How to love your back and spine in Sphinx pose (Salamba Bhujangasana) with yin yoga

Love your Back With This Spine-Focused Yin Yoga Sequence

Leah Sugerman, E-RYT 500, YACEP
Updated: 
December 23, 2020

In our typical day-to-day lives, our spines do a lot, and usually, we aren’t even aware of the amount of stress that we put on these tissues. The spine is an ingeniously designed shock-absorbing structure and a column of strength for our body’s stability as well as the protector of one of the central nervous system’s most precious structures (the spinal cord). 

Despite all that the spine does, we don’t usually give it the love and care it deserves. Oftentimes, we spend hours upon hours seated in hunched-over positions. We rarely move our spines in their full ranges of motion, thereby dehydrating tissues and—over time—ultimately, decreasing range of motion.

But it actually doesn’t take a whole lot to support your spine. And simple yoga practices can greatly help to comfort and de-stress this hard-working structure.

How to Love Your Spine with Yin Yoga

You may wish to have a yoga block or a blanket handy for extra comfort in this sequence.

Easy Sitting Pose (Sukhasana)

The benefits of practicing spine-focused yin yoga sequence in Easy Pose (Sukhasana)

  1. Start in any comfortable seated position—you could be cross-legged on a prop or the floor or seated in a chair.

  2. Root your sit bones down into whatever you’re sitting on and let that send energy all the way up your spine. 

  3. Stretch the crown of your head to the sky.

  4. Stack your ears over your shoulders, your shoulders over your ribcage, and your ribcage over your pelvis.

  5. Close your eyes as you draw your attention inward and slow your breath.

  6. Pause here for a few moments to settle in as you prepare for your practice.

Melting Heart Pose (Anahatasana)

Yoga student experiencing the benefits of Melting Heart Pose (Anahatasana) for spine health and redistribute stress

  1. When you’re ready, clear any props from your mat and roll forward onto all fours.

  2. Align your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees.

  3. Keep your hips as they are and slowly walk your hands forward toward the top of your mat as you melt the weight of your chest toward the floor.

  4. Rest your forehead on a prop or the mat beneath you and soften the space between your shoulder blades.

  5. Stretch your sit bones toward the sky and lengthen the rest of your spine away from them.

  6. Soften into the backbend in your spine as you hold here for about 2 minutes or so.

Dangling Pose (Uttanasana)

A simple yin yoga sequence to comfort and de-stress the spine and back in Dangling Pose (Uttanasana)

  1. When you’re ready, return to all fours.

  2. Step one foot at a time behind your hands and bend your knees deeply as you stretch your sit bones toward the sky into a standing forward bend pose. 

  3. Catch hold of opposite elbows and surrender the weight of your torso, head, and neck toward the floor.

  4. You may wish to keep your knees bent or you may prefer to straighten your legs. 

  5. Soften into a position that feels accessible to hold for about 3 minutes or so—you may wish to place props underneath your head or your arms.

  6. Surrender your upper body to the force of gravity.

Sphinx and/or Seal

Yin yoga teaching tips to practice Sphinx Pose for back and spine love

Yin yoga teaching tips to practice Seal Pose for back and spine love

  1. When you’re ready, release the clasp of your hands and bend your knees deeply to lower back down to all fours.

  2. However is comfortable for you, find your way to lay down on your belly. Stack your palms on top of each other and rest your forehead on this “pillow” you’ve created with your hands. Pause for a few moments to soften your back body. 

  3. If this feels like enough for your back, stay as you are. If you’d prefer, slide your elbows either slightly in front of or directly underneath your shoulders with your forearms parallel to each other, lifting your head and chest off the floor. Observe the compression in your lower back. If you don’t feel much, you can intensify the pose by bending your knees. If you’d like even more sensation, you can turn your fingers to face toward the outer edges of your mat, lift your elbows off the floor, and straighten your arms. The closer you draw your hands toward your torso, the more sensation you’ll create.

  4. Find a position with minimal sensation so that you’re able to hold comfortably for about 5 minutes.

Revolved Shoelace Pose (Gomukhasana or Cow Face Pose)

Yoga student practicing Cow Pose (Gomukhasana) or Revolved Shoelace Pose for the benefits of spinal health

  1. When you’re ready, return back to all fours and take any organic movements that your body is craving. You may wish to flow through Cat/Cow Pose (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana) or to lift up and back into Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Take a few moments to move your body through any movements that it needs and then return to all fours.

  2. Place your left knee behind your right knee and slide your feet out toward the edges of your mat.

  3. Slowly release your seat onto a prop or the floor between your heels. If your bottom knee is uncomfortable, or if your sit bones are not evenly grounded, you have the option to straighten your bottom leg or to place a prop between your knees. 

  4. Settle into a comfortable position in your legs, and lift and lengthen your spine. 

  5. Lower your right arm to the floor behind your right hip and draw your left hand to your right knee.

  6. Spiral and twist your torso toward the right.

  7. With every inhalation, grow taller through your spine. With every exhalation, ever so slightly, twist deeper.

  8. Hold for about 2 to 4 minutes, and when you’re ready, release, and switch sides. 

Banana Pose (Bananasana)

Yoga teaching tips to practice Banana Pose (Bananasana) for spinal care

  1. After you’ve finished both sides, take any organic movements that your body is craving, and when you’re ready, lie down on your back.

  2. Bend your knees and plant your feet on the floor. Press down into your feet to lift your hips and scoot them toward the right side of your mat. Lower your pelvis back to the floor and stretch your legs out long.

  3. Reach your arms over your head and hold onto your right wrist with your left hand. Keep your hips as they are, but slide your torso and your arms toward the left side of your mat. Walk your legs toward the left side of your mat and either stay as you are, or cross your right ankle over your left.

  4. Lengthen through the whole right side of your body in this arced “banana” shape.

  5. Find a comfortable position to settle into for about 5 to 7 minutes. Switch sides when you’re ready.

Relaxation Pose (Savasana)

Yin yoga student practicing Corpse Pose (Savanasa) to de-stress the spine and care for the back

  1. Return back to a neutral position on your back and take any final movements that your body craves. You may wish to hug one or both knees into your chest or take a quick Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana).

  2. When you’re ready, surrender and release into your final resting pose. Stretch your legs out long with your feet about as wide as your mat. Release your arms by your sides with your palms facing up toward the sky. Relax your whole body and close your eyes.

  3. Surrender into the shape, allowing your spine to settle, for about five to 10 minutes.

Move Your Spine for Optimal Health

It doesn’t take a whole lot to optimize health in your spine. Simple movements can really do a world of good by hydrating tissues, lubricating joints, and redistributing stress and load from our daily postural habits.

By simply moving your spine in all of its various movement capabilities in this spine-focused yin yoga sequence, you’ll effectively target many different tissues across your whole back body. 

Practice this sequence as a whole, or just throw a pose or two into your daily routine. You’ll likely be surprised by what an impact these simple movements can create.

 

Tom Myers, YogaUOnline presenter, wellness, Anatomy Trains

 

Leah SugermanLeah Sugerman is a yoga teacher, writer, and passionate world traveler. An eternally grateful student, she has trained in countless schools and traditions of the practice. She teaches a fusion of the styles she has studied with a strong emphasis on breath, alignment, and anatomical integrity. Leah teaches workshops, retreats, and trainings, both internationally and online. For more information, visit www.leahsugerman.com.