Intermediate Group Class: Balancing the Lumbar/Thoracic Vertebral Joint [Light on Yoga]

The joint between the first lumbar vertebra (L1) and the last thoracic vertebra (T12) often gets a lot of abuse, getting gripped and hardened as we try to muscle through our poses. In this practice focus on these actions:
  • Soften and widen the lower ribs from front to back.
  • Soften and widen the muscle and connective tissue on either side of the spine from the tailbone to the back of the neck, even in the back bends.
  • Expand the lumbar/thoracic joint to support the surrounding tissue, rather than gripping the surrounding tissue to support the joint.

This sequence is adapted from p. 473 of the Schocken edition of “Light on Yoga”.

The Sequence

Side Stretch at the wall
• Stand with the feet together about eight to twelve inches away from the wall and lean the right hip, waist and ribs against it. Reach the right arm up. Pause here for a few breaths.
• Come up onto the balls of the feet. Stay here for a few breaths.
• Slowly drop the right heel, resisting up through the ribs and arms to lengthen out the right side of the waist. When the right heel is down, drop the left.
• Bend the right elbow and clasp it with the left hand. Draw the upper arm bone up towards the ceiling. Hold here for a few breaths.
• Take the tip of the elbow up and over the top of the head while keeping the outer armpit moving into the wall. Hold here for a few breaths.
• Turn the chest a slightly into the middle of the room to send the stretch towards the back. Hold here for a few breaths.
• Release and repeat on the second side.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Shirshasana Cycle:
Salamba Shirshasana 2 (Head Stand 2)
• Hold for no more than a minute.
• Come down out of the pose and without disturbing the placement of the head (if possible) go into the next pose.
Urdhva Dandasana (Upward Staff Pose)
• Hold for 10 to 20 seconds.
Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
• Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.
Parshva Shirshasana (Side Head Stand)
• Hold for 20 to 30 seconds on each side.
Urdhva Dandasana (Upward Staff Pose)
• Hold for 10 to 20 seconds.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Mayurasana (Peacock Pose)

Baddha Konasana Mayurasana (Bound Angle Pose in Peacock Pose)

Nakrasana (Crocodile Pose)
• From Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose) hop lightly forward 3 to 5 times, then back the same amount.

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

Parshva Dhanurasana (Side Bow Pose)

Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose)

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Salamba Sarvangasana Cycle:
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Salamba Sarvangasana 2 (Shoulder Stand 2)
Niralamba Sarvangasana 1 (Unsupported Shoulder Stand 1)
Niralamba Sarvangasana 2 (Unsupported Shoulder Stand 2)
Halasana (Plough Pose)
Karnapidasana (Pressure on the Ear Pose)

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose)

Supta Padangusthasana Cycle:
Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1) head down variation
Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1) head up variation
Supta Padangusthasana 3 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 3)
Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)
• Do the whole cycle all on one leg, then all on the other.

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)

Chakrasana (Wheel Pose)
• Roll from Halasana (Plough Pose) to Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Try this from a 3-blanket Shoulder Stand set-up to protect the neck.
• DO NOT press the head into the floor to help the transition. Use the strength of the arms and legs.

Utkatasana (Furious Pose)

Parighasana (Gate Pose)

Ushtrasana (Camel Pose)

Malasana (Garland Pose)

Supta Kurmasana (Sleeping Turtle Pose) preparation
• Put the feet up on a block with the heels together.
• Make a square shape with the legs, reach forward and take hold of the feet.
• Lengthen the sides forward towards the feet.

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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