Lying on your chest and abdomen with your forehead on the floor, tune in to your body, breathing easily. Now, slowly and deeply inhaling, reach behind you and grasp both ankles with your hands. Raise your head and chest off the floor while pulling your ankles up and toward your head. Lift your knees and thighs off the floor and look upward. Hold this position for several deep breaths, then gradually lower your legs and chest to the floor as you exhale.
These three postures—cobra, locust, and bow— extend your spine to increase backward strength and flexibility. Modern life has a tendency to constrict the spine with prolonged sitting at work and while traveling in your car or in an airplane. As a result of this habit of constriction, breathing becomes shallower and subtle anxiety is experienced. Consciously extending the spine counterbalances the restriction born of repeated flexion and has a noticeable effect on both physical and emotional well-being.
These postures have a direct effect on improving spinal health. Our spines consist of bony spinal vertebrae separated by shock-absorbing disks. When you perform a posture that extends the spine, the pressure is placed on the back part of the vertebral body, which has the effect of pushing the disks forward into their normal and healthy position. The muscles that run along the spine are strengthened through these poses, so that less weight is borne directly by the disks. For people troubled by chronic back pain due to bulging vertebral disks, the cobra, locust, and bow poses help normalize the anatomy and reduce back discomfort.
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