Practice for Neck & Shoulders, low back & hips

Intention: Releases tension in upper back, neck & shoulders while strengthening & stabilizing low back, and gently stretching hip area

1.

Notice how you feel. Set an intention for your practice. Then bring your awareness to your breath and keeping the abdominal muscles relaxed, allow your navel to rise as you inhale and to sink as you exhale. Even if we always breath with our lungs, we often call this "belly breath"

Take about six comfortable breaths

2.

Bring arms along the sides of your torso. This is the starting position of the next movement.

As you inhale bring your arms up and then back toward the wall behind you

On exhalation return to the starting position

Repeat this movement linking breath and movement 6 times

Remember to keep inhalations short for now and gradually lengthen exhalations. Always keep your breath smooth

3.

Grab your right thigh with your clasped hands

On inhalation stretch your leg reaching up with your heel

On exhalation bend your leg bringing the thigh to your chest

Repeat the movement 3 to 4 times, coordinating movement & breath

Then repeat all with the other side

4.

"Vajrasana": Begin standing on your knees, arms at your sides

As you inhale lift your arms sweeping them to the sides and then bringing them up with palms facing each other

As you exhale bring your hands back to the sacrum, bringing the forehead to a block. contract your abdominal muscles as you do this moving your navel toward the spine

Repeat this movement  4 times

To finish this sequence, the last time that you inhale coming upright, stay upright 

Then bring your arms down on exhalation

This is the end of this exercise ("Vajrasana")

5.

Exercise to decrease tension in the neck: 

Standing up, bring your hands to your back. Take a few breaths noticing how you feel. This is the starting position

As you inhale bring your left arm up, sweeping, looking straight ahead

As you exhale bring your hand to your back, turning the head to the opposite side of the moving arm (to the right)

As you inhale lift again your left arm to the side and then up, sweeping, bringing the face looking straight ahead

As you exhale bring your arm to the side as if you were holding a silver platter, turning your head in opposite direction of that arm, to stretch the neck.

 

Stay in the pose for two free flowing breaths allowing your neck to get a stretch

Then return to the starting position with both your hands to your back

Repeat all the exercise with the other arm

Then repeat all the exercise with left arm; then with the right

Then notice the sensation around your neck and shoulders

6.

"Uttanasana":

On inhalation lift your arms to the sides and slightly up, expanding your chest

On exhalation bring the torso forward and down bending your legs, letting the head drop

On inhalation come to the upright position lifting arms to sides

Repeat this movement 4 times

Then bring your arms down and take a few breaths. Notice how you feel

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7.

"Virabhadrasana" adaptation:

Bring one foot forward and one foot back, the back foot/leg in a slight angle. Both legs straight

On exhalation bring your hands to the opposite shoulder gently bringing your head down allowing your back to round

On inhalation bend your front leg, open your arms to the sides and look slightly up moving the shoulder blades towards each other

Repeat the movement 4 times, then stay in the pose with arms to the sides and front leg bent, for 3 long breaths

Repeat 3 to 4 times; then bring your feet together and notice the sensation around your upper back, neck and shoulders

Then repeat everything on the other side

8.

"Uttanasana": As you inhale bring your arms up to the sides

As you exhale bring your torso forward and down, letting your head drop

Inhale coming upright with arms to the sides

Repeat the movement 4 times

Exhale bringing your arms down and notice the sensation in your upper back, neck & shoulders

9.

"Vajrasana": Begin standing on your knees

As you inhale lift your arms sweeping them to the sides and then bringing them up with palms facing each other

As you exhale bring your hands back to the sacrum, bringing the forehead to a block. Contract your abdominal muscles as you do this moving your navel toward the spine

Repeat this movement 4 times

To finish this sequence, the last time that you come upright inhaling, stay upright

Then bring your arms down on exhalation

This is the end of this exercise ("Vajrasana")

Keep the inhalation short, lengthen the exhalation gradually, linking breath and movement and keeping the breath smooth

10.

"Bujanghasana" (cobra):

Lie down with your hands at the sides of your chest, forehead down; notice your breath flowing

As you inhale bring your chest slightly up, let the head follow the movement of the chest

Exhale bringing the torso down to the starting position

Repeat the movement 4 times, making your exhalation gradually longer

11.

"Dvi pada pittam" (bridge):

Turn to lie down on your back

As you inhale lift your pelvis

As you exhale move to the starting position unwinding your spine

Repeat the movement 2 times; then stay two breaths keeping the back of the neck long & relaxed

12.

"Apanasana": 

Grab your right knee with the right hand & your left knee with your left hand

Take one inhalation there, with your arms straight, the knees arms distance from the chest

On exhalation bend your elbows bringing the thighs closer to your belly

On inhalation move to the starting position

Repeat the movement 4  to 6 times

Optional additional movement #1

"Figure 4": to decrease tightness in hips

Optional additional movement #2

"Jatara Parivritti" adaptation: to stretch and release piriformis

Stay a few breaths, then come back and repeat the other side 

Stay a few breaths; then do the other side

13.

Bring your knees to the chest to gently stretch the low back

Stay 3 to 4 breaths

14.

"Savasana": Rest a few minutes allowing your whole body to relax

Your practice is complete!

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