In this pose, we will focus on the thoracic spine. If you are not familiar, the thoracic spine is simply the area of the upper spine below the neck. Think of the area between your shoulder blades on your back.
This particular pose can be done pretty much anywhere, with a few simple props you can find in your own home, or if you are traveling, in a hotel room. The variation we will be working with can be done by anyone, and modified to fit any body shape and size.
Today we will be exploring a different variation of Viparita Karani, or “Legs Up the Wall” Pose. And instead of having our legs up a wall, our legs will be resting on a chair or couch.
I have been using this particular pose in my own practice, not just for the numerous benefits it provides, but particularly adding an element for gaining more opening in the upper spine, and therefore more opening of the heart space.
If you have a nine to five job and you find yourself often hunched over at your desk, shoulders directed forward and upper spine rounded, this would be a beneficial pose to practice at home daily, perhaps after work or anytime you can fit it in.
We can practice opening in the thoracic spine with multiple other movements, but we are sticking with restorative (restful) here as a way not only to work with the spine, but to calm the nervous system and experience the benefits of restorative yoga.
Legs Up a Chair Pose is a restful inversion which has numerous benefits. According to Leann Carey in her book Restorative Yoga Therapy, some of the benefits of inversions are:
· Relieve tired legs and feet
· Reverse the effects of gravity
· Refresh the brain with freshly oxygenated blood
· Calm the mind
And, in this particular case, we are going to add an element to focus on the thoracic spine.
What you will need:
· 2 blankets or towels
· Couch or chair
· 1 small cushion OR folded towel or blanket for head support (optional)
You’ll begin by folding 1 towel or blanket in half. Once folded in half, you’ll make a small fold (kind of like a small roll) at one end about 1-2 inches in thickness. It is important that this small fold is not too thick, or it will not target the area we are focusing on.
Once you have the fold, you’ll lay the towel or blanket down in front of the couch or chair so that it is spread out and the 1-2 inch fold is furthest from the chair or couch (see image below). Have the second towel or blanket, as well as the small cushion within reach in case you need to access them.
Next you will lie down on your folded blanket or towel, so that your calves are on the couch or chair, and the small 1-2 inch fold sits on your upper back, just below your armpit line. Make sure you are close enough to the couch/chair so that your legs are at about a 90 degree angle or so (it may not be exactly 90 degrees…that’s ok!). It’s ok if you need to wiggle around or adjust the blanket/towel under you to get yourself set up comfortably.
Finally, if you notice your low back arching away from the floor quite a bit (mine does), that’s when you might want to bring in a small folded blanket or towel underneath your low back to create more support. This is optional. In addition, if your neck feels uncomfortable, or your chin is tilted back quite a bit, you may need to grab your small cushion or another folded towel to place underneath your head. Your arms can be out to the sides, resting on the floor between the pillow and blanket, palms open toward the sky (or however they lie comfortably).
The actions in this pose are subtle, and the most work is done when we are fully at rest. Simply relax and breathe, and let the pose take you into bliss!
*There are some contraindications of restorative inversions, so please review them before attempting the pose. They are as follows:
· Serious heart problems
· Heavy menstruation (first days of heavy bleeding)
· Uncontrolled high blood pressure and heart conditions
· Detached retina
· Inflammation of eyes and ears
· Pulled hamstrings (proceed with caution)
· Pregnancy (be in tune with your body and follow your instincts)
If you try this pose at home and enjoy it, please feel free to share your experience in the comments section, or email me directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love your feedback!
Restorative Yoga classes last Sunday of July, August, and September!
Dates: July 28, August 25, September 29
Location: Yoga in the Center