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Heal with Seal

By In Yoga On October 06, 2011


In Mary’s recent Yin Yoga workshop, participants did a Yin posture known as Seal pose, a posture that “works to reestablish a lumbar curve in the spine,” Paul Grilley, author of “yin Yoga: Outline of A quiet practice,” explains. “This curve is abused and eventually lost by sitting in chairs for hours everyday for years and years.” Because so many of us will continue to spend considerable amounts of time in chairs, Grilley says that the “need to constantly combat the use of the lower spine is ever-present.”
Let’s make a pact to heal our lumbar spine, folks!

Depending on the current condition of your spine, Seal may not feel incredibly comfortable for you initially, but there are alternatives that will help you build up to a full Seal pose, such as the popular Cobra and Sphinx poses (which are also wonderful poses for warming up to Seal). With a consistent and gentle practicing of Seal (remembering to always listen to your body), Grilley offers the hope that “your spine will bend again.”

While Seal has some similarities to Cobra pose, there are differences. For instance, in Seal, the hands are not placed under the shoulders as in Cobra but rather positioned toward the front of the body and out to the edges of your mat with hand adjustments that feel best for your arms. Turning the fingers outward helps with straightening the arms. Then, Seal practitioners need to play with the position of the legs/feet, exploring if they feel better together or apart. Your body will tell you which version is best for your spine. With legs spread apart in Seal, “the stress in the lower spine will be more pronounced,” Grilley explains, but when the legs are together, “the stretch is more evenly distributed along the spine.”

On YogaJournal.com, Grilley, who has significantly helped publicize Yin Yoga and largely increased its popularity, specifically tells us how to get into Seal.

He writes:
“Lie face down with your hands on the floor in front of and to the sides of your shoulders, fingers pointing out at about a 45 degree angle. Every body is different, so you’ll need to experiment to find the best hand placement, the distance you prefer between your legs, and the amount you engage or release the spinal muscles. In Seal, unlike traditional Bhujangasana (Cobra pose), it’s fine to support your weight on your arms and release your spine. You can also let your shoulders move up and forward unless your neck feels pinched; this pose focuses on arching the lower spine. Hold for at least a minute, working up to 5 minutes. Seal Pose stretches the front of the abdomen, gently stimulating the Manipura Chakra, the plexus of the meridians that control digestion.”

We suggest you first watch this informative video that will safely guide you in and out of Seal.

“Ahhh, that feels so good” is a typical comment heard from Seal practitioners. It’s easy to understand why! Seal is a posture that gives the heart a lift, the spine a bend, and the abdominals a stretch. It’s also known to benefit the urinary bladder and kidneys.

So, don’t forget to use Seal as a tool to heal, taking it slowly. You’ll get there!

“I recently demonstrated Seal pose to my fitness boot camp instructor and other boot camp participants during the stretching segment toward the end of our boot camp class. As we pushed up in Cobra pose, I couldn’t contain myself and just had to share Seal, too.~ Penny Powell, RYT-200 Happy Seal-stretching & Healing!


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