your hands are to you the more intense the stretch becomes. If a deeper variation is too much for your lumbar (low) back, come back to the above sphinx pose.
HALF COWFACE ARM STRETCH (3 min) – Thread the left arm across the chest and relax the right arm at the side body. Stay here for your first few breaths, relaxing the weight of the body into the floor and pay attention to the stretch in the back of the left arm. Stay here or begin to walk the right arm to the low back and perhaps inch it up in between the shoulder blades. If you want to connect the hands, begin to bend the left elbow and reach for the right hand over the right shoulder. Repeat on other side when done.
CHILDS POSE (2 min) – Allow the spine to settle for a moment in childs pose. Observe the space you’ve created in the back body and how this posture feels now compared to the beginning of class. Breathing deeply into the spaces you earlier noticed resistance and tension.
BLOCK in MID BACK (3 min) – Come onto your back and begin to nestle a block or a blanket under the middle back (top of prop should be around the base of the shoulder blades). Your hips will land onto the floor and your chest will splay open a bit. Take up some space here and breathe.
SAVASANA (7 min) – Remove the block and allow your body to settle into our final resting pose – Savasana. Let your breath return to its natural pace and your eyes to hang heavy. Use these moments to absorb the space and openness you’ve created with your practice today.