Backbends on the wall like this Seal variation is an effective way to maintain the health and integrity of the S-curve of the lumbar spine. Sitting in chairs can cause a posterior pelvic tilt which can lead to low back pain by causing a flattening of the spine in this area, which reduces our spine’s ability to absorb and equally distribute the compressive forces our bodies endure each day. These Baby Crocodile, Sphinx, and Seal wall variations can be helpful poses when building a Yin sequence specifically for the wall.
Lower Back, Neck & Throat (optional variations)
Strengthens the critical bones and ligaments of the lumbar spine. Can be therapeutic for low back disorders such as sciatica caused by a herniated disc.
If neck sensitivity exists, avoid extending or flexing the neck in variations. Stay attentive for any tingling or numbness in arms or shoulders and adjust if noticed.
Set up is important. Place mat perpendicular to wall with blocks and bolster toward top of mat. Come to seated facing the wall to the left side of your mat with knees bent and toes touching the wall. Bring knees together and down to the right side, coming to rest onto your right hip, supporting yourself w/right forearm. Turn onto belly and settle onto both forearms and allow shins to roll sliding up the wall. To exit the pose, lower chest to mat, rebend forearms and rest forehead to forearms, with belly chest and forehead flat on mat for a 5-6 breath rest. Then roll to left side with knees bent, and onto back. Bring feet flat to floor a little further than hip distance apart, allowing knees to meet at centerline. Rest here for a minute or so in this X-pose as a counterpose. Gently make your way to seated.
Can lower forehead onto folded forearms for nurturing version (as in Baby Crocodile pose). If more sensation is desired, slide forearms toward you and lift just chest off the mat, keeping your belly on the mat soft and relaxed to move into a Sphinx version. From here, you can place bolster or blocks under the forearms, being mindful to keep elbows at or forward of shoulders. Avoid bringing elbows behind shoulders. For Seal version, you can place the arms forward and straighten them, palms to the mat, to lift upper torso a bit more. If ok on neck, can explore flexion and extension by letting chin drop towards chest for about a minute and then gently lift head and allow it to drop back toward spine for another minute.
Helps rebalance and replenish the Kidney Qi by stressing the important “Door of Life” point between the L2 and L3 vertebrae. Among other qualities, when Kidney Qi is out of balance and not flowing well, we might feel fearful or anxious. Rebalancing our Kidney Qi helps us feel confident in our abilities to fulfill our highest potential.
Exercising the low back deeply can bring up feelings of anxiety, so treat yourself kindly, watching sensations, feelings, and emotions with compassion and softness you might offer a child. Thich Nhat Hanh suggests a sweet tone, like “Hello my dear anxiety, I see you. It’s ok that you are here.” It’s a powerful and healing skill, being able to interact with these kinds of difficult “guests” in our bodies and our minds with compassion.