Enjoy a deep opening and strengthening of the low back while pressing up into Seal Pose. Seal is a variation of Cobra or Bhujangasana, but with a deeper bend in the lumbar spine, the low-back. Be mindful and notice which variation feels best in the body. Find the pose that allows you to move towards your edge, while still finding ease, or “softness” in the pose, while maintaining an even flowing breath. In each and every pose, work to find balance, “sthira sukham asanam” or, the posture is comfortable and steady.
Properly warm-up the spine while moving through a few rounds of Sun Salutations, Surya Namaskara. Click here for step-by-step instructions for Surya Namaskara.
Come into Cobra, Bhujangasana as a preparatory pose. Come to lie down on the belly. Bring the palms facing downwards, under the shoulders. Bring the feet to hip-width distance apart with the toes facing the ground. Take a full inhale and exhale to prepare and to become more aware of the subtle energy body and in order to focus inward.
On an inhale breath, slightly lift the chest off of the ground. Keep the gaze downward towards the ground so that the back of the neck remains long and safe. Draw the shoulders blades down the back and expand the area in the chest in between the collarbones. Lengthen the tailbone towards the heels and draw the low belly inwards towards the spine, in order to protect the low-back.
Anchor the hips and tops of the feet downward into the ground. Isometrically draw the hands back towards the belly, allowing the chest and crown of the head to lengthen forward. Create more length in the spine. Notice the opening in the front line of the body and notice the arch in the spine.
Draw the low-belly inwards toward the navel and draw the elbow closer to the mid-line of the body. Stay here and breathe for 3-5 full rounds of breath. Create long and smooth inhales and exhales. Slowly come back down to the chest on an exhale breath. Bring the palms to your sides.
Notice how you feel and allow the breath to calm. Take another round of Cobra or move into a deeper back-bend, Sphinx Pose.
Sphinx Pose: Bring the forearms to the ground, parallel to each other. Align the elbows under the shoulders. Press the forearms downward and slightly back, allowing the chest and heart space to draw forward. Spread the fingers wide. Draw the shoulder blades down the back and lengthen the tailbone towards the heels. Option to bring palms to touch in prayer or to opposite elbows as a variation in order to support tightness in the shoulder area. Stay here and breathe for 3-5 rounds of breath.
Seal Pose: From Sphinx Pose, with the forearms parallel to each other, open the fingers wide and slightly outward. Press down through the palm as well as the finger pads of the hands. Lift the elbows off of the ground. Engage the area in between the shoulder blades and draw the low-belly in towards the spine to protect the lumbar spine. Lengthen the tailbone towards the heels.
Keep pressing the hips and tops of the feet downward. Notice the length and arch in the spine as well as the stretch along the belly. Stay here and breathe creating long and smooth inhales and exhales. Notice if you are clenching the gluteus muscles. Allow that area to relax more and lengthen the tailbone more towards the heels.
Slowly come back down to the forearms and then allow the chest to rest on the floor. Allow the palms to rest at the sides. Breathe into the low-back area and notice how you feel. In spine strengthening poses, we give a lot of effort, using the strength of the core, and then move into a conscious relaxation.
Work to create this same balance of effort and ease into your day-to-day life. Bring the physical practice to life, by applying the same qualities that we practice in each posture. Move with mindfulness, focus on the breath, create balance, and move with intention.
Check with your doctor before performing any form of exercise including yoga and breathing techniques. Always honor your body. If a posture gives you pain, gently come out.
Christi Iacono, owner of In Rhythms Yoga
Christi Iacono is a 500 hour certified yoga instructor. She is the owner of In Rhythms Yoga. IRY is a small neighborhood studio in Clairemont, S.D., located in the Mount Streets. She guides adults, kids and families in the tradition of yoga. Christi has experienced many positive physical and mental transformations from her daily personal practice. She enjoys sharing her experience, passion, and dedication with her students. She believes that yoga is accessible to all. Christi carefully works with each student in order to find the variation that best serves their body, finding the balance of effort and ease in every posture, “sthira sukham asanam.”
IRY offers regularly scheduled vinyasa and yin-based classes on, Sat., Sun. (Yin-Yoga) and Wed. mornings as well as a Tues. evening class.
Go to www.inrhythmsyoga.com to see the full schedule, instructors and for private lessons.