Each day we shrink a little, from the time that we wake up until the time we go to bed. This is due to gravity on our spine. As the little discs between our vertebrae are mostly water, when we walk around they lose some fluid. Then, overnight, they plump again with liquid.
In order to keep your spine healthy, a combination of a healthy diet, not smoking and as little drinking as possible is essential, as is rest, and consistently working your core to keep your spine supported. And for this, this line-up is a great place to start.
1. Floor stretch
Lie down on the floor and stretch your body out as long as possible for a few breaths and then relax it for 10 breaths. Keep working on getting longer every time, too. Repeat this for a couple of minutes.
2. Trace circles
Start with your knees together and gently pull them towards your chest. Trace full but gentle circles with your knees (and hips), keeping the knees close to you until you feel your back relax and get warm. Gradually, let your knees get wider apart as you progress, so you are massaging more of your spine. Take 20 breaths.
3. Supported forward fold
Very slowly, make your way up to a seat. Place a pillow underneath your knees with the legs apart, wider than hip width. As you gently lean forward you should feel a delicious stretch in your lower back. Focus on leaning forward from your navel so you are actively lengthening your spine as you go. Hold for 30 breaths.
4. Banana stretch
Lie back slowly and move the pillow off your mat. Straighten out both legs and reach the arms above you, keeping your whole body on the floor. Then imagine you are a banana. Move your hips to the right, being careful to keep bottom and hips on the floor, then move your torso and legs over to the left as far as you want to go for a stretch through your side body. Slow your breathing and take 10 breaths. Slowly come back to the middle and then repeat on the second side.
5. Supported lift
Lying down, slide a yoga block underneath your sacrum (this is the fused part of your lower back leading to your bottom) think back of your hips. The long side of the block should make a cross with the line of your spine. If you don't have a yoga block, you can use a similar sized hard cover book. Start off with the lowest height, and with time investigate taking it higher.
Bend your knees keeping your feet on the floor for a lesser but wonderful stretch. If you feel comfortable you can start to straighten your legs one at a time until both are straight. Start with a neutral spine, but if you want more stretch, lift up your hips and tuck your tailbone away from you, keeping the length and lying back on the block. Hold for 20 breaths.
At the end of a long, busy day, do your best to fit this in. Your spine will love you for it.
Edited by Body and Soul. Martine Allars is a yoga teacher at Elixr.
Martine's Winter Yoga Retreat
Martine is hosting another of her restorative yoga retreats from 11–17 June, this time at Sanctuary Retreat, Mission Beach, near the Great Barrier Reef. You'll find all the details and booking information here.