In recent weeks, we’ve covered poses that are primarily geared towards opening the hips, like Dragon and Deer. Today, let’s switch gears and get into something juicy to open up the spine. Snail pose is incredibly simple to get into, but there are some aspects of the pose that make it off limits to some yogis. Those who are pregnant or menstruating should avoid this pose, as well as those who have glaucoma, hypertension, a cold or vertigo. Those who have a “fragile” back should proceed with caution; if no lateral flexion of the spine can be made then the pose should be avoided altogether. Yogis may also note that this is not the best pose for after a meal. If you fall into any of these categories, taking Caterpillar is an excellent alternative and is even sometimes considered an intermediate version of Snail.
If this is your first time trying Snail, begin in the earliest stage. Lie flat on your back and place a bolster under the lowest part of your back. Lift the feet so that the soles are facing the ceiling, and begin to play with how much range of motion you have here, allowing gravity to begin to drop the feet behind you. If you feel comfortable here, start again from the beginning but without the bolster and instead supporting the lower back with the hands (pictured above).
The next step would be to remove the hands leaving the arms flat on the floor, with hands either clasped together (not to be done with injured or weak shoulders) or with hands spread apart.
Hold the pose for three to five minutes. If at any time you feel any pinching, pulling, burning, or other uncomfortable sensation back out immediately.
To come out, unroll your body very slowly. Naturally, your head will begin to rise as you returning to a laying position. Allow this to happen, and do not place force on the neck in order to keep the head down. After you’ve come out, place the feet on the floor with the knees bent and take a moment to take a few breaths here. After a couple of windshield wipers, roll over to lie flat on the belly. This gentle backbend will counteract the intense release that just happened in the spine.
photos credit www.yinyoga.com