It has been a while since I’ve shared a yoga blogpost, in part because I recently had an ankle injury but today I’m sharing 5 gentle standing yoga poses for the spine. While I was waiting for my ankle to heal, I was reminded how important spinal health is. I was sitting down a lot more than usual, because standing was a challenge for the first few months and definitely felt an impact in my spinal mobility. That, and of course, a decrease in my practice has led to a lot less mobility in general.
But why does the spine matter? The spine is truly the backbone to our body and its functions in so many ways. It keeps us upright, carries the weight of our head and allows us to move freely. It also protects the spinal cord, which is made of nerves that deliver messages to the brain–everything from touch, sense, and internal organ function! Much of our movement is linked to the spine, even though it may not be apparent. For example, basic yoga poses like downwards dog to more advanced poses like crow all involve the spine.
Now that I’ve given you the 411, let’s get *back* to the yoga. I’ve partnered with Terez to bring you 5 gentle standing poses for spine health, some of which you might like to introduce into your practice. These are simple, gentle, postures that even beginners can try and each of the postures targets a different kind of movement.
And of course, I’m wearing pieces from Terez, an activewear brand that always brings fun, colourful energy. Think loud patterns and vivid shades and function at the same time, and the inkblot design was hand painted and photographed by the team. The two sets I’m wearing were designed for yoga, from the Inkblot Collection, with a double knit fabric that’s opaque and squat proof (meaning, no see-through worries even in your down dog). There’s one set for the more colourful yogis out there, and a black and white set if you’re an all-black-everything New Yorker but still want to dip your toe into something eye-catching
This foundational pose may seem almost too simple but it’s a great place to start and analyze the way you stand. Take note of your tailbone, how much arch there is in your back and how much your ribcage may be flaring. Think of tucking your tailbone in, tightening the core, minimizing ribcage flare and back arch and expanding your shoulders, keeping them away from your ears. Also check your feet, make sure weight is distributed evenly between the two, and that the flat of your feet are entirely on the ground (meaning pressure in the balls, heels, and even toes of your feet). It will help to squeeze your glutes, and think about lifting the kneecaps. This is one of those postures that is as active as you make it. You can bring your hands to prayer, close your eyes, and use this as a meditative posture.
This is a balancing exercise, and a great posture to move into from Tadasana. The same cues apply, you want to make sure your posture remains, and now that you’re bringing one leg up (avoid putting the sole of your foot on your knee), you have the added challenge of dropping the hip. A little bit of hip raise is natural, but actively work to press your raised hip down to level out, and think of pressing the bent knee back, so as to open it up.
Another wonderful level up pose from Tadasana. Start in Tadasana, raise your arms over head, grab your left wrist with your right hand, and then lean towards the right side, keeping your tailbone tucked, core tight, ribcage in. You can imagine being sandwiched between two walls, one in front of you and one behind, and try to stay in one plane as you bend to the side. This is a great stretch for the spine and your obliques and can help to improve posture.
This posture is a wonderful way to get a stretch, it also allows gravity to help do some of the work, and be a great, calming pose. If, like me, your head isn’t touching knees without much rounding in the back, bend your knees as much as you need to. In order to progress in this posture, it’s important to focus on your reach when your back is flat versus rounded. Use blocks to prop hands higher while working towards the ground, or try this variation to open up the chest and add weight to your torso in the fold. When coming up from the fold, place your hands on your hips, tighten the core and come up slowly with a flat back. This will help to strengthen back muscles as well.
This is an advanced pose that requires flexibility, balance and strength. I included this posture because even if you’re beginning with this pose, you can start to assess what alignment looks like in your body. Single leg poses are great for understanding where you can build. For example, when you lift one leg behind you, it’s natural for one hip to raise higher than the other, so you can start to work towards this pose by focusing on hip alignment, shoulder opening and a bit of backbend early on. Your leg does not need to be raised high at all! Think more about alignment to reap the benefits of this posture.
I hope you find these gentle postures helpful and easy to try yourself! It’s not about how challenging the posture is, but rather making sure you’re focusing on the right areas of your body and making sure you’re working towards alignment. I myself am always working towards better alignment, especially after the injury.
I like to take mini breaks during the workday to pause for a 5-minute stretch and you might raise an eyebrow doing these in public, but you can because you don’t need a mat to do them! Psst. Don’t forget to stretch your legs every once in a while if you are sitting down for the majority of the day because sitting for extended periods of time can definitely impact your spine as well.
Check out more yoga wear by Terez, and find the black and white set and colourful set on their website!
P.S. If you’re brand new to yoga, I would still recommend going to a beginner’s yoga class so you can build good form habits and learn proper alignment with guidance.5
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BY Remy • March 12, 2020
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Hi there, I’m Remy! Welcome to Veggiekins Blog, home to nourishing vegan + gluten-free recipes and tips to live your best balanced and holistic life. I’m a human on a mission to empower you to be well and be kind to your mind, body and soul with the healing power of plants.
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