A short lying sequence to stretch your back, hips and shoulders.
Bringing awareness along your spine with this gentle back, hip and shoulder stretch
When I wake up in the morning the first thing I like to do is stretch along the length of my body from my toes to my fingertips. Lengthening my way into my day mindfully. Then I follow this with some gentle forward folding, or I hug myself in closely to round and stretch along the muscles of my back. This, for me is a pleasant way to stretch, supported by the ground and moving myself into and out of a ball like shape in order to release tensions along the back, hips, neck and shoulders.
This is the fifth and final sequence in a series of practices designed to get you moving mindfully in the mornings through slow stretching and to release common areas of tension that we may experience in our day to day. You can now start at the beginning of your morning stretch routine with the chair-based practice and take yourself towards the ground with this final lying sequence.
If you’ve missed any of the previous practices you can find them by going to the following links:
Week 1: Neck and shoulder mobility
Week 2: A gentle Standing forward bend
Week 3: Kneeling lunge to gently open the hips
Week 4: Easing the feet and ankles
Our intention is to stretch along the lower part of our back and towards the sacrum, whilst also stretching into the shoulders, neck as well as mobilising into the hips and legs. Even a simple lying stretch can target all of these parts of our body, when taken mindfully. These are common areas of tension due to prolonged periods of sitting, running, cycling and so on. The lower back in particular is perhaps the most common area that people will tell me about when it comes to any kind of bodily pain, aggravation or stiffness.
A reminder to be mindful:
As always the sequences that I am presenting to you are designed to be taken slowly and mindfully with the breath. Let the breath support your movement, notice before you begin that you feel settled onto the ground, let it support you fully. Bring awareness to sensations in your body and in particular along your spine, the muscles around it, and your hips and shoulders. As you settle more deeply you should notice the parts of your back which make contact with the ground and the parts that don’t. The exhalations will support the roundedness of the posture, curling into a ball like shape with the body whilst stretching along the muscles of the back. The inhalations will favour the act of releasing slowly towards the ground.
Notice how you feel before you begin, during each stretch, when you pause, and when you complete. Pay close attention to the way the breath supports and envelopes the movement.
Take the practice with me a few times and then take it on your own in silence. Add this onto the previous practices to increase the amount of time you move mindfully when you awake in the morning, or whenever you’d like to offer yourself a gentle stretch for your back.
Stretching along the back, shoulders and hips, step by step:
- Come to rest onto your backs with your legs either stretched along the ground or with the soles of your feet on the ground close to your buttocks. Arms resting out to the sides away from you, palms facing up.
- Get grounded and settle into your position, connect more evenly towards the earth. Allow yourself to notice the sensations of settling along the back of your body. Notice how your shoulders spread evenly away from one another.
- Notice how you feel physically and emotionally without any judgement.
- Draw your chin in lightly towards your throat, feel how the back of your neck responds.
- Bring your awareness to your breath in and out through your nostrils, and over time lengthen your exhalations and deepen your inhalations.
- When your breath feels steady and long, as you breathe in notice your chest rising and your belly lifting as your lungs fill with air. As you breathe out gradually begin to activate your deep inner core by lightly drawing your bellybutton in towards your spine.
- Pause often to observe.
- Then, invite your knees in one by one over your belly and take a hold of your shin bones with your hands. Feet soft, ankles relaxed.
- On an exhalation lift your head off the ground and guide your chin towards your knees, lifting your buttocks further away the ground. Inhale to slowly release. Take this 2-3 times.
- Then, take the same stretch but invite your nose in the direction of your knees, hugging in a little closer if that feels pleasant. Repeating this variation 2-3 times.
- Then, guiding your forehead towards your knees, notice how this feels as you lift a little further into the stretch and round more closely into your ball-like shape. Repeat this 2-3 times.
- Pause, then settle your feet back into the ground with your arms resting out to the sides. Breathe freely.
- Sigh the breath out with a long, soothing exhalation and return to the flow of your natural breath.
- Upon completion, pause and notice how you feel physically by bringing awareness to the sensations along your back into your hips, across your shoulders and into your neck.
- Notice how you feel energetically by being aware of your any changes to your breath and notice how you feel mentally by observing the activities of the mind.
I hope you enjoy the practice and time that you provide yourselves with to explore the more subtle experiences you may encounter. If you would like to join me for further explorations of accessible movement supported by the breath, you can do so by joining me in my online classes.
Thank you once again,
“As you merge the pose with the breathing, you will feel the breath gently nudging, coaxing, opening, stretching and relaxing your muscles and various tight areas. These areas are contracted energy, contracted parts of you. Releasing them, therefore, will not only give you more energy, but it will make you more comfortable in your body as well.”