Spinal stretches

Start by kneeling with knees directly underneath your hips, your legs are straight behind you, and your hands are spread wide beneath your shoulders. Then press your spine toward the floor for the Cow pose.
Start by kneeling with knees directly underneath your hips, your legs are straight behind you, and your hands are spread wide beneath your shoulders. Then press your spine toward the floor for the Cow pose.
From the Cow pose, relax to the neutral Table pose, then arch your spine upwards for the Cat pose. Move back to neutral and then repeat the Cow and Cat poses until you find more space in your spine.
From the Cow pose, relax to the neutral Table pose, then arch your spine upwards for the Cat pose. Move back to neutral and then repeat the Cow and Cat poses until you find more space in your spine.

For the Insider

With gyms closed and at least some social distancing precautions expected to continue through the summer, it might be hard to keep up the routines you are used to doing. However, it is still important to stay active for a healthy body and mind. Instructors from 43 Degrees North will be sharing quick exercises with the Insider that you can do at home.

Cat/Cow Spinal flexion and extension

How: Start with a deep inhalation and exhalation, and as you inhale again, begin in Table pose, where you kneel with knees directly underneath your hips, your legs are straight behind you, and your hands are spread wide beneath your shoulders. Check that your middle fingers make an 11. As you spread your palms wide, think about pressing into the joints where your fingers meet your palms. You might imagine a sixth finger between your thumb and your index finger and press into that space. As you press into your palms, as if you are making handprints in the sand, you are helping to distribute your weight throughout your arms, and can avoid dumping weight into the wrists.

Next, bring your attention to your spine as you press into the floor, and round and raise your spine up toward the sky. Scoop out the belly as you draw your abs in, and shake out your head and neck as you lower your chin toward your chest. Let your head be heavy, and imagine you can unzip the crown, and drop what you don’t need on your mat.

As you press into the floor and come back to a neutral spine, check in with your breath, inhale, exhale. Continuing to create handprints as you press into the mat, drop your belly into cow pose, press into your ribs, lift your eyes to the sky, and extend into the arch in your back. Continue breathing as you lift your spine up into Cat, finding more space for extension, and coming through neutral, drop your belly again into Cow and reach into your arch. Continue as long as you can find more space in your spine.

When you feel complete, sit back on your heels, and check in once more with your breath.

Benefits: As we age, vascularization retreats in the spinal region and the discs become calcified, so that the spine becomes shorter, more rigid and more brittle, and we can lose range of motion in the lumbar spine. A healthy spine not only stays supple, but remains elongated so that we feel taller and stronger.

Variations: You can look over the shoulder creating a side twist, so that looking over the left shoulder toward the heel, you can feel a stretch in your right side body, right hip and right glute. Try it on both sides.

You can turn your hands so that fingers face the outside edges of your mat and the wrist creases face each other to strengthen the wrists. You can turn your fingers toward your knees to strengthen the forearms.

You can extend your left leg long, and lift the leg so that the heel is in line with your hip, and send your right arm out long in front, pressing into the palm for a balancing challenge, and switch to the other side.

(Kris Lucas is a certified fitness instructor And teaches yoga at 43 Degrees North Athletic Club.)

Author: Kris Lucas

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