Gravity brings our upper body forward. Especially with our lifestyles of looking at our phones, hunching over while we eat, slouching as we check our emails, or release all ideas of good posture when we watch movies. At the beginning of my practice I like to do a simple exercise to increase the mobility of the spine.
It is not quite cobra and not quite upward dog. It is a gentle ripple of the vertebrae off the mat, and a cascading effect as we make our way back down on the mat.
Let's start on our bellies. Place your fingertips off the mat. I like having the palms elevated and having the hands tented up like spiders. Keep your elbows high. Push into the floor and peel your collarbones, chest, and belly off the mat. Expand your abdomen, ribs and throat as you inhale. Then melt back down leading with the belly, then lower ribs, chest, and maybe your chin as you exhale. I like to visualize the vertebrae like a string of pearls leaving the mat, and then pearl by pearl the spine releases back on the mat. Inhale ripple up. Exhale melt back down.
Focus on opening the front of the body. No need to focus on stillness, building strength or activating a stretch during this exercise. Simply mobility. This sensation should feel juicy after a long sleep or a long day. Either way, this movement is nice to incorporate at the beginning of your practice before you get deeper into more active heart openers and back extensions.
Below is a video of the cobra and upward dog variation that I use in my practice and in my classes as a "warm-up." I invite you to press play and come play! Namaste.