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Allie Geer

12 Yoga Moves to Ease Uncomfortable Pregnancy Symptoms

By Amanda Tust for The Bump.

Suffering from aches and pain, rising stress and a lack of sleep? These powerful prenatal yoga practices might be just the thing.

Pregnancy stretches us to our limits, prompting an assortment of aches and pains—from round ligament pain to back pain, gas pain and more, most moms-to-be become intimately familiar with some discomfort along their pregnancy journey. The good news? There’s something to be done about it! Certain yoga poses can not only help ease common pregnancy symptoms, but they can also help you recenter and release your mounting stress.

“The poses can be anatomically great and help our bodies, but yoga also teaches us how to be present and in the moment—which can be difficult during pregnancy when there’s so much focus on future and what happens next,” says Jennifer More, E-RYT 500, RPYT, a prenatal yoga teacher, doula, and hypnotherapist based in Santa Rosa, California.

Curious to learn which yoga moves can help alleviate which pregnancy pains and problems? Read on.

Tips for Staying Safe

The overarching end-goal of these poses is to help ease any discomfort you’re currently experiencing—so it would be pretty counterproductive to suffer an injury. Listen to your body and be careful not to overstretch, which pregnant women are more susceptible to doing thanks to the added weight of your belly and the pregnancy hormones that are lubricating your connective tissue and joints. The hormone relaxin, which helps support early pregnancy and ramps up in the third trimester to prepare you for labor, can also make you more prone to hypermobility or overstretching, so it’s important that you don’t push yourself to your max.

“If you’re in a Wide-Legged Forward Fold during pregnancy and your hands can suddenly touch the ground, it doesn’t mean that they should,” says Allie Geer, E-RYT 500, RPYT, a registered yoga medicine therapeutic specialist and prenatal yoga teacher based in Boulder, Colorado. “Don’t go to the depths of your flexibility or hang out in your end range of motion. Come out of it a little bit and use props to support you.” If anything is painful or doesn’t feel good, stop immediately.

For Getting Centered: Calming Breath Practice

More recommends starting a prenatal practice in a seated position, such as Sukhasana (Easy Pose), and simply focusing on your breath for a few minutes. “There can be so much anxiety with all the tests you’re getting and all the newness and the huge transformational time this is, so breathing is one of the simplest and most important things you can do to start to find balance,” More says.

Tune into your breath and simply observe each inhale and exhale. Notice any rising and falling of your belly. After a few minutes, you can start moving in a gentle rocking motion along with your breath, which should help deepen it and give you a focus to help quiet the mind chatter and activate your parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system to give you a sense of calm. (This same rocking with your breath can also be helpful in labor.) You can also start moving your head and shoulders, doing some gentle side bends and moving your hands behind you for a gentle backbend.

For General Discomfort: Belly Breathing

Belly breathing can help minimize your discomfort during daily movements, such as getting out of bed or in and out of the car. “Belly breathing helps you connect to the layers of your core and draw your abdominals in gently to feel more support,” Geer says.

After taking some grounding breaths in Sukhasana (sitting cross-legged), place your hands out toward the sides of your belly. On an inhalation, feel your belly swell into your hands. On the exhalation, draw your fingers in toward your navel and sense that you’re hugging in around your belly, like you’re giving baby an internal hug, Geer says. You can also try making a “shhh” or “haa” sound on the exhale to feel how your abdominals have to draw in slightly to make this sound—that’s the gentle engagement you’re going for. As you hug in, you’re engaging your transverse abdominis, the deep abdominal muscles that wrap around your torso like a corset. On each exhale you’re gently fastening the corset for support, Geer says, which can be especially helpful if you’re experiencing back pain or round ligament pain. Continue this breathing pattern for three to five minutes; use it throughout your yoga practice and your day.

For Back Pain: Cat-Cow

“If I had to pick only one yoga position to tell pregnant women to do daily, it would be Cat-Cow,” More says. “It helps take pressure off the lower back and can gently stretch and support the ligaments that connect the uterus to the pelvis.” If you’ve been sitting a lot, the contractile tissue of the round ligaments may pull your uterus into a position that leads to discomfort and back pain, she says. Cat-Cow can serve as a reset.

