Spinal Flow Complete (SFC) Full Version 1.8


The full Spinal Flow, Spinal Flow Complete (SFC) starts below and has it all, once you know it, it should take a little less than an hour to complete inclusive of meditation in savasana.

However, if time is short and both your posture and spine awareness are good, and you are looking for an intense/fast (20-25 minutes) spine safe workout, Spinal Flow “FIT” (SFF) is here.

If time is similarly limited, you need more work on posture, balance and coordination, and or your spine doesn’t feel up to an intense workout regardless of how neutral and a little more relaxation sounds good, Spinal Flow “Aware” (SFA) is here.


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12 thoughts on “Spinal Flow Complete (SFC) Full Version 1.8”

  1. I absolutely love the single leg half fold (reaching floor) and how it is strengthened my back. I am feeling some pressure behind my standing leg knee. Thoughts?

    • Hi Marisa! There are two potential problems, one more likely than the other. First if you are locking your knee out it could be straining the ligaments/joint capsule in the back of the knee. Keeping a ‘microbend’ of the knee should alleviate this. If that doesn’t work then it could be a Baker’s cyst on the back of the knee, which is a frequent point of escape from an inflamed knee joint, usually due to arthritis. Though I would expect the latter to hurt more with lunges or squats.

    • That depends what you mean by upper and lower. You should feel it on the outside of your upper (proximal thigh, towards the hip) as opposed to you lower (distal, towards the knee) aspect of your leg. However, if you mean your top leg vs bottom leg, if you are doing level-1 you should feel it on your top leg. If you are doing level-2 or 3 the hip abductors on both legs are working hard, the top leg actively and the bottom leg isometrically, so you should feel it on both legs.

  2. I see Spinal Flow Yoga suggests practicing meditation while laying in Shavasana. Other guided meditations I have done recommend sitting. Is one way better than the other?

    • Hello Sara,

      It’s traditional as of late to end a yoga session with savasana. Usually people just lye there for a couple minutes and relax then roll up their mat and head on their day. I genuinely do like the idea of meditation as a mental discipline (more so than an awakening) so I figured I would make use of that time to work on real mindfulness rather than just relax. That’s why I recommend some guided meditations during that time, as an intro to learn how. Once you know how the techniques guided meditations are no longer necessary, but still good reminders. Original yoga going back to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras from was largely about meditation and not about exercise at all. Yoga asana’s for Patanjali was just a comfortable way to sit while you meditate. Since you have done Spinal Flow, you know I don’t have much problem eliminating anything ‘traditional’ that I don’t like, but I really do like Patanjali, and from more modern yoga I do like savasana. I think savasana the perfect neck ‘stretch’ letting the neck and shoulders to relaxingly fall back from what in daily life are near constant flexed and protracted positions. So I figured, “what better position to meditate from?”

      The very real downside of meditation is savasana is that it’s easy to fall asleep. Sitting upright keeps you alert, is usually something we do too much of in current society. Sitting unsupported for prolonged periods is especially hard on the back. I do think sitting prolonged in padmasana (lotus position) is especially bad for people’s knees and hips over-stretching both the hip joint capsules and knees lateral collateral ligaments. Some people have really lose joints and can assume the position easily and for which it is less of a problem, but I think if you have to stretch to get into padmasana then you are just over-stretching ligaments, increasing your risk for arthritis in the future, and giving yourself ‘reactive’ muscle spasms in the now. That’s why a lot of yoga practitioners (especially female) say their hips feel tight yet they have considerably more hip range of motion than their husbands who don’t stretch at all, and don’t feel tight at all. Those spasms are your body saying chill and hold still.

      Anyway back to tradition, in the classic Hatha Yoga text the Shiva Samhita, Shiva himself, allegedly, says siddhasana is the greatest asana on earth, and though he likes padmasana, it’s not the greatest. Siddhasana isn’t near as hard on the hips or knees and still “looks cool.” Ramana Maharshi says any asana is just as good with sukhasana (just sitting cross legged) being just as good. With any of the sitting positions lack of back support for prolonged periods is a real problem. However, neither bringing your Herman Miller chair or assuming savasana are likely to be much appreciated at a meditation retreat. So I did a lot of looking at meditation chairs and the one I bought to test (and it’s really comfortable, with nearly perfect lumbar support) is the Coleman stadium seat for $12-17. I looked at a LOT of other meditation chairs and most were expensive and/or they appeared to back back support but would not hold the lumbar spine in neutral. Coleman should come out with a new model with a lotus flower or Spinal Flow snake on the back, haha.

