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Shoulder bridge is a great pose to move on to from supine breathing exercises. The spine is supported so bend the knees placing the feet hip width apart close to the buttocks and start to notice that support from the earth under the back, the head, arms, shoulders and feet.
Push in to the feet. Notice the tailbone tuck up and the lumbar region push into the mat. On an inhalation continue pushing into the feet, taking each vertebra of the spine off the mat one at a time until the hips are raised high and all the weight has poured into the shoulders.
Take a couple of full deep breaths into the upper chest and shoulder blades, lengthen the knees away from the body, draw in the floating ribs and bring the abdomen towards the spine when you exhale. On an exhalation start to lower each vertebra back to the mat one at a time as if you were laying a pearl necklace down the centre of your mat.
Continue raising up the hips on an inhalation and lowering down on an exhalation focusing on increasing the space between vertebra noticing as each vertebra is lain down on the mat and even the pads between the vertebra as each one lands.
Modifications can include holding the hips high, raising one leg and pointing the toe to the ceiling, or putting a block under the sacrum to open the hip and groin area, or as you raise the hips also raise the arms simultaneously so they float over the head as if they're on an axle at the shoulder until the arms are lying flat on the floor parallel to the ears. Float arms back over as you lengthen the tailbone away and lower the spine down on an exhalation.
Now come to a spinal twist with the knees bent or with either one or both legs vertical to the ceiling. Allow the legs to fall right. If the knees are bent use the right hand on the outside of the left knee to bring the knee towards the floor. Try to keep the hips stacked one on top of the other to keep the length in the waist. Keep both shoulders flat into the floor; imagine the weight of gravity on them and then allow the head to turn to gaze over the opposite shoulder. Breathe deeply into the spine and visualise that twist in the spine from the tailbone all the way through the sacrum, lumbar region, twisting up through the thoracic and cervical spine all the way into the skull. After relaxing here for some breaths, roll the sacrum back to the floor and then allow the legs or knees to fall the other side.
When you have finished, roll from side to side and roll forwards and backwards along the length of the spine to massage the nerve endings around the vertebra. Roll up to sitting and over the knees onto all fours.
Cat and Cow spinal warm up
Put the hands directly under the shoulders and the knees directly under hips. Spread the hands like lizards hands and take the weight in the fingers and base knuckles of the digits as well as the wrists.
Engage the belly so that the spine becomes flat like a table.
As you inhale drop and relax the belly, like a cow with heavy udders, take the tailbone up, roll the shoulders back to keep width across the collar bones and gaze up. As you exhale take tailbone down and allow the back to arch until the head is down and the nose is squeezing towards the hips, so you are arched like an angry cat.
Continue this in your own breath time allowing the movements to take the time of the breath feeling like a wave is travelling up the spine alternately arching and rounding the spine.
Then imagine you have a pencil in your belly button hanging down and make circles on the ground below you and figures of eight. Play with the circular, up and down and side to side movements to get as much mobility into the back as possible.
Child’s pose and cobra extension
When you've finished, take the bottom back onto the heels on an exhalation, inhaling raise up, slide the hands forwards and then lower the belly and chest down to the floor on an exhalation. Inhaling lengthening the spine and chest forwards, draw elbows towards the waist, squeeze the shoulder blades together so you come up through a Cobra and then raise the hips up and take them back to the heels in an extended child's pose again. Continue again in your own breath time sliding your hands forwards and back as much as necessary to feel length and comfort in the spine. Finally rest in child's pose when finished.
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