Click to enlarge each image, instructions below. Practice on a yoga mat or rug.
**Check contraindications at the bottom of the page before you practice any of these poses.
1. Sphinx Pose
Lying on your stomach, touch the big toes together and let the heels roll open. Prop the chest up onto the support of upper arms and elbows, with the head comfortably rolled forward or resting onto a yoga block. If you are not comfortable with that much extension in the spine, spread the elbows out a little wider to lower the chest and change the height of the block. Allow the thighs, front of the hips and low belly to relax into the ground. Stay present with the sensations in the lower spine, from the pelvis to the rib cage and breath. Notice the stretch happening across the abdomen, navel and stomach area, let the internal organs relax. Take time with this pose to allow the spine to slowly soften and stretch, layer by layer.
2. Child’s Pose
From sphinx, slide the hips back to heels. If the hips are tight, rest onto the forearms under the chest, otherwise take the hands back towards the feet. Let the shoulders drape down and relax. Breath big and wide into the back of the shoulders, rib cage an waistline. Feel the hips and tailbone slowly sinking. Child’s pose gently counter-stretches the lower spine after the extension of Sphinx pose. Take several deep breathes here and then transition onto the back.
3. Wind Relieving Pose
Lying on the back, draw the knees towards the chest and open the knees wide enough so you can breath freely. Rest the hands at the top of the shins and let the back of the waist and hips melt and flatten into the ground. Slowly the crease of the hips and inner thighs will soften up. You can rock forwards and backwards or side to side, to encourage the muscles to loosen up.
4. Hip Release
Bring feet to the floor and cross the right ankle to the outside of the left knee. Lift the foot from the floor so you can grab the right foot with the left hand. The left leg remains lifted throughout this stretch, acting as a support. Work towards bringing the right foot into the same plane as the knee while drawing the calf towards the chest. This will provide a release for the deeper muscles of the hip joint. Stay here and breath for at least 7 slow breath cycles. Then with both hands hug the the right knee towards the chest to stretch out the broader hip muscles and hold for a few breathes. Do both variations on the opposite side.
5. Psoas Twist
With both feet on the floor, cross the left leg over the right, as if you were sitting cross-legged on a chair, arms outstretched for balance. Slide the right heel in towards the right hip and let the folded legs to roll over to the left side. Rest onto the left buttock and take a big breath, relaxing into the pose. Let the inner thighs and hip joints relax. Notice as you exhale the space of the pelvis emptying out. The weight of the left leg will created a stretch inside and around the right side of the pelvis, contacting the psoas muscle, which provides core support for the lower back. Although this stretch might not feel very intense, if held for long enough is very therapeutic for low back strain. Be patient and stay here for 1-2 minutes. Repeat on the other side.
6. Side Twist
With both feet on the ground, slide the right leg down to the floor and bring the left knee into the chest. Extend the left hand out to the side, about 45 degrees, palm down. The right hands reaches over to catch the outside of the left knee and draw the knee to the opposite side, creating a twist. Bring the the left knee up toward hip level, resting the toes close to the right knee. A common tendency is let the left shoulder away from the floor in order to get the knee down, but that left shoulder should stay anchored to the floor or close to it. The breath with take you deeper. Follow the breath and as you come to the end of the exhale, feel the navel draw into the spine, making room to twist deeper around the waist. The hip will naturally lift and the knee roll towards the floor. This pose is also very therapeutic if held for 1-2 minutes. Repeat on the other side.