From a physical point of view, one of the main benefits of yoga practice is to develop and maintain flexibility and strength in the spine. There is a saying that "you are not young until your spine is elastic". Stiff, tense and weak backs not only make us feel old, but have a negative knock-on effect on the ability to move the rest of the body throughout. That's why I often focus in private meetings on helping clients improve their spinal health and realign their spine when their posture is poor.
Come to your hands and knees, place your knees hip-width apart below your hips and your hands shoulder-width apart.
As you inhale, drop your stomach slightly toward the floor and arch your chest forward (creating a small back bend in your upper back). This is bull pose. On an exhale, press your hands down and roll your back toward the ceiling, lifting your belly and front ribs up to your back, tucking your chin into your chest and looking at your belly button. This is the cat pose (think of an angry cat!). . Repeat this back and forth motion for 5-10 rounds to synchronize the movement with your breathing.
Hold on to the windowsill, table, or back of a chair. Spread your hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing down or even inward if possible, so you can pull your shoulders away from your ears.
Walk with your feet behind you and bend your knees, bringing your heels under your hips and pushing your hips back. Try to maximize the length of the spine. Gently lower the chest so that the spine ends up parallel to the floor (or just above it) and the ears and upper arms are aligned with each other. Feel the long line of energy from your tailbone all the way to the top of your head. Relax and soften the upper trapezius muscles around the ear. Hold for 5 breaths. Make sure your breathing remains fluid and easy, with no tension or strain. Repeat twice.
This will be a great pose to repeat throughout the day!
Stand in mountain pose with your feet hip-width apart and parallel. Keep your hands at your sides. Inhale, raise your arms above your head, cross your fingers and flip your palms. Take a few deep breaths. On the inhale, think of extending up through your spine, pushing out and up through your palms. As you exhale, consider pulling your lower abdomen back toward your spine and softening the inner shoulder slightly down away from your ears.
Then place one hand on your hip, inhale, and extend your other arm toward the ceiling, lengthening your waist. Exhale as you begin to lean to your sides. Inhale to stand up and switch arms, exhale to lean over to the other side. Repeat 3-5 times on each side, returning to the mountain pose with your arms at your sides to complete.
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