This is hedgehog because we are curling up in a ball, using the strength of our pelvic floor and trunk muscles. It’s not like a traditional sit-up though because this usually involves a lot of yanking on the neck and protrusion of the belly which serves to make you look potbellied and weaken the pelvic area by causing a lot of build-up of pressure in the abdominal cavity.
You will also lengthen the back body – the neck, the upper back and the back of the waist, all at the same time. Take a quick look at the Trapezius muscle which comes right up into the low part of your skull, in line with the back of your ears and radiates outward toward each shoulder and down to the back of your waist, like a giant diamond. As you move your head forward, you are stretching that muscle all the way down to the bottom and you may be acutely aware of that whilst you are working today. Try not to over anticipate what is happening next and just perform each action, fully present in the moment, as though you have no idea what is coming next.
Start lying on your back with no pillow under your head, feet flat on the floor a comfortable distance away from your bottom – so imagine it’s like two sticks leaning up against each other, perfectly balanced. The legs feel naturally positioned. Now investigate the feeling of your feet on the floor, rolling onto the outside and the inside edges, spreading your toes then lifting them one by one as if you have never felt your feet before in your life!
This is the meditative practice of Beginner’s Mind and it has much to teach us all since mostly we come into experiences wearing rose-coloured spectacles if you are an optimist and some old sludgy coloured spectacles if you are long in the tooth and have all the been there, done that T-Shirts. Either way, a whole new experience opens up to you if you can catch yourself with your usual world viewpoint firmly attached to the experience and get rid of it as if to start again. Think of those conversations with family members in which they relate to you as a person from the past. Imagine if they were hearing you now, as you are with more wisdom and lots of different experiences under your belt – how freeing would that be?
Take your arms and interlink the fingers behind your head. See if you can open out the elbows. They may not go flat on the floor…notice any tension in the front of the armpits and around the shoulders….
Inhale and let your head be heavy in your hands, exhale and begin to squeeze your elbows together as you gently lift the back of your head off the floor. Hold it there and feel the length coming into the whole of your upper back, radiating right to the outside edge of your shoulders. This is your Trapezius muscle remember – the huge diamond shape, fanning out from the back of your neck, across the shoulders and tapering down at the back of your waist. So you can see, when you do things with your neck, you are affecting the whole of your upper back, right down to waist level.
Now Inhale…exhale and very very slowly and smoothly, with the head heavy in the hands, keeping the chin deeply tucked in, roll your neck and head back down on to the floor slowly and smoothly…you may feel if you are going slowly enough, that the floor has disappeared from underneath you. Once you land on the floor, open up your elbows and notice if they can open wider and get closer to the floor – without force. Can you see how releasing the neck, also opens up the external rotation of your shoulders.
Draw your awareness once more to your feet. Inhale and spread the toes and push very gently into the floor, just a tad, not so as you lift your pelvis off the ground, just a pressure that begins to tilt your pelvis up. Exhale…release the pressure. Inhale and push through the feet so that you tilt the pelvis very smoothly and slowly upwards – the back of the waist sinking into the ground. Get to the point just before liftoff. Take an inhale and on the exhale, lift up a tiny bit so that your weight is on the point just above your waist which is feeling extraordinarily long. Keep the weight there and inhale and push through your feet a little bit more on your next exhale until you can feel front of the hip flexors lengthening and your tailbone is tucked under as far as it can possibly go. You’ll feel the quads engaged. Notice if your knees have started to travel away from each other because your glutes are now engaged. Inhale…exhale and very very slowly begin to lower the back into the ground, keeping the tailbone tucked under tight, with gluten engaged. Notice if you have to skip a vertebra or two that can’t be rolled on to the ground properly because the muscles in that low part of your back are really tight. Slowly release the buttocks as you land, noticing how wonderful it feels for your back to be so released into the ground.
Now we are going to curl up both the upper and lower body movements and this is where the hedgehog analogy comes into play.
Inhale…exhale and begin to slowly press through the feet at the exact same speed as you did before, as you do so, bring your head up, travelling your elbows toward each other, head heavy in the hands. Try to have the upper and lower body travel at exactly the same pace. As you are pressing your elbows up towards the ceiling ensure that the lower half only curls up as far as just above the waist – so not too high. Both halves of the body reach their maximum lift at the same time.
Inhale…exhale and very very slowly, roll only the bottom half of the body down. Push through the feet all the time, keeping the quads and glutes engaged until the very last second, ensuring that you are not skipping the sensation of lowering each vertebra one at a time. Notice any difficult areas that are more rigid and more difficult to separate the vertebral experience one disc at a time. Once you have released the Glutes, Quads and taken the pressure off your feet, with the back of the waist long on the ground, we are going to release the head but NOT IN ONE MOVEMENT.
Inhale…exhale and just lower your head one centimetre and stop. Keep the chin tucked in and elbows forward for the moment. Inhale…exhale and lower another centimetre… feel the length coming into the back of your neck and upper back. Inhale…exhale and lower another centimetre. Again, chin tucked in, feeling the radiation of those muscles going across your back. Inhale…on the exhale, lower a little bit further. Hold it there. Feel that your head is in a kind of sling and those muscles on your back body are being lengthened. It may even feel like a lovely big stretch. Inhale, exhale, slowly lower a little bit more, allowing the elbows to open out like a flower coming into bloom. Notice what is happening in your low back as you lower your head a tiny bit more on your next exhale. Does it feel like the floor has been taken away?
Inhale, exhale and lower – you may not have hit the ground yet…. Inhale…exhale, slowly lower – you might want to slide your hands from underneath your head and take them out at shoulder level in a t-shape. Now really experience your back as this really elongated spine from the tailbone to the crown of your head – maybe it feels like it’s the longest it has ever been. See if you can soften the belly. See if you can feel the Rhomboids, running between spine and shoulder blades, relaxing completely. Notice how the shoulder blades are flattening into the ground.