Here’s a simple trick I learned from a yoga instructor several months ago, to help center and elongate the spine/neck, and improve balance and posture — whether for yoga, cardio, walking or just sitting at your desk.
Last night I went for a three mile walk/jog with my mother and she was complaining about back pain. It reminded me of this three step move, which I tried explain to her as we puffed our way through the ocean of humidity in the neighborhood.
Excuse the silly photos. Actually, laugh at them. Go ahead. They’re goofy as hell.
Notice in the top left corner that I’m slumped and off center. My right shoulder naturally tilts lower than the other because I have mild scoliosis (runs in the family!), but that’s no excuse for being a frumpy mess.
- First, sit straight and look ahead. Sometimes this helps to do it in a mirror.
- Next, inhale deeply and bring your shoulders to your ears and try to lift your head as high as you can. Hold it there. Trying to bring shoulders up to touch your ears subconsciously makes you lengthen your spine.
- Exhale slowly while gently lowering your shoulders and pressing them down and back. Here’s the trick though: keep your head in the same spot. Breathe normally and try to keep your shoulders and head in this new position, whether sitting still on your yoga mat or typing at the computer.
It feels strange at first, and almost too simple, but I’ve found that it’s one of the easiest ways to elongate your spine and neck. I also do this when I’m having anxiety and it’s a 30-second fix where I’m forced to concentrate on my breathing and pose before moving forward.
Let me know in a comment if this works for you or if you have any other simple tricks!
Further evidence my sister has no bones.
I took her to yoga with me in the fall, when I’d first gotten into the idea. During her first class, that wonderful brat pulled some insane poses with zero effort. Bird of paradise. Wheel. Dancer. Whatever. What was terribly challenging for me, was effortless for her.
So we started this yoga war on our Facebook pages. She posted a set of crazy poses on her own wall, and I countered with the best I could do (Not that great, really. Really.). It’s actually pretty amazing to see how my body has changed since October!
In conclusion, my sister is awesome. There’s also a blooper reel.
Last night was the first time I held this pose, Bird of Paradise. It felt amazing!
My balance is typically not great, but the instructor worked carefully through it and had us try four times on each side. I think the most important thing is a slow pace, a steady gaze on a fixed point and concentrated breathing before you move.
It’s a great hip opener because it stretches your legs and strengthens your abs and both legs. Unlike my sister, who seems to have been born without bones, I’m really really not a flexible person. I can barely keep my legs straight in most poses, pigeon pose is a huge battle, and my hamstrings are tight even after an hour of vinyasa. But this was great flex work and felt like a big accomplishment to pull it off for the first time!
I found this step-by-step video if you’re interested in trying it out.
You start with a lunge, move into extended side angle, then a bind from there. Once you’re comfortably bound, your back leg moves forward to meet the front, so you’re doing sort of a forward fold with a bind. From there, you concentrate on standing up, still binding, grinding your heel into the floor to straighten your spine and balance (that’s the pose on the left in the above picture). Once balanced, you simply flex your leg out and try not to fall on to the person next to you. Easy peasy, right?
Wish I knew who the woman in this photograph was. She’s gorgeous. Send me a comment if you know!