Come onto your hands and knees with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Bring your index finger forward, which will spin your hands out a couple inches to externally rotate your arms, which allows more space between your shoulders. (If you have any discomfort in your wrists, put blocks under your palms.) On an exhalation, move into Cat Pose by gently rounding your back, releasing your head and relaxing your neck. Imagine that you’re gently bringing baby in toward your body with a hug that goes all the way to your lower back. This is a gentle hugging —you don’t want to be too aggressive. It’s just to allow a slight muscular engagement so your lower back is supported. On your inhalation, lift your head up and allow a very slight sway in your back for Cow Pose. Repeat three or four cycles of Cat-Cow.

For Round Ligament Pain: Leg Extensions

During pregnancy, your uterus expands from roughly the size of an apple to the size of a watermelon. That’s a lot of stretching! No wonder it can hurt a bit—officially known as round ligament pain. One of the best things to ease that pain is to use the belly breath to hug in on an exhale to offer support while you transition between poses or get up from lying or sitting down, Geer says.

To warm up your round ligaments for more movements, do some alternate leg extensions after Cat-Cow, More says. This may help settle your ligaments and gently stretch the contractile tissue to prepare for bigger stretches, such as lunges.

From all fours, extend your left leg back, curl your toes under and press your heel back. Stay here, or lift your leg up gently. Hold for three breaths, then switch sides.

For Lowering Stress: Modified Sun Salutations

A yoga practice as a whole can help reduce stress—and let’s face it, expectant moms have a lot on their minds these days. “Taking time for yourself is so key,” Geer says. “It’s important to make yourself a priority and your practice a priority.” More suggests doing about 15 minutes of yoga a day, including a gentle form of Sun Salutations, to reduce stress and bring major areas of the pelvis into balance.

After warming up with Cat-Cows and Leg Extensions, stand with your feet hip-distance apart and a block between your feet. Inhale as you reach arms overhead. Exhale as you bend your knees and bring your arms out to your sides, resting your hands on your thighs or bringing your hands to a block (at any height) slightly forward of your feet. Inhale, then lengthen your spine to flat back.

Bring your right foot next to the block, then exhale as you step your left foot back into a lounge and place your knee down onto the ground. Your left knee should be in line with your left hand and your right hand should be in line with your right foot.

Once in the lunge, inhale, reach your arms up and bring your hips back so your hips are directly over your left knee. Exhale, gently hug baby in, and then lunge forward, making sure your knee doesn’t go past your ankle (to avoid overstretching). On an inhale, lengthen your spine and lift back up so your hips are once again over your back knee. Exhale, gently hug baby in, and then bring your hands back down to the ground. Bring both knees back into a wide-knee Child’s Pose. Inhale, then move to all fours. Exhale, then press up into Downward-Facing Dog. Inhale here. Exhale, place your knees back down and repeat the lunge sequence on the other side.

For Relieving the Weight of Your Belly: Downward-Facing Dog Pose

Carrying your growing baby around all day can be tiring work. Downward-Facing Dog takes weight off the pelvis and decreases that constant downward pressure you feel during pregnancy, says Geer.

Start on your hands and knees with your arms slightly forward, then lift your sit bones toward the sky and ground down through your hands. Keep your knees forward and gently press your heels down. Hold for at least three breaths.

As a modification, you can try an L-Shaped Pose. Stand facing a wall and bring your hands to the wall at shoulder height. Slowly walk your feet back so your arms and legs form an L shape. Press your hands into the wall and lengthen through the sides of your waist, reaching your sit bones toward the center of the room. Try not to collapse in your lower back or rib cage—instead, imagine a straight line from the crown of your head to your tailbone.

For Swelling: Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose

Your belly isn’t the only thing to get big during pregnancy— swelling in your legs and feet is super-common among moms-to-be, thanks to all that extra blood and fluid your body is generating. Good news: This yoga pose can take pressure off your feet and legs to potentially give you some relief, Geer says.

Position a bolster near a wall at a 45-degree angle with one edge on the ground and the other resting on two blocks, one at medium height and the other at a low height; you can also prop up a couple pillows. Leave enough space between the bolster and the wall for you to sit. Bring your left hip right up next to the bolster and lower down from your side, mindfully rolling onto your back so it’s resting on the bolster. Take your legs up the wall. (You can also put your feet up against a chair or even your couch.) Stay for about five minutes, focusing on your breath, and imagine the swelling reducing and fluid draining out of your legs. If at any time you feel dizzy or nauseous, rock over to your side.

