Winter has arrived! Well, Queensland’s version of winter anyway. All of sudden my body has seized up in protest. My morning yoga practice resembles a rusty pair of scissors, nothing moves, at least not without a whole heap of grating and scraping in my joints. The positions I once found comfortable and easy to practice in the warmer weather now evade me… touching toes in a forward fold, anyone?? Yeah right!! However, the cooler months are just as important to practice yoga as ever. But, don’t beat yourself up if you’re a little stiffer and tighter than you were a few weeks ago.
Along with releasing tight hips, keeping the spine healthy and flexible helps to realign so many other parts of the body. A few of my favourite yoga poses for moving the spine also help create heat and energy in the body – perfect for those cooler morning or evening yoga practices.
1. Cow/Cat Yoga Pose
The Cow/Cat pose combo is one of my favourite ways to start off a practice or just have a quick little stretch first thing in the morning. It releases any tension and kinks from your sleep the night before as well as helping you to connect with your breath early in the day. The benefits of Cow/Cat pose are they strengthen and stretch the spine and neck (spinal flexion and extension), while massaging and stimulating the internal organs. These postures also improve balance and posture, and help create emotional balance.
2. Cobra Yoga Pose
After hunching over a laptop all day, or sleeping curled up in a ball to try and keep warm, Cobra is a wonderful way to open the shoulders and chest and stretch the spine in the opposite direction (spine extension). Benefits of Cobra are that it stretches shoulders, chest and abdomen muscles, while strengthening the arms and wrists. It helps to improve menstrual cycle. Cobra also helps to relieve lower back stiffness.
3. Downward Dog Yoga Pose
(Adho Mukha Svasana)
Downward Dog is one of the key physical postures of yoga. It straightens and lengthens the spine (axial extension) while also strengthening and stretching the wrists, arms, shoulders, back, hips, hamstrings, calves and ankles. It improves circulation, clears the head and in general just gets everything moving inside. Downward Dog helps bring your spine back to its natural state, lengthening and realigning.
4. Reclined Spinal Twist Yoga Pose
Stretching the spine in different directions is an important component of spine health and flexibility. Twists (axial rotation) and side bends (lateral flexion) open up the spine in ways we wouldn’t normally move and create space for the body to release and relax. The benefits of reclined spinal twist are that it stretches the spine, hips and quads, relaxes the mind and body. It also massages into the internal organs/abdomen.
Tips: Avoid if you have any spinal injuries or pain. If you’d like to get a deeper twist, gently relax your head/neck and turn your face to look out over your extended arm. Bring the head back to centre before releasing the legs and body to neutral.
What are your favourite yoga postures for stregthening and stretching the spine? Share in the comments! We’d love to hear from you.