Alyssa is a singer, songwriter, yogi, metaphysician, and contributing editor for Earth Mamma, writing about yoga, healing, gardening, and child care. Here she shares a light flow to open and stretch the spine.
Shot at the Vidya Centre for Yoga and Wellness.
The original purpose of practicing the Yoga Asanas, or the physical postures of yoga, is really to prepare ones being for the deep turning inwards of their awareness and present attention to all that speaks their souls song. Or, in other words, yoga strives to prepare our beings for tuning into the same voice, force and intelligence that orchestrates the moving of the planets, eco systems and our beating hearts. It is the voice that calls us into living our highest potential, which I believe means living and experiencing holistic manifestations of love, peace, abundance and radiant wellness.
There are many names for this power, wisdom, and the inner voice that the sages of yoga call us to tune into. Some refer to it as the Great Spirit, others refer to it as mother or father God, some, the universal all knowingness, or perhaps the infinite and all-knowing intelligence. Regardless of its name, this source of life, energy and divine creative force, is the living weaver of balance and harmonious flow through all nature, including the body, mind and soul if we allow for it.
When surrendered to, it can take one through their chaos, imbalance and dis-ease and bestow peace, wisdom and wellness. If only one learns how to access, attune, clearly perceive and devout to this well of unlimited energy and wisdom, he or she may become a channel for true and divine well being, balance, harmony and love.
When the body feels well, and relaxed, which are effects of properly practiced yoga, it is much easier to relax the mind and tune into the deeper parts of ones being, which is really what is behind all that becomes manifested and the reality within ones life. For example; if inwardly you are feeling upset and unwell, your reality will continue to mirror back to you what you are feeling within the deepest and subconscious parts of your self through the law of attraction.
Developing a practice such as yoga, and training your concentration through focused meditation and deep tuning in, is so profoundly supportive in creating and maintaining holistic health and a beautiful, fulfilling and harmonious life. If practiced properly it truly can be the bridge between you and your highest self, or in other words, divine union with the Great Spirit.
If a person feels sluggish, tightness, aches or pains in the body, it can become very irritable and difficult for the mind to concentrate on our inner guidance and move into meditation. This is why the consistent practice of yoga can be so beneficial, if practiced correctly under a teacher who has a great understanding and offers guidance of proper alignment.
Yoga truly has the ability to keep ones body, flexible, strong, and agile, opening up the possibilities for the mind to focus and concentrate, and also observe ones own innerness so he or she may become the master of their emotions, urges and desires.
I believe and feel that it all starts with a healthy spine as this is the main highway within the body for our life energy to flow. There are several postures in yoga from beginner to the advanced yogi on keeping a healthy and flexible spine. It is always important to listen to your own bodies signs and signals and honor thyself.
Posture One – Seated Spinal Twist
Take a big deep breath in through the nose, on the exhale move into the full posture, and continue to breath fluidly in and out of the nose. While striving to root your sit bones into the earth, bend both legs, crossing right over left, planting the right foot on the ground on the outside of the left bent leg. If that is not available, perhaps plant the right foot flat on the floor where feels comfortable in front of the left shin.
Reach up out of the base of your spine, elongating the length of the back side up your body. Make the spine as long as you can by reaching up and out through the crown of the head. Draw the navel to the spine. Relax the shoulders and allow the heart center to become open. Draw the energy of the earth up through the pelvic floor sending it up the spin all the way to the crown of the head
Take the left hand to the right leg pulling the right knee towards the left shoulder, twist the spine, turning the shoulders towards the right. Be gentle on the neck, spending time looking in both directions. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute and then repeat on the opposite side, to create balance and flexibility within the spin and increase circulation and energy flow.
Posture Two – Seated Side Bend
Take notice of your rootedness in the ground, as you sit in a cross legged position, bringing your awareness to the support of your physical body by the earth below you. Again draw the energy of the earth up through your pelvic floor, sending upwards clearing the channels through each of your Chakras.
While reaching out through the crown of your head, place your right hand on the floor beside your right hip and reach your left hand and extended arm up over head, reaching towards the right as you stretch and elongate the left side of your body.
Hold for 30 seconds and perhaps go deeper for another 30 and then realign your spin to a neutral straight position and take your left hand and arm down to the left side. Repeat on the opposite side.
Posture Three – Cat
Come on to your hands and knees, take the knees directly under the hips, hip width apart and flat hands with spread fingers, under the shoulders, shoulder width apart. Draw the navel to the spine, with a flat back, reach out through the crown of the head and out through the base of the spin, elongating the spine. Take a deep inhale and as you exhale, move into cat pose, by rounding the back, drawing the chin to chest and tucking the tail bone, creating greater flexibility in the neck and spine.
Posture Four – Cow
Again, from the hands and knees with a neutral spin and flat back, reach out through the crown of the head and the tail bone. As you inhale lift the chin and tailbone to the sky, as if turning the face to the sun, stretching out the front body while arching the back. Move in and out of cat and cow, exhaling into cat and inhaling into cow pose for several breaths with closed eyes. Tune into your body and how its feeling, listen to it, move to your own pace and rhythm.
Posture Five – Camel Variation
From a table top position on the hands and the knees, lift the hands away from the floor, coming all the way up on the knees with an erect spin. Reach up and out through the crown of the head, draw the navel to the spine, open the chest and heart center, create space in between the shoulders and the ears. From here, take the hands to the lower back, or the back of the hips. With fingers pointing down, push the hips forward and look the head up to the sky, opening the heart and chest even more. Again, listen to the body, go deeper if available and, honor your limits
Moving deeper, with the arms externally rotated, take the right hand to the right foot, heel, or back of the right ankle and then, left hand to left foot, heal or back of left ankle. continue to draw in the navel and create length through the spine. Breath fluidly in and out of the nose, holding this posture from 30 seconds to one minute, opening the heart even more and deepening your back bend.
Posture Six – Standing Forward Fold
Stand firm on your mat with a tall and long spine and arms at your side, and feet hip width apart. Inhale and raise the hands over head, looking up. On the exhale, hinge at the hips and fold forward, floating the hands down to the floor if possible. If needed, use blocks under the hands for support. If you want to take the posture further, wrap the peace fingers around the toes, or take the hands to the back of the ankles or, interlace the fingers behind the back, extend the arms and draw the hands towards the floor. Shift the weight in to the balls of the feet, draw the nose towards the knees and the belly button towards the spine. Breath fluidly, in and out of the nose, holding this posture from 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Posture Seven – Easy Pose
Come into a seated position, either cross legged, or with one leg in front of the other, draw the pelvic floor upwards, breath fluidly in and out of the nose, clear the mind, relax the brain, jaw and face, elongate the spine, reach out through the crown of the head, and take hands into prayer pose or rest the backs of the hands on the legs. Breathing here in this pose for as long as you like, perhaps moving into a meditation.