One of those more frequent struggles I hear from yogis is how uncomfortable Up-dog pose can be for those of us with back pain. I wanted to chat today about some different variations that can keep you comfortable during your vinyasa flow. When it comes to back bending, we want to warm up well & never ask more than your body is willing to give. Most of us spend the majority of the day over a desk, seated, driving, etc. and don’t always have the best posture. During class we take ourselves out of that pattern of movement & bend the spine beyond our “normal” range, which can become limited if we don’t have a regular practice. Up-dog pose is something we do in most every class, but today we’re going to talk about 3 tips that might make the pose more comfortable & assessable for everyone!
- Start out with a modification: No matter how long you’ve been practicing, try beginning each practice with Sphinx or Cobra pose rather than Up-Dog pose. This will take some of the body weight off of the lower back, making it more comfortable to extend the upper spine. Cobra & Sphinx poses also allow us varying degrees & smoother transitions than finding only the full extension of the arms pressing into the mat for our Up-dog.
- How to achieve Sphinx pose: lay on your belly with elbows on the mat directly under your shoulders. Forearms & palms will extend out from you and help to support the weight of your body while breathing into the spine for more extension. Imagine your hips pressing into the mat while your shoulders roll down your back- widening your collar bones & taking your gaze to the sky.
- How to achieve Cobra pose: start by laying on your belly & place hands on either side of your chest. Look up to the sky & peel your upper body off the mat finding a slight backbend. *only go as far as you’re comfortable & move slowly*
- Visualize your Up-dog pose differently: Ready to amplify your modifications into an Up-dog pose? From your cobra, press into the tops of your feet, activate your legs until your knees are lifted all the way off the mat. Visualize a string from your heart up to the sky pulling your chest through your shoulders & up towards the sky- try to pull all of your body weight upwards & take any pressure out of your lower back. Play around with how wide your feet are as well to see if that makes a difference in how your spine feels. Imagine the collar bones pressing away from each other & activate your whole core.
- BREATHE: I feel like we always say this in yoga- but its true! During your vinyasa flow is a great time to experience the full range of your Up-dog pose as part of a bigger picture. Follow your breath as you inhale in high plank to press forward on your toes, exhale into your Chaturanga, deeply INHALE to pull your chest up & through to Up-dog, and “ride the wave” of energy as your exhale hips up & back into your Down Dog.