Using the Therapeutic Spinal Strip for Shoulder Release + Thoracic Spine Backbend
Many of my classes begin with "Laying on the Spinal Strip." This is based on the therapeutic work of Susi Hately Aldous. We have firm foam strips at the studio but you can make do with a rolled up mat, a tightly rolled towel, or even a swim noodle.
Setting up: Fold your strip in half (or roll up your mat/towel tightly), place it lengthwise on the floor behind you, and then lay down on it. Once you lay down, the bottom edge of the strip should be at about T7 or T8 on your back.
Settling in: If you don’t know what I mean by that here is how to tell: place your finger tips on your breast bone then slide them down to the soft spot just below the breast bone. The spinal strip should be just opposite that soft spot where your finger tips are resting. Run one hand behind you to feel for the spinal strip.
Now notice if you have any discomfort in the low back or if your lower ribs are flaring up. If you notice either of these things, try lifting your hips, elongating your tailbone and laying your hips back down again, keeping the knees bent.
If this does not really help, then you need to lift your hips up again and place a folded blanket under your hips/sacrum area. Keep your knees bent. Notice if this has lessened your discomfort and/or your flaring ribs.
If you still have discomfort or flared ribs, unfold your strip and lay on it in a single layer. Or if you are using a rolled towel or rolled mat, just unroll it a little to make your spinal strip a bit smaller. If you feel like your head is tilting back place a small pillow or thinly folded blanket under your head.
Allow yourself to settle here for at least 5-10 minutes, letting the shoulders settle in around the spinal strip. Focus on your breathing. You might play around with rolling the shoulders or floating the arms overhead (never moving into clicks, cracks, or discomfort).
Coming out of the pose: To come out of the pose, or if at any point laying on the strip becomes uncomfortable, push the blanket out from under you, roll gently to one side, push the strip out of the way and then lay on your back in Savasana.