Practice This Juicy Yin Yoga Sequence to Release Your Tight Hips

Let’s face it, most of us have tight hips. But luckily, Yin Yoga poses are an excellent resource to help release connective tissues in the hips.

The hip joints are a type of synovial joint known as a ball-and-socket. These joints connect the head of the femur or thigh bone (which is the ball) to the acetabulum of the pelvis or hip socket (which is, of course, the socket).

By design, the hip joints are built for stability. The femur sits deep within its socket and is designed for weight bearing. Due to its innate sense of stability, mobility and flexibility of the tissues surrounding the hip joint is not always a guarantee.

To find out the benefits of and how to use yin yoga for tight hips, click here to read the full article originally published on YogiApproved.com.

Try These 4 Restorative Yoga Poses to Relax Your Body & Mind

Senior Yoga Medicine® teacher and therapeutic specialist, Allie Geer, explains why the power of restorative yoga is not to be underestimated.

As a teacher and practitioner of restorative yoga I often come to wonder how I ever got by without this practice. More than ever, students are turning to this form of yoga as a way to alleviate stress.

Stress in small doses can be a very adaptive, natural, and healthy experience for your body. However, we run into trouble when the body becomes chronically stressed.

Restorative yoga provides us with tools and techniques to help us better manage the symptoms of stress and chronic stress.

When we learn to cope with stress, we can support our body’s natural rhythms and cycles. Restorative yoga encourages the body’s innate capacity to heal.

The ability to relax is truly a learned habit, and must be practiced over time and with patience. The first time you try restorative yoga, you might struggle to get comfortable. You might fidget and move around throughout class. Just know that this is OK.

Sometimes, the biggest hurdle is giving your body permission to rest. I also encourage you to get curious and to notice the effects the restorative yoga poses have on your body, breath, and even your heart rate.

The Benefits of Restorative Yoga

Restorative yoga is a practice that effects the body from the inside out. It targets our nervous system, our digestive system, and also has a direct impact on all the internal systems within our body.

It helps restore our body’s natural capacity for health by targeting the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is a branch of the nervous system that regulates our body’s ability to rest, digest, and heal.

When we can balance the nervous system and activate the parasympathetic response. This response will help us manage the symptoms of stress and fatigue.

Restorative Yoga: Here’s What You Need to Know Before You Get Started

Unlike other styles of yoga, restorative yoga is a passive and deeply receptive practice. Typically poses are held anywhere from 5-25 minutes. Sometimes, it includes the use of yoga props to set the body up to be as comfortable as possible.

There is little to no muscular activity. The goal is not to stretch or stimulate our tissues. Once we settle into a pose, we stay. We become a witness to our internal environment within our body.

If you are new to restorative yoga, try the following sequence. The props suggested include a strap, a bolster, two blocks, and four blankets. However, if you don’t have the suggested props, you can always modify with scarves, towels, pillows, couch cushions, and even large books in lieu of the blocks.

The goal is to rest and set your body up so that you give it permission to just be, relax, unwind, and nourish from the inside out.

This short sequence is one of my go-to sequences whenever I need a system reboot and overall the class could take you anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. It’s up to you how much time you can carve out.

The longer you can hold, the better. Try setting a gentle timer or just come out of the pose when you feel ready.

Try These 4 Restorative Yoga Poses to Relax Your Body and Mind:

Before you begin your practice, take a few moments to ground. Find a comfortable seated position that will allow you to feel the weight of your sit bones dropping into the earth.

Then, take a moment to welcome the breath into your body. Begin to observe the breath in its natural state.

Take three vocal sighs out through your mouth for three exhales. If possible, try to sit for a few moments just observing your breath and sensations within your body without the need to change, interpret, or shift anything. Linger in the exhalations.

1. Legs on the Bolster

Suggested props: 1 blanket, strap, bolster, 2 blocks, or a wall

This gentle inversion massages your heart and improves blood flow and circulation. It helps to calm your mind and nervous system. It also alleviates soreness due to muscle aches and pains in the legs and feet.

Let’s try it:

  • Take two blocks and set them towards the end of your mat on the medium height
  • Place the bolster on top of the blocks, like you are making a table
  • Loop your strap, and slowly come down on to your back. Place your legs on top of the bolster so that the calves are fully resting on top of the bolster with the legs at about a 90-degree angle
  • Place the strap around your mid-thigh to allow your hips to feel fully relaxed and supported
  • Additionally, for extra comfort place a blanket under your head and perhaps one on top of your belly. Stay in this pose anywhere from 5-20 minutes

Once you arrive into the posture allow a few moments to settle in. Welcome your breath into your body and begin to visualize fatigue, tension, and stress slowly draining out of your body starting at your feet.

