Aging is a slow process of dehydration that can show up as arthritic tendency in the joints and lack of good metabolic flow through the organs, Little said at the top of the class. “Much of the aim of yoga is to hydrate the tissues, especially the lower back, and we’re going to do that by focusing our energy on—and performing micromovements in—our low back and sacrum.”
We spent the better part of the next two hours on our backs performing gentle movements. Now, a couple weeks later, I’ve experienced only a fraction of my usual low back pain. My go-to gross movements (forward folds that traction my low back, figure-four forward folds to stretch my hips) feel great indeed, but have only a momentary effect. Little’s prescribed micromovements have—so far—had a dramatic lasting effect.
“It’s good to do big movements and small movements,” Little told me. “Some somatic therapists suggest it’s the small movements that really open up the whole arena of the nervous system, because the slow and soft and small movements allow the brain to track what’s happening.” Try these three micromovements:
Try alternating leg extensions.
Lie on your back with legs straight, hands behind head, flex your feet and gently extend one heel away. Hold for a few breaths and release. Repeat on the same side several times before moving to the other side. Then, repeat each side, adding a gentle side stretch by sliding the same-side elbow on the floor away from your heels as you reach your heel away from your head. These sliding and gliding movements, says Little, “help to release the myelin sheathing around the nerve and open up the nerve track, the blood vessels—called the neurovascular bundles—and enable release in the connective tissues.”
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Try inverted Cat-Cows.
Stay on your back, hands behind head, and bend your knees. Move into inverted Cat-Cows, by gently tucking your pelvis and pressing the lumbar spine into the floor. Hold for a few breaths, then slowly rock the pelvis into lordosis, arching your back, for another few breaths. Repeat several times keeping sacrum and shoulders on the floor. This supported floorwork unwinds tension from the joint spaces and connective tissues, lubricating and mobilizing the structures.
Try Supta Padangustasana.
Still on your back with your knees bent, extend a straight leg up toward the ceiling. Use a strap and set the leg perpendicular to the floor. To protect your low back, keep your lower leg knee bent and draw your straight leg out to the side, supporting the leg onto a bolster or block for Supta Padangustasana. Stay for 1–3 minutes before coming up to center and repeating on the other side. Afterward loop the belt around both feet with legs lifted upward and perpendicular to the floor. Hold the belt with your hands and push your heels up into the belt for Supta Dandasana. Hold for 1–3 minutes in order to bring blood flow into your sacral region and help stabilize your low back. Then lie on your back to rest.
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