  3. As someone with spondylolisthesis I have been searching for a neutral spine workout and was very happy to find this one.I tried level one yesterday and am happy to report I had no pain performing the routine. I do have a theoretical question. As someone who has been very active all my life, I’ve found that most of my injuries resulted from some combination of reduced strength and/or flexibility. If we do all of our training with a neutral spine, how will we improve, or at least maintain our L-S flexibility? Thanks.

    • Hi Daniel,

      I appreciate your feedback and I’m very happy you were able to do Spinal Flow pain free your first try!

      Spinal Flow Yoga is still what I would call a minimally viable product (MVP), I learned that’s a thing. Thus you questions are important for me to make Spinal Flow better and to deliver it in such a way as to be most easily understood. The concept “stop doing that which is bad for your spine, and get/stay the entire body fit in a way that is good for your spine” is relatively simple. However, presenting it it a way easily understood, and more importantly, believed, amongst what is a haystack of haystacks of bad information is the challenge. Particularly when that information has been ingrained in us our entire lives. It’s that bad information that literally IS THE REASON chronic low back pain remains the number one cause of disability worldwide, with neck pain coming in at number four. So I appreciate your great question and will probably make it part of a FAQ. If I don’t answer it well enough, feel free to ask follow up questions.

      The basic idea is that as we age and mistreat our spines we often lose range of motion. People who treat those with low back pain often notice and think “hey this person has low back pain AND this person is stiff,” and conclude, “this person has low back pain BECAUSE this person is stiff. That assumption is the killer, and why acute neck and back pain becomes recurrent pain, and later chronic pain that never gets better. Modern spine biomechanics research clearly indicates that repeated and sustained bending and twisting of the spine, combined with varying amounts of compression, is most frequently what causes the spine to be injured and later degenerate. All the while the body is unconsciously spasming to prevent further injurious motion, and yet everyone says “stretch.” Heck, some doctors will even give you medications to lessen pain and muscle spasms while you stretch.

      Later the body responds with arthritic changes and bone spurs to finally limit motion, and now you have some degree of permanent disability. However, if you catch your body early enough in the pain/degeneration cycle you can let the spine heal, pain should decrease, spasms should decrease, and ROM often increase without doing any spine stretches whatsoever. Normal activities of daily should still provide enough ROM to prevent pathologic muscle and ligament shortening. For example most people will still go through full spine flexion ROM every time they pull on their socks, they get good extension ROM when reaching back to put on a seatbelt, and good spine rotation just rolling over in bed at night. So I don’t think spine ROM is something you need to work on. Rather, working on it is what makes things fail to get better and thus worse in the long run.

      In the case where one has spondylolisthesis (for others, that’s where one vertebra is forward slipping relative to the one below it) that segment is compromised, such that you want to make it, and the muscles around as strong and stable as possible. If the ligaments surrounding that disc tightened up some it might actually be a good thing that would help check further slipping. With increased stability pain should decrease and hopefully be eliminated. As pain decreases ROM will likely increase to some extent, but will probably not return to what it was preinjury. In fact you wouldn’t want it to because that increased ROM would likely further injure your damaged disc, or adjacent discs.

      That said, if your hamstrings are tight you would want to stretch (and strengthen) them, because a lack of hip range of motion (and strength) is something that causes people to underuse their hips and overuse their spines. That’s why Spinal Flow Yoga has such an emphasis on total body strength, and hip/hamstring range of motion, while practicing keeping the spine neutral. That’s tricky because it’s hard to stretch the hamstrings without stretching the spine at the same time, which is one of the reasons most exercise programs for low back pain don’t work very well. It’s also tricky because a lot of people with back pain do have good hamstring flexibility, they just aren’t using it enough during their day, and are thus still overworking the spine. That why Spinal Flow has so much practice building awareness and coordination to bend the hips and not the spine.