Take your time transitioning out of the posture. Making mindful, easy movements arriving back to a seat. You can also modify this posture by elevating your legs on a wall instead of a bolster.

2. Elevated Prone Twist

Suggested props: 4 blankets, 2 blocks, 1 bolster

Twists, and this twist in particular, offers gentle stimulation for the digestive organs, liver and spleen. It can help alleviate tension in the muscles of the back and hips and gently stretch your intercostal muscles between your ribs to enhance your breathing.

Let’s try it:

  • Start by placing one block on the medium height and one on the lower height. Place your bolster on top of the blocks so the bolster slopes downward
  • Place a blanket in front of the bolster. Sit on the blanket with your right hip next to the bolster and the knees stacked
  • Place a blanket in between your knees. Place a blanket on each side of the bolster to support your arms
  • Begin by sitting upright and connecting to the breath, feeling the pelvis drop into the floor. Slowly rotate your torso towards the bolster and recline down on top of it
  • Switch sides

Settle in and stay for 5-10 minutes before switching sides. Allow the props to support the body. To modify, this pose can also be done without using the blocks for elevation.

3. Supta Baddha Konasana or “The Goddess”

Suggested props: 4 blankets, 2 blocks, 1 bolster

Supta Baddha Konasana softens your shoulders and relaxes your chest, abdomen, and pelvis. It can be helpful during menstruation, menopause, and pregnancy.

Let’s try it:

  • Keep the same prop set up as the previous pose with the bolster and blocks elevated and the blankets to each side
  • This time, sit in front of the bolster with the sacrum as close to the edge of the bolster as possible. Bring the soles of your feet to touch and let your knees open wide as if you were making a diamond shape with your legs
  • Slowly recline down onto the bolster and tuck the rolled blankets beside you under your hips

Should you need more support, add another blanket under your head and neck and a blanket to cover for warmth. Option to add an eye pillow for your eyes. Stay in the pose anywhere from 5-20 minutes.

To modify, adjust the height of props to personal comfort.

4. Supported Savasana

Suggested props: 4 blankets, 1 bolster, optional strap

Savasana seals your practice and allows your entire body to relax by inviting it to find a deeply restful and supportive state.

This pose encourages rest and repair of tissues and helps ease stress, anxiety, tension and insomnia while balancing your parasympathetic response in the nervous system.

It is important to take the time to set up Savasana to provide maximum amount of comfort for your body.

Let’s try it:

  • Try setting up in Savasana by laying down with a bolster under your knees, a rolled blanket under your ankles, and a rolled blanket to support the curvature of your neck
  • Support for your neck is key here to really tap into the parasympathetic response

Get the most out of the pose by adding the weight and support of a sandbag or pillow on top of your belly. Rest in Savasana anywhere from 5-25 minutes. Feel your body fully supported and landing onto the earth. Give your body permission to relax and be at ease.

Do You Feel Relaxed After These 4 Restorative Yoga Poses?

Restorative yoga is a practice that nourishes the body from the inside out. It is a practice of non-judgment. It is a practice of curiosity and tuning in to your body’s internal state.

Restorative yoga taps into our body’s natural capacity to heal and maintain a healthy state of balance. I hope this practice helps you feel deeply rested, supported, rejuvenated, and restored.

Rest is best, especially when we are feeling tired, stressed, and overwhelmed. May this practice be of benefit. Namaste Yogis!

Want more Restorative Yoga with Allie?

Take her 32-Minute Restore class on YA Classes


Find the original article on Yogi Approved.

3 Common Myofascial Release Mistakes

Senior Yoga Medicine teacher and therapeutic specialist, Allie Geer, explains three common mistakes people make when performing self myofascial release—and what you can do to avoid them.

An Invitation to a Calm Party Within

Allie Geer, Yoga Medicine® Registered Therapeutic Specialist, helps you take charge of your health and wellness with this quick five minute meditation and breath sequence.

Meditation and breathing techniques to keep you grounded.

