Benefits and Uses
This series of stretches is a great way to begin your practice and create length and motion in your spine. The movements can help you to warm your body in preparation for deeper stretching, and to become aware of your breath. These stretches are generally done at the beginning of a yoga class, but can also be incorporated throughout.

Come to a tabletop position on your mat (knees and palms of hands on the floor). For safest alignment, have your knees falls directly below your hips and your wrists directly below your shoulders (this will help protect your joints). If you have knee or wrist sensitivity try placing a blanket under the palms of your hands or knees. This series will include three different types of movements:

  1. Begin by inhaling and arching your back as you look up, reaching your neck long and your buttocks up behind you. On your exhale round your back, looking towards your navel as your buttocks reaches toward the ground. Repeat for about ten rounds, incorporating long, even breaths with your movements.
  2. With a straight back (neutral spine) in the tabletop position, inhale to prepare and then exhale as you reach your left shoulder towards your left hip, creating a C-curve with your spine. Inhale as you return to a neutral spine, and exhale as you reach your right shoulder towards your right hip. Repeat for about ten rounds, incorporating breath. Feel free to change the pattern of inhales/exhales and movements; it doesn’t really matter which movement goes with which breath as long as you are breathing.
  3. Return again to a neutral spine in tabletop position. Inhale as you lift your right arm up to the sky, feeling a gentle twist in your spine and looking up to your hand (only if this is comfortable for your neck). Exhale as you return your right arm to the ground. Inhale as you reach your left arm up to the sky, and exhale as you let it return to the earth. Repeat these for about ten rounds, moving slowly and tuning in to the gentle twisting inside your body. Note: This should not be straining your belly but should be gently twisting your upper and middle back. If you feel like you are twisting in your abdomen, try to not lift your arms to their full extension.
  • Breath: Incorporate deep and even breaths with your movements. Play around with inhaling and exhaling at different points in the series, as long as you keep your breath and movements smooth and satisfying.
  • Modifications: Try placing blankets under your knees and wrists if you feel discomfort. Use gentle twisting so as not to bother your belly. During the third trimester this could feel uncomfortable due to the extra weight of your uterus, try doing the spinal movements from a seated position. 
  • Release: After the series return to a seated position and relax. Observe any bodily or mental changes.