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This 14-Minute Spinal Waves & Backbend Yoga Flow Will Stretch Out Stiffness

Emily Chen
Yoga Instructor By Emily Chen
Yoga Instructor
Emily Chen has been teaching yoga for the last 8 years. She is the founder and lead teacher of Alchemy School of Yoga, a Yoga Alliance certified yoga teacher training school.
downward dog wave

Welcome to mbg moves! We've been working out at home more than ever lately—and we know our readers are, too. To help keep your fitness routine feeling fresh, we're releasing a new at-home workout every Monday to start your week off strong. Each month will feature routines from a different incredible trainer we adore. Now, let's get moving with our spotlight trainer: Emily Chen.

Spinal waves are one of my absolute favorite types of yoga poses to practice. Beyond the fact that they're wonderfully mesmerizing to do (and watch), they also feel truly incredible in your body. Spinal waves (think: downward dog waves and child's pose waves) are all about creating more mobility and flexibility in your spine. This is great for just about anyone to do, but especially for those of us who sit behind a computer all day long and experience stiffness or pain in our backs (also check out my other yoga flow for neck pain).

That's why I created this short yoga flow—which also includes a few backbend poses—to help stretch out your spine and open up your chest. As you go through the sequence, I encourage you to imagine you're moving through mud, honey, or water—to create resistance and move slowly, with intention. Ready to feel all the satisfying ease and gooey goodness in your spine? Grab a yoga mat and let's move through these waves.

Your 4-week challenge: This month, I'll be sharing yoga routines you can do from home. Each one is designed to help you tune in to your body, connect with yourself, and find a sense of peace. I encourage you to make these routines part of your weekly workout schedule as often as you can (you can do this quick flow every single day), but aim for at least two to three times a week.

Workout Summary

  • Time: 14 minutes
  • Equipment: A yoga mat.
  • Instructions: Start in a child's pose, then do some hip circles, followed by a few rounds of cat-cow. From there, move through each pose, one after the next, and complete for the indicated amount of time/breaths.

Child's Pose Spinal Waves

downward dog waves

Image by mbg creative

  1. Start in a child's pose position, with your knees wide, your hips sitting back, arms stretching forward, and your torso resting over your thighs.
  2. Round your chin in toward your chest. Curl your tailbone under and roll forward into cat pose.
  3. Allow your shoulders to go slightly past your wrist, drop the belly down, draw the shoulder blades back into cow pose.
  4. Then draw your body all the way back into child's pose.
  5. Continue flowing in a fluid movement, through each phase, for three times total. Move on to the next pose.

Downward-Dog Spinal Waves

downward dog spinal waves

Image by mbg creative

  1. Start with your hands and feet on the mat. Lift your hips to form an upside-down "V" position, coming into downward dog. Inhale as you come up high on your toes and then exhale as you press your heels back. Do this three times total. 
  2. From here, create a soft bend in your knees, curl your tailbone under, tuck your chin in toward your chest. Then roll your body forward, through your lower back, middle back, then upper back. Come into a high plank. 
  3. Softly bend your knees, and reverse the movement, lifting your hips back into a downward-facing dog.
  4. Continue flowing in a fluid movement, through each phase, for three times total. Move on to the next pose.

Low Lunge + Side Bend

low lunge with side bend

Image by mbg creative

  1. From downward dog, inhale as you lift your leg up high behind you. Open it up, then step your foot forward in between your hands. Allow your back knee to come down onto the floor; let your shin rest on the mat.
  2. Sweep your arms up to your ears. Peel your right hand down toward the floor; reach your left hand over for a side-body stretch.
  3. Then sweep the left arm around and repeat on the opposite side.
  4. Continue flowing in a fluid movement, through each phase, for three times on each side. Do one more downward-dog wave before repeating the move on the opposite side. Complete a downward-dog wave, then continue to the next pose. 

Camel Pose + Side Bend

camel pose side bend

Image by mbg creative

  1. Come onto your shins.
  2. Bring your left hand to the ground and sweep your right arm to the side, creating a side bend.
  3. Then sweep your right arm to the side, allowing your left arm to bend over. Let your back bend back slightly to create a stretch. 
  4. Continue flowing in a fluid movement, through each phase, for three times total. Move on to the next pose.

Camel Pose

camel pose

Image by mbg creative

  1. Start on your shins. Turn your tailbone down toward the floor, slightly squeeze your glutes, and place your hands on your lower back. 
  2. Exhale as you tip your body up, lift your chest, and bend backward. (Optional: Reach your hands to your ankles.)
  3. When you're ready, inhale and slowly lift your body back up to start.  
  4. Repeat this one more time, then move on to the next pose.

Bridge Pose

bridge pose

Image by mbg creative

  1. Sit down on your mat, bend your knees, and rest your feet on the ground in front of you. Slowly lower your back to the ground, vertebra by vertebra. 
  2. Inhale as you press into your heels, slowly lifting your lower back, then middle back. Lift your hips, and press your palms into the ground. 
  3. Hold for three deep breaths, then slowly lower back down. Repeat once more, or move through a wheel pose (see below).

Wheel Pose

wheel pose

Image by mbg creative

  1. From a bridge pose, bring your hands to the mat, next to your ears. 
  2. Press into your hands and feet, and lift your hips up, forming an arch with your whole body.
  3. Hold for three breaths, then slowly lower back down to the mat. 

Close out your practice with a happy baby pose, which is a spine neutralizer. Then, come into savasana for as long as you need. 

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