We all know that the holidays are busy and our time tends to get stretched thin. This can leave us feeling frazzled, lacking focus, stressed, and even depleted, which in turn can impact our health. Take charge of your health and wellness with just a few minutes a day to not only improve your overall wellbeing, but to shift your perspective and stay grounded this holiday season.

Retreat from the hustle and bustle with this quick five minute grounding meditation and breath sequence. The nice thing about this practice is that it can be done anywhere: in a bathroom at a party, in bed before you get up, on the chair lift at the ski resort, in the parking lot at the mall, there is always an opportunity to check in with your internal environment.

1. Find a comfortable seat anywhere: in the car, in your bed, on a meditation cushion, or in your closet. Wherever it is, to begin, take a moment to check in and be an observer to the experience in your body. Notice your breath enter and leave through the nostrils. Notice the rise and fall of your chest and abdomen with each breath. Notice any tension in your shoulders, neck, jaw or anywhere else.

2. After taking a few moments to arrive, take three grounded breaths with a full breath in though the nose and an audible sigh out through the mouth. With every exhale, allow your sit bones to ground deeper into the support underneath you. Continue for two more rounds. Inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.

3. Now deepen your awareness of the breath with a pranayama exercise referred to in some traditions as Anuloma pranayama. Take your right hand and fold in your index & middle finger to place your thumb and fourth finger on each side of the bridge of your nose. Place your fingers just below the cartilage on the nostrils. Before putting any pressure on the nose take a full breath in and out. Begin by gently closing off your right nostril as you inhale through the left nostril. Then close off the left nostril and partially close the right nostril as you exhale through a partially closed right nostril. This action should mimic the sound of a bicycle tire deflating (think deflating tension and stress). Continue through this cycle of breath for 5-10 rounds. Inhaling through the left nostril, and exhaling through a partially closed right nostril to stimulate the parasympathetic or relaxation response.

4. After your tenth round, release the hands to a comfortable position by your sides and bring back the observer’s mind. Notice the ebb and flow of your natural breath once again, and notice the effects of this practice on your body and mind. Take a full breath in and exhale through the mouth. You are now back on your way to a grounded holiday season.

Enjoy all that is around you and allow yourself to be in the moment, present with those who surround you. Most importantly, allow yourself to appreciate the fullness of the season!

Postnatal Yoga Sequence for the ‘Fourth Trimester’

 for Yoga Journal shares a postnatal yoga routine for new mothers. This routine is calming and restorative.

Calming Postnatal Yoga for the “Fourth Trimester”

I had my two babies in two different countries, Switzerland and the United States, respectively. People often ask me, “What was the biggest difference having your first baby while living abroad?” Although there were many differences, the quality of postpartum care remains the most significant. In Switzerland, a midwife came to see me at home five times, and the visits were all pre-arranged for me before I left the hospital. Everything changes when you’re a new mother, and the midwife supported me in ways I will never forget. She gave me confidence in my ability to take care of my infant. When I had my second baby in the States, what became very clear to me is that outside of family, there is not enough support for postpartum mamas, especially during the “fourth trimester.”

The “fourth trimester” is a term used to refer to the first three months after giving birth. The nights are long and the days are just as exhausting. The world as you know it revolves around caring for a tiny human. Their needs are endless and we as mothers give all that we know to give, often putting ourselves and sometimes our most basic needs last (like when 2 p.m. rolls around and you ask yourself, “Did I even brush my teeth today?”).

The following calming postnatal sequence is dedicated to the fourth-trimester mama. I’m here for you, I believe in you, and I support you. One of the nice things about the early months of infancy is that babies this age (usually) love to sleep. This can be a great time to take a few moments to give back to your body and calm your mind. If your baby is struggling with naps or prefers to be held, I strongly encourage you to ask for help, whether it’s from your partner, family, friends, or a postpartum doula. Taking time for yourself is not only healthy for you, it also benefits everyone around you, including your beautiful baby.

Myofascial Release Techniques for Your Daily Routine

 for Yoga Medicine® shares three simple myofascial release techniques that you can incorporate into your day. A perfect release for morning, midday and evening.

3 Myofascial Release Techniques for Your Daily Routine

Daily routines, yes we all have them. Whether or not it’s a morning yoga practice or something as simple as brushing your teeth, routines are a part of our daily lives. Ever since self myofascial release was introduced to me by Yoga Medicine®’s 500-hour advanced teacher training, it has become a daily practice for me. The best part is it doesn’t take long at all.

