I’m a big fan of rotating my spine and I like to consider my options for how this segmental chain can rotate. While there are several traditional yoga asanas that we think of when we think of “twists,” we can explore spinal rotation in a variety of shapes as long as we have two main ingredients: a fixed body part and a moving body part.
These 6 exercises show different ways to pair fixed and mobile body parts, changing whether movement takes place at the upper spine or the lower spine. In each variation, the twist might look the same but it feels different.
Explore variations of these gentle spinal rotations in the warm-up of your class! Build on these as you progress toward more demanding shapes and movements, or, come back to them as refrains (or check/re-check ins) that repeat throughout the class.
In a bridge pose, the upper shoulders are fixed, while my hips rotate by dipping one half of the pelvis to the floor then the other (right and left). Hugging the block keeps my rib cage relatively fixed. This encourages more rotation through my pelvis & lumbar joints, as well as my lower thoracic spine.
In constructive rest, the hips and legs stay fixed, while the upper back and shoulders rotate. I deliver the block from one hand to the other, making it an external point of focus and a way to bring intentionality to the reach of my upper extremity from one side of my trunk to the other. To add extension in the spine, I lift the hips into bridge. Here, my upper spine moves a bit more than my lower spine because my feet are fixed. However I allow my pelvis to “roll” with it and don’t try to keep anything too fixed.
Standing twists/twisted chair
From tadasana, I keep my upper body fixed while my feet turn, lazy-susan style. Hugging the block keeps my ribs “flush” with the front wall as I turn my feet to one side, rotating the lower part of my thoracolumbar spine.
From tadasana, I keep my feet fixed while the ribs turn. The block brings more of an external focus to rotating my ribs in relationship to the space around me (I can “see” the block facing one wall then another). It’s amazing how much clearer a sense of direction becomes with an external point of focus & how much clearer ribs become with a block pressing.
From a forward-fold position, I keep my hands on blocks so my uppermost back is relatively fixed while my pelvis and the lower part of my thoracic spine rotate more. I shift weight between my front and back foot, which moves the back leg’s hip in and out of rotation.
I balance the block on my lower back, which keeps my pelvis relatively fixed. I alternate reaching & rowing my arms to get my upper spine rotating.