Yoga Positions for a Flexible Spine

Yoga poses for the spine focus on elongation.
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Yoga's unique ability to unwind the mind and body, regardless of the style, has made the practice popular in the West. While poses can have an anatomical focus, you’ll work other body parts during the movement. When grouped together in a sequence, yoga poses center on a region -- such as the abdomen -- to ease discomfort and increase flexibility.

Janu Sirsasana

Janu Sirsasana, or Hand-to-Knee Forward Bend, lengthens the spine. Place a small pillow underneath your bottom and sit. Straighten your legs and inhale. Next, bend your right leg and grasp your right heel. Gently guide your right heel toward your groin. Stop when you feel your right foot against your inner left thigh. Rest your right leg on the floor, or support your knee with a thin, folded blanket. Move your left hand to the floor, and then place your right hand on your right inner groin where the pelvis and hip joint meet. On an exhale, lift your torso, turn to the left and grab your left foot with your right hand. Finally, reach forward with your left arm. On the next exhale, bend forward from the groin. Stretch in this pose for one to three minutes.

Adho Mukha Svanasana

Downward-Facing Dog -- Adho Mukha Svanasana -- begins in an all-fours position. Come to the yoga mat keeping your knees centered below your hips. Open your fingers, and push your arms past your shoulders. On an exhale, draw your knees back, lifting your buttocks and tailbone skyward. Straighten your arms, pressing your fingers into the mat as your torso dips down. If possible, straighten your knees, and push your heels into the floor as you push back through your arms and shoulders. Care for your cervical spine by centering your neck between your upper arms. Stay in this Sun Salutation Sequence pose for one to three minutes before returning to your knees with an exhalation.

Uttana Shishosana

Stay on your hands and knees for the Extended Puppy Pose, or Uttana Shishosana. Sink your upper body into the mat as you slide your arms forward and curl your toes under. Once your lower arms and face, but not your elbows, are in contact with the mat, exhale and lengthen your spine by pushing your buttocks back toward your heels. Inhale and exhale, stretching the spine as you stay in this pose for 30 seconds to one minute. Release the pose by letting your bottom rest on top of your heels before raising your torso.

Prasarita Padottanasana

Prasarita Padottanasana resembles a dancer’s stretch with its wide stance, as the pose does stretch the hamstrings and calves while flexing the spine. The Wide-Legged Forward Fold is a standing position. Begin with your legs 3 feet apart. On an exhale, bend forward at the hips placing your hands on the mat. Center your hands beneath your shoulders. On another exhale, increase the stretch by bringing your head to the floor and pushing your palms into the mat. Your elbows will bend as your palms press into floor. Stay relaxed, breathing through the pose and keeping your facial muscles from tensing. Hold this position for 30 seconds to one minute.

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