Self myofascial release is a practice that involves the use of balls, blocks, foam rollers, and many other tools to target trigger points, areas of restriction, or limitations in range of motion on the body. Practicing a few techniques a day can provide so much relief in the body.

Here are 3 myofascial release techniques I recommend you try today and add into your daily routine. These can be done throughout your day or all at once. For this practice you will need one or two myofascial release balls or tennis balls.

1. Wake Up Call: Release the Feet

One of the first things I do in the morning is a quick release of the feet. It’s the perfect start to my day. Grab your myofascial balls to begin to release the feet, one foot at a time. Remember to incorporate deep breaths while rolling. Take a few minutes on each side working the heel, arch, and ball of the foot in a rolling or side-to-side motion. Repeat second side.

2. Mid Day Hip Release

If you’ve been sitting a lot today, take five minutes to promote some movement, hydration, and release in the tissues surrounding the hips. Either lying on your back with the knees bent and the feet hip width apart or from the seat, place one ball into the center of your gluteus maximus on the right side. Take 10-15 breaths moving the ball around this area and alongside the sacroiliac joint to relieve any tension that may exist. Then, placing the ball along the outside of the hip, allow the ball to sink into any tenderness that may reside in the outer hip. Take 10-15 breaths. Add a second ball to support or place a blanket over the balls if the pressure causes restriction into your breath. Repeat second side

3. End of the Day Shoulder Release

Unwind your postural tendencies i.e. driving, working on the computer or phone, or carrying children. This is a great way to release any tension that has accumulated throughout your day in the upper back and shoulders. Lying on your back, bend your knees and place the feet hip width into the floor. Pressing through the feet, lift your hips and slide a block under the sacrum. With your hand, palpate the skin that sits right above your shoulders.

Grab your 2 balls and place them on your back. The balls will feel as if they could potentially slip out. Bring your hands by your sides and take a few deep breaths allowing the balls to sink into your tissues. On an inhale begin to move the arms up and back towards the head, taking deep breaths. As you move your arms, notice any areas of tenderness or restriction. If you do feel that tenderness, allow the arms to linger in that space and take a few deep breaths. Continue to move through a gentle range of motion for 2-3 minutes. This can also be modified standing up against a wall.

Prenatal Yoga: Relieve Pain, and Enhance Mobility

 for Yoga Journal. Prenatal yoga teacher Allie Geer demonstrates a self-myofascial release practice to relieve tension and pain during pregnancy and enhance mobility.

Prenatal Yoga Practice

During my pregnancy, every morning brought on a new challenge for my body. I woke up feeling tight in areas that I never knew were restricted. I felt pain and stiffness from lying in a position for too long during sleep. My joints were unstable; a result of relaxin, the hormone secreted during pregnancy that relaxes the ligaments around the pelvis. Adding self-myofascial release (SMR) to my regular yoga practice brought me so much relief from pain and tension on a daily basis, and enhanced my mobility.

What Is Self-Myofascial Release?

Self-myofascial release (SMR) is a practice that incorporates the use of specialized myofascial release balls to target the trigger points on the body, promoting a sense of mobility, release, and restructuring of fascia or connective tissue.

Fascia is one continuous connection of tissue that exists in the body from head to toe. It connects, protects, fills space, communicates, and interrelates to everything within the body. Fascia also has a tendency to get restricted or wound tight, and in some cases may even cause pain in the body. This can have many adverse effects. Mobility is the key to maintaining optimal health in our tissues. Whether or not you are pregnant, SMR improves range of motion and circulation, relieves pain, and encourages relaxation.

Self-Myofascial Release Practice for Pregnancy

The following practice is for women in any stage of their pregnancy who have been cleared for exercise by their doctor or medical practitioner.

You will need: A blanket, a block, a bolster, and two tennis balls or myofascial release balls. The support of a wall is always encouraged. Please remember to stay hydrated throughout the practice.

Yoga & Chinese Medicine: Unwinding the Back Line

Allie Geer, Yoga Medicine Instructor shares a yoga practice that is perfect for winter. Learn about the Chinese Medicine concept of the Back Line, and how to use it to find balance, and treat tightness and pain.

