Today, we are getting bendy with this challenging flow to increase mobility and flexibility of the spine. Having a flexible spine can make it easier to do many yoga poses, such as back bends like wheel pose or bow pose. Not only do back bends look pretty in our practice, increasing the mobility of the spine increases overall health in the body.

Practices such as yoga, pilates, karate, or most forms of fitness help to increase spinal health through increased movement and strength building. Not only can this reduce minor pains or cramps in the back, but these practices can prevent major health concerns in the future. Think about it – the main function of the spine and spinal cord is paired with movement and coordination, overall body support, and protection of the nervous system. When we don’t take care of your spine with preventative care, it can lead to tight or weak muscles, everyday pains such as headaches, or even degenerative disc disease. So, let’s just agree that it is pretty darn important to take care of our spines!

“Yoga is the fountain of youth. You’re only as young as your spine is flexible.” – Bob Harper

This sequence is going to stretch out and strengthen the spine, helping us gain flexibility and reduce pain.

Here is a break down of the first flow and each move:

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Standing Vinyasa Flow

This is a Vinyasa sequence, meaning we follow each movement with the breath, inhale or exhale. The sequence should be repeated three to five times.

Starting in Tadasana (Mountain Pose): Stand at the front of the mat with the feet about hip distance apart. Spread the toes wide and press all four corners of the feet into the mat. Activate the legs, tuck the pelvis slightly under, and pull the bellybutton in towards the spine. Arms should be by your sides, palms facing forwards, allowing the shoulder blades to pull down and back, expanding the chest. The top of the head presses up towards the ceiling as the feet press into the floor, lengthening the spine.

Inhale – Hands Over Head: From tadasana, reach both hands overhead, reaching through the fingertips and keeping the shoulders down and away from the ears.

Exhale – Side Stretch: Grab the left wrist and pull it towards the right side of the room while actively pressing the hips to the left. Do not reach too far, as you should be able to breathe easily in this pose.

Inhale – Hands Over Head

Exhale – Side Stretch: Grab the right wrist and pull it towards the left side of the room while actively pressing the hips to the left. Do not reach too far, as you should be able to breathe easily in this pose.

Inhale – Hands Over Head

Exhale – Back Bend: With hands overhead, lift into the chest and lean back slightly into a back bend. The thighs and hips should continue to press forward and you bend back as far is is comfortable.

Inhale – Hands Over Head

Exhale – Forward Fold: Hinge forward at the waist with a straight back and bring your hand towards the ground. Depending on flexibility, bring your hands to the shins, floor, or yoga block. You can also keep a slight bend in the knee. Allow the hand and shoulder to relax downwards.

Inhale – Lift to Half Forward Fold: Start to walk the hands back up the shins until you are able to flatten the back completely. The tailbone should press back behind you and the chest opens forward as you draw your gaze out in front of you. Optional: Keep the knees slightly bent in order to get the tailbone to arch back. 

Exhale – Forward Fold

Inhale – Hands Over Head

Exhale – Mountain Pose

Repeat this sequence three to five times. (This is a great flow to practice first thing in the morning).

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Downward Facing Dog

From hand and knees, place the knees directly underneath the hips and the feet hip distance apart. Hands should reach out in front of the shoulder with the fingers spread wide and the palms fully pressing into the floor. Lifting the knees off of the floor, reach the tailbone up towards the ceiling and straighten into the legs. Press the heels towards the floor and look up at the belly button, relaxing the tops of the shoulders.

hip opening yoga poses

Extended Side Angle Pose

From standing, step or jump your left foot back, about 3.5 to 4 feet apart. Reach both arms out to the side, actively reaching through the fingers. Turn the right foot towards the front of the mat and angle the left foot at ninety degrees. Bending into your right leg, try and get the thigh to be parallel with the ground and the knee directly stacked on top of the ankle. The left leg will remain straight and strong. Bringing the right elbow onto the right knee, continue to reach the left arm overhead. Options: Bring the right fingertips on to the ground for more intensity or bring the palms together in prayer pose in front of the chest for more balance.

hip opening yoga poses

Pigeon Pose or Resting Pigeon

Starting in downward facing dog, pull the right knee up in between the hands, resting it own on the inside of the right foot. Gently lower the body onto the ground, reaching through the left toes. Press your fingertips into the ground and lift up through the torso, opening the chest. Try to balance the weight evenly between your right and left hip. For resting pigeon, relax the upper body down, allowing the forehead to rest on the forearms or hands.

King Pigeon or Mermaid Pose

From pigeon pose, bend into the back knee, bringing the foot towards the upper body. Reach back with the same hand and try to hold the shin or top of the foot, continuing to open the chest forward. Additional options: wrap the elbow around the foot and bind the hands together behind the head (as pictured). With increased flexibility, you may be able to reach behind and grab the foot with both hand, either reaching straight back or overhead.

hip opening yoga poses

Plank Pose

From hands and knees, place the hands directly underneath the shoulders, pressing into the palms, and lifting into the tops of the shoulders. Tuck the toes and step each foot back, bringing your body into one straight line. Tuck the pelvis, pull the bellybutton up towards the spine, and press the thighs together. Aim to make one long line with the body, not allowing the tailbone to lift or the hips to drop too low.

