There are times in your life when your yoga practice will want or need to be done completely on your back. It could be because of an injury, a bad day, or just a basic want and preference—whatever is going on, there are plenty of options to get the most out of your practice in a supine position.
Try these yummy, supine yoga poses and use them to jazz up your end-of-practice sequence, or create an entire practice surrounding the position of lying on your back.
1. Reclined Twist
This tasty twist is great for invigorating the digestive organs and releasing the spine and back muscles. Try this with a bolster between your knees or with the bottom leg straightened out to get more from the shape. If you have very tight shoulders, slide a cushion or folded blanket under your shoulder so that you are fully supported in the upper body.
2. Bridge Pose
With or without a block under your pelvis, this inversion is wonderful for improving the circulation of blood and lymph. It also gives a deep neck stretch while strengthening the shoulders.
Start with your arms resting by your sides, then hold and pull the edges of your mat to begin going deeper. Next, walk the shoulder blades towards each other so that your hands can link and press your arms deep into the mat. If this feels good, see if you can capture your heels with your hands for a bound variation. You can also help increase circulation by raising one leg at a time to the sky.
3. Fish Pose
Opening your chest lends to a better immune system and the unloading of any emotions that are buried in your heart. You could use your forearms to prop you up in the back bend, or you could lay down on two blocks in the shape of a T; one under your middle back lengthwise, and the other under your head as a pillow.
Try adding in an element of core work by igniting your legs and lifting them up six inches off the ground. Alternatively, relax into your lower back muscles by taking Butterfly pose with your legs and resting the knees on blocks.
4. Reclined Butterfly
Otherwise known as Supta Baddha Konasana, this is great option for a little less intensity than you will get in Fish Pose, but with the same awesome benefits to your upper back, chest, shoulders and lungs.
Try using a bolster under your spine with your hips resting on the ground and allow your arms to drape down on either side of you or rest one on your belly and one on your chest. Your legs can be straight, bent over a bolster, or in Butterfly with a strap looped around both knees so that they are fully supported.
I recommend staying here for 3-5 minutes. If your low back gets tender, simply remove the bolster.
5. Reclined Pigeon
This external rotation of the hip should be taken with the top foot flexed to protect the ankle ligaments from over-stretching, especially if you are hypermobile or pregnant. Opening the hips in Pigeon pose is a lovely way to encourage a soft and supple low back and reverse the tightness that comes from sitting at a desk all week.
Doing this pose on your back instead of your belly adds an element of pressure to your lower back, which in turn supports and stretches out the lumbar muscles—great for relieving low back and Sciatic pain. Add to this shape by pressing the bottom leg into the ground and lifting the hips into Bridge with your arms by your side or pressing into the Earth underneath you.
Want a little extra support for a longer restorative or yin hold? Simply slide a block or bolster under your sacrum and rest there. Another option is to mimic Pigeon on your belly in the reclined version.
To do this, start in the Reclined Pigeon shape then wrap your arms around the shin bone that is crossing your chest. Interlace your fingers, or use a strap to connect your hands, and hug that leg in, with the sole of your flexed foot resting on the inside of your upper arm. Stretch the other leg out down the mat and close your eyes for a little personal time hugging your Pigeon.
6. Happy Baby
Take the benefits of Reclined Pigeon one step further and rock side to side in Happy Baby to massage the kidneys and spine while you compress the hips. If you are tight, you might have a hard time reaching your feet and relaxing your head and shoulders simultaneously. Use a strap to help!
Staying in this shape and not falling over to one side can require wedging bolsters alongside your torso on both sides to keep you in place...or you can always keep it simple and just do one leg at a time!
No matter what your mid and body need, your yoga practice can deliver. Know that the more supported your shape is—with blocks straps, and pillows—the longer you can hold it for. Get creative with your props and sink into these reclined postures happily.
Image credit: Nicole Wise