A Nourishing Practice for the Winter

“My hamstrings are tight.” “My low back hurts.” “My feet are sore.” These are such commonly heard phrases both in and out of a yoga studio. Up until recently, I addressed these issues by picking different poses that I felt might be able to provide some relief. Great, right? But as a yoga teacher maybe it’s even more important to look at the interconnectedness of the whole body, using the big picture to create balance. When we look at the fascial connections in the body, we can clearly see that it’s all interrelated. What’s also compelling to me as a teacher is a connection to our health through nature and our energetic body with Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The Superficial Back Line

The Superficial Back Line is a continuous line of connective tissue extending from the bottom of the foot up the back side of the body over the top of the head. Tension, movement patterns, trauma, or strain here tends to transmit throughout this fascial line. In our body, this line has both a left and a right side. In Yoga Medicine’s recent cadaver dissection, I had the honor of meticulously dissecting this superficial back line. This process gave me a hands-on experience of just how interconnected these tissues are and helped me to see in person why so many of us (myself included) struggle with pain, weakness, or resistance here. I believe the answer tends to lie within our own fascial restrictions.

The muscles involved in this line are some of the most common culprits for back, leg and foot pain. Rather than thinking of them or working with them as separate entities, it’s important to work with them as a team.

Landmarks of the Superficial Back Line

  1. Plantar fascia of the foot
  2. Gastrocnemius
  3. Hamstrings
  4. Sacral Tuberous Ligament
  5. Erector Spinae
  6. Epicranial Fascia

Connection to Traditional Chinese Medicine

What I find most interesting about the superficial back line is the connection to the bladder meridian in Chinese Medicine theory. In fact, their pathways are almost identical. In Chinese Medicine theory, the bladder meridian is part of the water element which is associated seasonally with winter. Winter represents the most Yin aspect in Chinese Medicine. Qualities of yin are slow, dark, cold, an inward energy compared to those of yang which are fast, bright, hot, an outward energy. Winter is an important time to nourish the yin qualities through introspective practices to harmonize and balance the body, and its relationship to nature.

The following practice focuses on the connection between the superficial back line and the kidney and bladder meridians. May this practice nourish your body and mind from the inside out and help you to settle into to the winter months. Enjoy!

Practice to Cultivate Balance through the Back Line

Myofascial Releases:

1. Begin standing with a tennis ball or myofascial release ball near a wall for balance. Roll out one foot at a time, working the arches, ball of the foot and even into the heal. 30-60 seconds. Pause between sides in a brief forward fold to notice the difference. Repeat the second side.

2. Seated, using tennis balls or myofascial release balls, one leg at time roll the calves (using a block under the calf for support), then roll the hamstrings, switch sides.

Pose 1: Supported Calf Myofascial Release
Pose 2: Hamstring Myofascial Release

3. Roll the erectors, using your myofascial release balls or tennis balls. Sometimes it’s helpful to put 2 balls into a sock (use the wall as a gentler modification).

4. Roll back of the neck with a block on the medium height. The closer edge of the block should sit at the base of the skull so the neck is off of the block.

Breath Exercises

1. Lying on our backs with feet into the mat about hip-width take a moment to observe sensations in the body. Begin to connect with the breath.

2. Adding belly breath, begin to contract the transverse abdominals (TVA). On the exhale, draw in around the spine, cinching around the waistline as if you were putting on a belt. Notice the connection we have from the front body to the back body through our diaphragm and abdominal wall.

Yoga Poses

1. From all fours take some variations on cat/cow.

Pose 1: Cow
Pose 2: Cat

2. Bird Dog (lifting alternate arms and legs in tabletop) paying attention to the connection around the waist and through the back side of the body.

3. Salabhasana noticing the awakening of the back line from heels to head. Draw in around the belly to support the spine.

4. Crescent Lunge to Warrior 3 variation, moving slowly and mindfully.

Pose 1: Crescent Lunge
Pose 2: Warrior 3

4. Seated, perform a forward fold of choice (Paschimottasana, Janu Sirsasana, Upavista Konasana) adding any props to support the body in a longer hold. Let the focus and intention be on the breath. Create stillness in the body to tune in and listen.

5. Lying on back Supported Bridge with either a block or bolster under the hips/sacrum.

6. Supta Padangusthasana with a strap, hold each side for 2-3 minutes with a pause between sides.

14. Set up Savasana in the Divine Heart Opener. Accordion fold a blanket( about 2 inches in width) so that it rests down the length of your spine. Let the hips be free on the mat or can rest on a folded square blanket for support. A bolster under the knees might feel nice if there is any lower back pain.

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