Intermediate Group Class: Balancing and Releasing the Lumbar Joints

The Curves of the Spine
In this week’s class we turn our attention to the two joints at either end of the lumbar spine: the lumbar-sacral joint and the lumbar-thoracic joint. The goal here was to first stretch out the muscle and fascia around these two joints and then to create dynamic balance in the soft tissue during pranayama. In each of the poses, think of the following actions:
  • Soften and widen the fascial walls that surround the two joints, especially those associated with the latissimus dorsi and the gluteus maximus.
  • Imagine each joint encased in a ball. Soften and expand the ball three-dimensionally.
  • Balance the weight so that it transfers evenly throughout the three-dimensional ball.
  • Imagine the balls moving away from each other, the lumbar-sacral ball connecting down to the feet, the lumbar thoracic ball connecting up to the head.
This practice makes extensive use of a rope wall.

The Sequence

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog) on the ropes
• Stack up a couple of blankets on a bolster and use them to support the head.
• Clasp the elbows and rest the forearms on the bolster as well.
• The props should be high enough to reduce the angle of the forward fold and make the pose more elongated.
• Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)
• Do this pose with a long belt looped around both the very top of the raised thigh and the descended foot.
• Press out into the belt to move the thighbone away from the head and to lengthen out the lower back and buttock of the raised leg. You might even have the foot of the descended leg against the wall to give you more grounding.
• Hold for 1 to 2 minutes on each side.

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)
• Same set-up as above.
• Hold for 1 to 2 minutes on each side.

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 1) leg facing forward
• Do this on the ropes with the raised leg supported by the middle rope hook.
• Loop a sandbag through a rope and slip the rope around the hip crease of the raised leg to create a similar effect to the belt in the previous poses.
• Hold for 1 to 2 minutes on each side.

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 2 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 2) leg to the side
• Same set-up as above.
• Hold for 1 to 2 minutes on each side.

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 1) leg facing forward
• Same set-up as above.
• If possible, use a foam block or some other prop on the rope hook to raise the foot higher.
• Fold forward over the raised leg.
• Hold for 1 to 2 minutes on each side.

Side stretch over a bolster
• Lie on your side over a bolster across the ribs so that the body curves and the side waist and ribs can stretch out.
• If you know for a fact that one side of your trunk is shorter or tighter than the other, stretch that side out first. Otherwise, stretch the right side first.
• Hold for 1 to 2 minutes on each side.

Hanging Child’s Pose on the ropes
• Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.

Hanging Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) on the ropes
• Come into this directly from the Child’s Pose.
• Slide the feet down to the floor (or to blocks if they don’t reach). Slide the rope into the abdomen to support the upper body.
• Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.
• Come up slowly from this so that the blood does not rush to the head.

Hanging Shirshasana (Head Stand) on the ropes
• Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) over bolsters with the legs bound in Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)
• Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose)
• Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• Fold a blanket lengthwise to create a ridge of support under the spine.
• Have a second blanket for a pillow.
• Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.

Ujjayi Pranayama 4 (Victorious Breath 4)
• Ujjayi 4 is full and expansive inhalations with slightly longer, easy and complete exhalations.
• In the above position: take a belt and fold it in quarters; place the belt on the blanket under the top of the sacrum to give you feedback.
• As you do the pranayama, soften and release the soft tissue around the lumbar-sacral joint so that they expand and release in a balanced and easy fashion as you breath.
• 5 minutes.

Ujjayi Pranayama 4 (Victorious Breath 4)
• In the above set-up, move the belt to the floating ribs for feedback on the lumbar-thoracic joint.
• 5 minutes.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• Remove the blanket ridge under the back and lie flat on the floor with just a blanket under the head. Have a bolster under the knees as well if you desire.
• 5 minutes.


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