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"Relaxation as Practice"

"Relaxation as Practice" is a major aspect of the restorative yoga taught by Brigitte. Working with the BackMitra and correct positioning in a relaxed state allows the power of gravity to profoundly engage the deepest muscles. The following series of seven positions demonstrate a few aspects of how students are taught to work with the BackMitra.

The BackMitra should be aligned with the lowest part of your breastbone. It was specifically designed to approximately equal the width of the spine and is made out of a high-compression material that provides excellent support.

the BackMitra is placed on the floor. The back of your head and the spine between your shoulder blades will be resting on the block. Touch the lowest part of your breastbone. The end of the BackMitra is located on the spine directly under this point.

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The starting position for "relaxation as practice" is as follows: knees bent, feet hip width apart, soles of feet flat on the floor, heels turned out slightly, buttocks with equal weight on the floor, neck long and relaxed, arms next to your body, eyes closed and face relaxed. In this position, you will feel the weight of your head, shoulders and body sink into the BackMitra. The power of gravity is now at work.

Students are guided through a series of movements that are coordinated with the in and out breath. A strap is held in the hands one hand-width apart. In one position, you will find yourself with elbows slightly bent, pulling gently on the strap, hands toward the ceiling. You will be asked to observe the point on your spine where most of the pressure is located and breathing towards that point, feel the melting of tension around that point, allowing the back muscles to sink towards the floor.

In another aspect of the series, on an out breath, you will be asked to more your arms slowly behind you, keeping them a few inches off the floor. This is a profoundly dynamic stretch. You will feel the shoulders move away from the ears and the outside of the shoulder blades toward the floor. Again, you will be asked to observe any particular point of pressure that is manifesting for you and asked to visualize how on each out breath the vertebras around that pressure point melt into the BackMitra.

Building on the previous position, you will be asked to on an out breath slowly push your pelvis up towards the ceiling. You will press from the inside of your feet towards the back of your head. Again, you will be asked to observe the particular point of pressure that manifests for you and breath into that pressure, allowing it to melt away.

The BackMitra is also a dynamic pelvic stretch. You will be asked to lie in such a way that your sacrum is on one end of the block and the other end is between your ankles. Eventually, you will rest the soles of your feet against the sides of the BackMitra, opening your thighs, and creating a profound stretch across the pelvic region.

The BackMitra

The Key to a Beautiful, Healthy, Supple Back


We are very hard on our backs in today's world. This is true even if we are active and devoted to good posture and a yoga practice.

But the fact is, that prolonged sitting, and especially computer work (that tends to "draw" a person into the screen) all have a profound impact on the back and hips.

As a result, deep muscles in the back and hip areas become locked up and stiff. The neck tightens and carries stress. The shoulders roll forward and in and strains the back muscles, creates pain, and closes off the full use and capacity of the lungs. And then, that shallower breathing creates more stress.

Ah, we say, but yoga is the answer! This is true, however, in several decades of teaching, Brigitte observed that her students were so bound-up in these deep muscular areas, that they performed asanas from the "outside in"- in other words, using arms or their head, to "crank" their body into place, and creating yet more stress.

Drawing on her work in the field of critical alignment, along with the long-standing tradition of yoga to use props to deepen the experience of an asana, Brigitte, identified the need for a new yoga prop.

Based on Brigitte's teaching and experience, this new yoga prop was developed and created in collaborative partnership with Guy Hamaekers.

The result is the BackMitra ("Mitra" is the Sanskrit word meaning friend). Students work with the BackMitra at the beginning of every yoga class. It offers a fundamental and profound relaxation of the deepest back, neck and hip muscles. It is a key aspect of the "restorative yoga."

Restorative yoga as developed and taught by Brigitte Longueville is defined as the necessity to restore and rejuvenate the innate muscular and energetic capacity of the body prior to the practice of asanas in order to optimize the practice of yoga.

Working with the BackMitra, students enjoy an increased capacity to work with and achieve the fullest benefits of each and every asana. They work from the "inside out" as they engage their deep inner muscular structure.

As a result, students report huge relief from stiffness and pain and stress in the back, neck and hips- and greater lightness, flexibility and superior alignment in their yoga practice.

Benefits of "Relaxation as Practice"

The many benefits of the BackMitra include:

• The shoulders assume a natural and healthy position associated with optimal posture. As the deltoids and back muscles relax, it relieves stiffness and discomfort in the neck and shoulders that is the result of rounded shoulders.

• The back muscles relax and become more elastic as gravity pulls them down toward the floor. Deep structural muscles enjoy a profound stretch that involves the entire muscular structure of the back including such major muscle groups as the: trapezius, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, serratus anterior, and infraspinatus.

• The relaxation and stretching of the back muscles open up the vertebrae for proper disc nourishment and mobility. This stretching of the back muscles also opens up the front of the body across the chest allowing for greater use of the lungs and ease in breathing.

• Blood circulation in the neck, shoulders, and neck is improved and enhanced.

• And lastly, when it is placed beneath the sacrum, there is a profound stretching in the hip area, providing relief to the sacroiliac joint and greater mobility in the lower back.

Working with the BackMitra can manifest strong sensations that can be intense, but not painful. Students will be asked to manage their own experience, and consult a physician if they have medical issues that need to be addressed. However, most students have found the BackMitra to provide a significant source of relief from back stress while increasing back mobility, flexibility and health.


"I came to the retreat with a mild case of sciatica. Working with the BackMitra provided lasting relief. I now use it every day. In fact, it appears that I am getting taller, but actually, my older friends are kind of shrinking as they are rounding and stooping with age. It doesn't have to be that way."
- D.H., 75-year-old lawyer, retired, NY.

"I carry all my stress in my shoulders. They just get very, very tight. And then it gets so stressful, it feels that the tightness creeps up my neck and makes my face tense. At first the BackMitra was intense, yes, but the more I worked with it, the better I felt. Now my neck is free and my face is relaxed."
- L.W., The Netherlands

"After the retreat, I went to a formal and elegant dinner party, and I was wearing a black dress, bare shoulders, pearls, the hole nine yards. Quite a contrast to Zipolite! At any rate, my dinner companion turned to me, and complimented me on my posture and then the whole table agreed. Compliments are nice but a healthy back is even better. Thanks!"
- B.R., San Francisco, CA.How to treat & alleviate back and neck pain - Restorative Yoga in MexicoBackMitra workshop in Mexico City

"I have practiced yoga for two decades. The pre-asana session with the BackMitra has deepened my practice tremendously. I now have the sensation that I am activating and engaging my deepest muscles. I can hold all my poses, especially triangle, with a new sense of ease. It has brought my yoga practice to a new level."
--C.L., Mexico City, Mexico.

"I use the BackMitra every night before I go to bed. I must confess that I don't follow the formal sequence and my yoga practice is not all it could be. I simply use it, find pressure points, and release them. It is very relaxing and the stress of the day just flies away. As a result, I am sleeping better than I have in years."
--B. T., New Zealand


The BackMitra is available for purchase at Solstice Yoga Center and is available for purchase on-line. In addition, many yoga studios around the world now feature the BackMitra and host Brigitte for special "Relaxation as Practice Workshops: The Key to a Healthy Back & Vital Yoga Practice."

Instructions for the use of the BackMitra you can find on the BackMitra's Youtube channel.

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"One session on the patented BackMitra and my back--and posture--were better than they'd been in years. I can think of no better venue for yoga, and the instruction was first-class. I only wish I'd been able to stay longer."
-- CharlesP723, TripAdvisor member