      In short I would not worry that your spine will become stiff for failure to stretch it. I’ve yet to meet an able bodied person who I thought didn’t stretch their spines enough during normal activities. In fact, just daily activities tend to overstretch people’s spines, so that I’m hoping the awareness and skill learned in Spinal Flow Yoga is carried on throughout the day so as to better prevent and cure back and neck pain. I hope that helps!

  4. Chad,
    Thanks for your detailed response-it all makes sense and I’m more than willing to give it a try. As you have noted, we have to overcome our own preconceived notions. I ran for 50 years and I am very tight. Once or twice every year I would go down with the stabbing back pain that basically prevented any movement. About 20 years ago I discovered yoga and did some form of it every morning. In that time I never had any back pain. I knew intuitively that the extreme end of ROM stretching I was doing could be harmful, but empirically it was keeping me pain free and active, so I kept on until I developed my spondy. Since then I’ve been swimming and doing mostly plank-type core work, but I can tell I’ve lost a lot flexibility from my yoga days. I’m glad to hear about the focus on hamstring flexibility in your program. As you noted, most of the literature refers to spondylolisthesis as a forward slippage of one vertebral body on another. But for me it makes much more sense to think about this as a backwards slippage of L5 on L4 because the extensors are so much stronger than the flexors.Thus I’ve been trying to focus on stretching my hamstrings in a way that won’t hurt my back, and your program should help me accomplish that. Thanks again for all of your help. Dan

  5. Chad, Here’s some early feedback. I should maybe mention that I’m a retired MD, so may know a bit more anatomy than your average subscriber.
    1. I’ve been doing the series every other day, but you might want to make a suggestion as to what you feel is optimal frequency.
    2. I’ve been able to get through series without pain which is great considering I have spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis and foraminal stenosis at L4. I did intuit that I could mix and match from levels 1 and 2 to suit my needs, but as you noted, average user may not appreciate that.
    3. Intensity of the workout is good. I’m sweating when I finish and get into a pretty deep meditative state.
    4. I don’t particularly like the poses where you recommend they be held for a certain number of breaths. In a class the instructor can help us slow down our breathing, but on my own it’s too difficult to regulate. Would prefer all poses be based on time, or reps or counts. I know in traditional yoga breathing is critical, but this series is not traditional and I think the average user won’t understand how to do ujjayi breathing anyway.
    5. For some of the combo posses, like outs and ups, it could be clearer as to how many of each pose we are meant to do. Also when I enlarge the level to read the fine print, I have then close that window to go back to overall window to remember how many sets to perform. Would be nice to have on same window with individual exercises.
    6. Yes, one of the benefits of the centering series is that I am trying to apply to daily mechanics. I found that my shoulders are often forward of my hips and this of course placed constant tension on my low back muscles. Rather than walking around with my hand at the small of my back to check for tension, I decided that as long as my wrists are next to my greater trochanters then I’m pretty close to a neutral position. This has helped my back to feel less tired and achey at end of the day. Also your other tips regarding how to maintain a neutral spine with activities like rolling up your mat have been very useful, but users need to understand they have to extrapolate these tips to everything they do.

    • Thanks Dan, I very much appreciate the feedback. I love that you’re a combination MD/Yogi and you’re doing my flow. That’s so cool! My thoughts…

      I think if you are doing the full flow, I’m calling that “Spinal Flow Complete” (SFC) now. I changed a couple the the names because I want my abbreviations to be different, “Spinal Flow Accelerate” vs. “Spinal Flow Aware” were both SFA, so that was no good. So Spinal Flow Accelerate is now Spinal Flow Fit, which meant I had lose the F full Full, yadda yadda I digress.

      But yes for the the complete flow SFC I think every other day is ideal. However, based on some habit research that I want to blog on, talking to others, and just looking at myself and what makes me want to do my own exercises vs skip them, I think there is something to doing it every day. So since SFF and SFA are each half of SFC I think another good way to do it is just alternate between the two every day. Perhaps not a better way but another way that might better fit some peoples schedules. To me makes each workout less of a chore, but by doing it everyday it becomes “what I do” each day. So like flossing your teeth or wearing your seatbelt it will get to where I feel weird if you don’t do it. The habit research says that takes on average 64 days.

