My 70-year old mother never practiced yoga, and she suffers from chronic back pain. She is very active, and on the two occasions she attended my classes, I could see that she pushes—hard. My classes are challenging for her but she loves yoga and how it makes her feel afterwards. It shifts her, undeniably. Yet, where she lives, she doesn’t have access to yoga classes with proper supervision at an adequate level for her. With her back pain and a couple of old injuries, she is plagued with the wear of her years. Yet, she presses on.
During one of her last episodes of back pain—leaving her nearly immobile after too much walking—, I helped her lie down and rest on the floor with her legs raised on a chair. It provided immediate relief. So she has continued to practice this at the end of each day.
You see, I teach dynamic, athletically capable individuals—and I have been doing so for over 10 years. When I look at my mother, I want to care for her and I want her to be as mobile as possible, so I have designed this sequence with her in mind, as well as for the thousands of us who will inevitably suffer from a bout of back pain. This is my daily, go-to practice, to re-center, re-freshen, and realign.
Props: wall, 2 blocks (or heavy books), strap (or belt), 1 blanket (or more), chair
Modified Savasana with chair: Lie on your back, legs elevated, knees bent, calves supported on the chair seat/blanket (optional blanket on chair seat).
Transition sideways off chair (moving it to the side) and lie down again, reaching feet to the wall.
Reclined Mountain Pose: Lie with your back on the floor and the soles of your feet against the wall, using both the wall and floor as proprioceptive tools to help breathe into the body and connect the legs to the spine by pressing the feet into the wall. Also notice postural patterning.
Transition sideways to kneel and step up one foot at a time.
Mountain Pose: Use the block between your thighs to connect your legs to the spine; lift your toes and thoroughly press your feet into the ground, distributing the weight evenly on the inner and outer edges of the feet, toes, and heels. Keep your head erect and look straight ahead.
Utthita Marichyasana III on chair and blocks: Stand sideways at the wall, facing the chair with the foot nearest the wall supported on the chair seat; twist gently towards the wall, bending elbows and placing both palms at wall. Press your foot into the chair to further lift the spine. The standing heel can be elevated on a block to help generate lift of the spine, away from the floor.
Bharadvajasana on chair: Sit sideways on the chair with the side of your body against the chair back, holding it and pressing it down. The leg on the outside extends outward to ease up the spine and lengthen it from head to foot. Keep the spine lifted and turn your torso towards the right without leaving the spinal axis. Repeat on the other side.
Mountain Pose: Transition, stand tall, without block. Return to center and observe shift.
Extended Side Angle against a wall: From Tadasana against the wall (heels and buttocks); turn the right foot out, bend the right knee, and bend to the right, taking bottom hand to a block. Lengthen the sides of the body. Use the wall to get feedback. Switch.
Half Upward Dog with chair against the wall: With hands on the seat of the chair with (out) bolster, elevating the spine up, looking forward at the wall.
Transition sideways to the floor without rounding the back. Kneeling down at first.
Supta Padangusthasana: With strap around a foot, knees bent at first. Bend the right knee wide towards the outer right ribs (without rounding the spine), looping the strap around the right foot. Hold one end of the strap in each hand. Raise the right leg until it is perpendicular to the floor, pressing the left foot down and away from the body. Repeat on the other side.
Savasana: Lie on your back, legs elevated, knees bent, calves supported on the chair seat/blanket (optional blanket on chair seat).
Come out by rolling to the side that’s most comfortable and sitting up (on the chair if desired).