Unfurling the Spine

The beautiful image of a fern uncoiling is my inspiration for this practice. This shape known as a Koru depicts new beginnings, birth and harmony in Maori Culture. Spinal rolls can offer this sentiment at the beginning of our day and activate a sense of new energy when the body is feeling stagnant or sleepy. This is a very good way to wake up.

Spinal Rolls are an effective yet easy practice to integrate into the fabric of your day. I nearly always include them in my yoga practice but if I haven’t had time these are perfect to fit in while I wait for the toast to pop at breakfast time.

Our spinal health is at the core of wellbeing and it is vital to maintain daily movement through all the vertebrae if we are wanting to maintain a pain free back.

Spinal Rolls:

  • release muscular tension in the shoulders and spine
  • regulate diaphragmatic breathing
  • regulate the Nervous System
  • establish a feeling of grounding
  • encourage good posture
  • maintain spinal health
  • help us find core activation

Not recommended for people with existing neck or spinal conditions or those with very low blood sugar or glaucoma.

There are four main parts to this movement.

1. Releasing Down

Begin as if nodding to say YES to this moment. As you tuck the chin, feel into the back of the neck. As soon as you experience a gentle stretching sensation at C7, the largest lump at the base of the neck, bend the knees and soften the spine forwards. Allow the skull to be heavy and place your attention into each part of the spine bone by bone as you let go into a forward bend. IT IS VITAL TO KEEP THE KNEES BENDING. As you go down, the attention is placed along the backside of the body and the feeling may be quite skeletal.

2. Hanging Forward

The knees stay soft and as you continue to hang down for a short time this is a good place to find your feet spreading and giving weight into the earth. Allow the skull to remain heavy.

3. Building up

To come up, go down a little further by scooping your tail under and plugging the feet into the earth. With an outbreath begin to place your attention sequentially up from the inner heals through the inner legs as you unfurl and follow sensation along the front of the spine, about half way there may be a natural urge to inhale and support the unfurling of the upper body up to the roof of the mouth. Watch the animated set of images below and practice these first 3 phases slowly to begin with. Notice how much I am bending my knees! If you feel light headed or dizzy stop. The coming up can be done in phases so that you take a few breaths in each position on the way up – like a diver equalising at certain pints as she rises to the surface.

4. Adding the arms

It can take a while to really track a sequence down the back and up through the front of the spine and you may notice parts of the pathways are missing or harder to sense. Once you have established a smoothness to the movement you may be able to sense into the more subtle sensations of the internal organs and diaphragmatic structures in the body.

Try tracking up from the arches of the feet to the pelvic floor, to the diaphragm and see how as the sequence comes to this point, the support of your lungs activate and invite you to lift the arms as you unfurl through the upper back, throat and head. Finish in Tadasana, Standing pose, as the arms come back down to your side to establish a sense of centre.

Check in with how your standing position feels as a result of this practice.

Then get on with your breakfast! 




  1. Being a visual person, I love the way you’ve connected this practice to the Koru. I Iove the idea of unfurling out of sleep and opening up into the day.

  2. This is such a good reminder of the benefits of such a seemingly simple movement! Such a lovely tiny unfurling fern. Thanks, Sam.

  3. The image is perfect. But so is the linkage of the words to the action.
    It is good to be able to repeat the video a number of times until the pattern of the practice is understood, leading to correct action.

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