      Also I think you should get to the point where the postural/coordination/motor control aspects taught more in the SFA sequence are well ingrained and at such point continued time spent on them is a bit of a waste. In my case I have been doing hip hinges with a neutral spine for decades so it’s just not something I have to work on. On the contrary the fitness aspects of SFF are “use it or lose it. So now I’m experimenting with dividing SFF in half, alternating it each day, and seeing if that’s something I’ll want to write up. So far I really like it. I think level-3 SFF is too intense for daily exercise, but dividing it in half both makes it less overwhelming to think about, and keeps my daily habit going.

      However, I’m also worried about too many divisions making the flow confusing. I want to keep it one set of exercises, that are the best exercises, and that does everything. But I want it to be modular enough to fit efficiently into most lifestyles.

      I’m planning on writing up the various scenarios on page linked from the top left box “how the flow works.” I other words, I 100% agree that needs to go in there, along with how to progress, and I’ll have a lot to say about what’s a good pain, and what’s a bad pain, with regards to moving up. For the most part with neck and back pain, it’s all a “bad pain” that if you feel something other than exertion, then you don’t want to work through it.

      2) Yeah, I need to make that clear that you do want to mix and match. I’m very happy that you’re able to get through the complete flow without pain given what sounds like fairly advanced degeneration. The next level of test is to see over time how much it reduces pain during daily activities. In the long term of Spinal Flow I would like to add tracking of a pain/disability index to each account so you (and I) can see what it’s doing on average over time. For more of a near term pain fix that seems to work especially well with chronic “centrally sensitized pain” I’ve written up what I think is a very complete description of how I use electric muscle stimulation (EMS). It’s not exactly yoga, but I would say combined with my exercise program it (at least) doubles the rate of recovery.

      3) Second only to curing low back pain, that’s what I like to hear. I know my sequence isn’t at all “traditional” but I’m helping it will still achieve all the aims of more traditional yoga. I’m hoping that it will be a bit like “progressive muscle relaxation” but rather than tensing the muscles followed by relaxation you have a total body workout followed by relaxation or even anapanasati where you can really focus on your breath, and not be distracted by your back hurting.

      4) Yeah, that’s been a point of contention for some time. I thought counting breaths would make it feel more like “yoga” than counting seconds. And I have most holds at 5 breaths taken from Ashtanga, but on the inner squeezes especially I think 5 breaths is too long. I was going to reduce that to 3 breaths, but I think you are right about different peoples breaths being different. I think I’ll make the holds 5 seconds in Spinal Flow 1.9, it should be faster than 5 breaths and more consistent like you say.

      Ultimately I REALLY want to make music playlists that keeps the tempo of an ideal rep sequence, and changes to cue when to change the exercise. It would still be ok to go slower but the music would make you want try and keep up. I have a stack of research saying it makes people exercise harder even though it feels easier. I’m hoping that would end the need for counting altogether and if I were teaching a group it would keep everyone in sync and I could focus more on giving individual cues rather than talk through the whole class.

      5) Good idea, I’ll try and do that when I redo the photos for 1.9.

      6) That’s really cool! I still have more to say about carrying the lessons of Spinal Flow throughout your day, so I’m really happy that the implicit lessens in the flow are having that effect. Your cue with the wrists is a brilliant adaptation. Interestingly the centering with the hands on the lumbar spine is an adaptation I took from Stuart McGill (spine biomechanics Ph.D.) and he said by angling forward just slightly caused our spine extensor to “crush your discs” all day. In theory with your spondylolisthesis, centering slightly more upright, perhaps combined with mild uddiyana bandha would lessen shear stress.

      Anyway, thank you again for the great feedback! I’m definitely interested in what you and others have to say. I’m hoping the updates to the site will come more steadily now. So much of the last several months have been spent learning how to do various computer programs so I can more better share the flow, and none of that shows up online. But I think I’m to the point where I can more make the website look and do what I want. It’s definitely a process!

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