Spinal extensions workshop – 7 Feb 2015

The momentum is building – this was our biggest group yet for a yoga workshop!   🙂

Maybe it’s a bit of a shame that there were no new faces for this one – but it’s fantastic to have so many familiar faces turn out!

Although there were no newbies, there were people who didn’t know each other. So, as usual, we began with introductions, which included a brief description of our personal relationships with spinal extensions (more commonly known as “back bends” – but more on that later).

It was very interesting to see a fairly even divide between those who love and those who hate going backwards. On one side, there are those self-professed floppy types who can just fall forward in a pascimottanasana (sitting forward bend) or prasaritapadottasana (wide-legged forward bend) finding themselves discussing the difficulties that they have with going backward.

Nina explained that sometimes this has to do with fear of exposing oneself in a very vulnerable position – we tend to go into a foetal position, or some other form of forward and inward contraction when under threat, rather than throwing open our chest and spreading our limbs in a wide diva stance.

On the other side, there are those among us who have severe spinal injuries – including bulging discs and fused vertebrae – while others were born with various spine conditions (scoliosis, kyphosis, lordosis). For some, this makes both forward and back bends very challenging.

It doesn’t take belonging to either camp to realise: spinal extensions require courage, backbody trust and lots of willingness to extend. Let’s do away with simply falling over backwards or feeling like a lower back spasm is coming on each time backbends are on the agenda!

So, once again, we very quickly established that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. Apparently, bending over backwards is a very personal thing – some of us love it, and are filled with joy when we do it; while others get giddy, feel faint, or experience fear. [Nina explained the faintness in physiological terms with the stimulation of the vagus nerve]

After the introductions, we briefly discussed the terminology. The term back-bends is problematic because it allows for contractions, collapsing or crunching in the lumbar and cervical vertebrae – both of which can contribute to the fainting and giddiness mentioned, but can also lead to injuries. When we focus, instead, on extending our spine, we are maximising the space available, opening the front body, and increasing overall spinal flexibility.

We moved on from there to a general group discussion of which poses count as spinal extensions. The group called out poses, and Nina demonstrated. Spinal extensions, of course, include both supine poses [ranging from bhujangasana (cobra) through urdhva mukha svasana (upward facing dog), bhekhasana (frog poses), dhanurasa (bow pose), setu bandha sarvangasana (bridge pose) to, of course, urdhva dhanurasana (wheel pose)] and standing poses [such as natarajasana] and inverted poses [vrschikasana (scorpion)].

up dog vipa wheel



Then we moved onto the use of props and preparing the body for extensions, with Nina demonstrating how the chair can be incorporated into your spinal extensions. chair use


Next, Felicity demonstrated the use of her whiz-bang bamboo barrels for loosening and opening up the front of the body.

 barrel 1    barrel 2

Then we got around to practicing! Once again we started with some core activating pranayama, engaging jalandara bandha (there’s a theme developing here, I reckon) and uddiyana bandha.

On to some shoulder opening, shoulder opening


psoas stretch some psoas stretching,


and finally we’re ready to go.  Start with the “easy”    ones  😮

strap 2  strap 1


Move on to some partner work

partner 1 partner 2

And then finish up with some wheel poses, drawing attention to shoulder, elbow and wrist positioning and engagement.

wheel 1 wheel 2

wheel 3

Next month, the workshop is on 7 March at 1.15pm. Our topic is Intention – a follow-up to a workshop that we did at the Yogafest in Somers last November, looking at the relationship between intentions and strength. We’re also going to do a yoga nidra, to the dulcet tones of Felicity Steel – both because it has a direct link to accessing our intentions, and because we’ve been hanging out to do the yoga nidra that we had intended to do during our meditation and seated postures workshop several months ago, but didn’t get to before we ran out of time.

So put 7 March in your diary, and send us your suggestions of what you would like to do in April and May!

For more photos visit here


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