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hip opening yoga poses

Cobra Pose

Start laying on your belly with the feet stretched back behind with the tops of the feet pressed into the mat. Bring the palms underneath the shoulders, fingers spread wide, and the elbows are pulled in. On an inhale, press into the palms as you lift the chest off the ground and pull the shoulder blades back together. The elbows should stay tucked into the sides as the chest opens and the head remains neutral, not allowing the chin to reach upwards.

*** Rest on the belly for a few breaths

Locust Pose

To begin, rest onto the belly, pull the arms back to the sides with the palms facing upwards, and rest the forehead onto the mat. On an inhale, lift the head, arms, and chest off the ground, reaching into the fingertips to pull the shoulder blades together and back. Aim to open the chest. Intensify this posture by lifting the legs off the ground, squeezing the thighs together and pressing through the back toes. The gaze is slightly forward, but do not allow the chin to stick out.

*** Rest on the belly for a few breaths

Wheel Pose

Start laying on the belly, reaching both hands back behind you. Bend into both knees and reach the hands back to grab the ankles or tops of the feet. Lift the chest and thighs off the floor, using the bind of the legs and hands to pull the chest higher off the ground and squeeze the shoulder blades together. The neck should remain neutral, not lifting the chin up towards the ceiling, and the knees are hip distance apart.

If this pose is too challenges, skip this one and do another round of Locust. 

*** Rest on the belly for a few breaths

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Child’s or Extended Child’s Pose

From hands and knees, bring the knees together and the heels together. Sit back onto the heels and fold the body forward, bringing the forehead down to the mat. Place the hands back on the side of your hips, palms up, resting on the mat. This allows the shoulders to round forward.

Extended: From hands and knees, bring the big toes together and take the knees out as wide as the mat. Sit back onto the heels and walk the hands forward, bringing the forehead down onto the mat. Allow the belly to drop between the thighs and sink into the hips. Reach through the fingertips, but allow the shoulder blades to stay in place.

head to knee pose

Seated Head-to-Knee Pose

Start seated with both legs straight in front of you (staff pose). Bring one foot to the inside of the opposite thigh, allowing the knee to open out to the side. Fold forward over the straight leg, trying to keep the belly button towards the center of that leg. Bring your hands to your foot or your calf to help gently pull yourself forward. Allow the head and the shoulder to relax into the posture.

Revolved Head to Knee Pose

Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose

Start seated with both legs straight in front of you (staff pose). Bring the left foot to the inside of the right thigh, allowing the knee to open out to the side. Bring the right hand to rest on the right leg as you begin to reach the left hand overhead, actively reaching for the right toes. Be sure to keep the chest open toward the left side, not allowing the chest to drop in order to bend deeper. Option: bring the right hand to rest on the left hip crease for a greater twist. 

yoga flow powerful core

Bridge Pose

Lying on your back, bend the knees and place the feet on the floor, close to the tailbone and about hip distance apart. Place the hands palms down on both sides of the hips. On an exhale, lift the hips and the buttock up towards the ceiling. Try to keep the thighs parallel to the floor and roll the shoulder blades underneath. Option is the clasp the hands together below the lower back, continuing to pull the shoulder blades together.


Wheel Pose

Start laying flat on the floor. Bend the knees and bring the feet onto the floor, as close to the tailbone as possible, keeping the knees hip distance apart. Bring the hands onto the mat just about the shoulders, fingertips pointed towards the shoulder tops. On an exhale, push the hips off the floor, actively pushing the tailbone towards the pubis, but keeping the buttock relaxed. Press firmly into the hands, lifting the the back and shoulder blades off the mat. Allow the head to drop and relax. Continue to actively press the feet and hands into the mat at the hips reach up and the chest lifts forward. To come down, lift the head out of the way and bend the arms, bringing the shoulders and back onto the mat. Bring the tailbone back on the mat and gently bring the knees into the chest.

Reclined Knees-to-Chest

Laying on your back, pull both knees in towards the chest. Use your hand to wrap around or hug the knees to draw them closer towards the chest. Allow the shoulders to remain relaxed onto the floor and the head neutral.

yoga for strength and balance

Plow Pose

Lying on your back, place your hands on both sides of the hips with the palms down and bend the knees, placing the heels on the mat close to the tailbone. On an exhale, lift the feet off of the floor and bring the knees up towards the chest. Continue to lift by curling the pelvis and then the back torso away from the floor, so that your knees come toward your face. Bending your elbows, bring your hands the the lower back to support the body. Raise the pelvis above the shoulders, lifting the feet up towards the ceiling, and continue using the arms and shoulders for support, walking the hands higher up the back as needed. Begin to lower the feet towards the floor behind the head. Option: bind the hands to pull the shoulder blade closer together and increase the stretch in the neck and shoulders.

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Don’t skip this one! This may not seem like it, but it is the most difficult yoga pose that you can accomplish. Laying flat on your back, bring the arms to your side with the palms up, allowing the shoulders to roll back. Allow the toes to fall out to the side and tuck the chin in slightly to make sure the back of the neck is straight. Relax the body as much as you can and rest here for 3-5 minutes.

Ready to gain flexibility in the spine and get bendy? Keep this routine nearby you by printing out this one page PDF.

Questions about the routine or how to increase the health of your spine? Comment below and let’s keep the conversation going!