Spinal Rotation Exercises

Hey Readers! This blog post is a follow up to my earlier post titled "The Basics of Spinal Rotation (read it here). If you have not read that post yet, I recommend you check it out. You might find that information helpful. In this blog post, I will detail five different spinal rotation exercises that you can easily add to your daily routine. You can add one, some, or all of these to your daily movement regiment. It is completely up to you! Some of these poses/exercises are easier than others, physically speaking. I tried to organize them from "easiest" to "hardest" based on my own personal experience, but you might find that the experience is different in your body. I recommend that you complete these exercises on a yoga mat. Happy twisting! :)

Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine spinal twist)

  1. Lie down on your back with your legs flat on the mat. Inhale and extend your arms back behind you, taking a full body stretch.

  2. Exhale and bring both of your knees into your chest, placing each hand on the same side shin or knee.

  3. Inhale and let your left leg go long on the mat. Interlace your fingers around your right knee or shin.

  4. Exhale and use your left hand to guide your right knee across your body. Your right knee does NOT have to touch the floor or anywhere specific. This action will rotate, or twist, your spine. Keep your left hand on your knee.

  5. Inhale and extend your right arm out like a “T” with your palm facing up.

  6. Exhale and look over your right shoulder towards to right hand.

  7. Remain in this position for 5 – 10 breaths, if possible.

  8. Inhale. Guide your right knee back through center with your left hand, and bring your right arm back through center. Interlace your fingers around your right shin or knee again.

  9. Exhale and bring your left knee in to your chest next to your right knee.

  10. Repeat on the other side.

  11. To release, bring both knees into your chest, and rock a little bit from side to side to release any tension in your low back. Then allow both of your legs to go long on your mat.


Parivrtta Sukhasana (Easy seated twist)

  1. Sit on your bottom in easy-seated pose (aka “criss-cross applesauce”).

  2. Inhale and reach your arms out to a “T” and then up overhead.

  3. Exhale and twist to your right, placing your right hand on the mat behind your hips. Place your left hand on the outside of your right knee.

  4. Inhale and sit a little bit taller, lengthening through your side bodies.

  5. Exhale and twist a little deeper towards your right side. Imagine you are trying to wring out a washcloth with your oblique muscles. Bring your attention to the contraction of your internal oblique muscles on your right side and to the contraction of the external oblique muscles on your left side.

  6. Inhale and bring your torso back through center and reach your arms up overhead.

  7. Exhale and switch sides, rotating towards your left.

  8. To release, inhale your torso back through center, and reach your arms up overhead.

  9. Exhale, bring your palms together in front of your heart center.

  10. For a more dynamic experience, you could flow between twisting to your left, back center, and to your right, moving with your breath (exhale to twist, inhale to come back center).


Parivrtta Uttanasana (Twisted Forward Fold)

  1. Stand on your feet. If possible, make sure your feet are parallel, toes pointing forward. Inhale and lift your arms up overhead.

  2. Exhale and hinge from your hips to bring your hands to the earth. Bend your knees as much as you need to in order to touch the ground (if your hamstring muscles are tight, you might find it difficult to touch the ground without bending your knees).

  3. Inhale and place your left hand on the mat between your feet. Bend your left knee slightly (if it is not already bent). Place your right hand on your right hip.

  4. Exhale and twist your torso to the right as you press into your left hand into the mat. You can leave your right hand on your hip OR you can extend your right arm up to the sky, keeping your right shoulder in line with your left shoulder.

  5. Hold this twisted forward fold for 2 – 5 breaths, if possible.

  6. Exhale to release your right hand back to the mat.

  7. Inhale and place your right hand between your feet. Bend your right knee slightly (if it is not already bent). Place your left hand on your left hip.

  8. Exhale and twist your torso to the left. You can keep your left hand on your hip OR you can extend your left arm high, keeping it in line with your right shoulder.

  9. Hold this twisted forward fold on the other side for 2 – 5 breaths, if possible.

  10. Exhale to release both hands back through center. Inhale and slowly roll up to standing, one vertebra at a time. Allow your palms to meet over your head. Exhale your hands to your heart.

  11. For a more dynamic experience with this twist, you could flow back and forth from twisting left, back center, to twisting right. If so, move with your breath (exhale to twist, inhale to come back through center).


Parivrtta Anjaneyasana (Twisted Low Lunge)

  1. From a standing position, inhale your arms up overhead.

  2. Exhale and hinge from your hips, bringing your hands to your mat.

  3. Inhale and step your left leg back, so you are in a low-lunge position. Keep your hands on the mat on either side of your right foot.

  4. Exhale and lower your left knee to your mat (note: if you have any knee issues at all, you might want to put a blanket or towel under your left knee). Untuck your left toes, so the top of your left foot rests on the mat.

  5. Inhale and lift your arms up overhead. Stay active in your core by firing up your low belly. Press your right foot into the mat firmly. Hug your legs towards the midline of your body.

  6. Exhale and bring your right arm alongside your body. Then reach your right arm back behind you as your twist your torso toward your front leg (i.e. your right leg). Look over your right shoulder towards your right fingertips.

  7. Inhale and bring your arms back through center and up overhead.

  8. Exhale and bring both of your hands to the mat on either side of your front foot.

  9. Inhale to tuck your back toes (i.e. left toes) and lift your back knee (i.e. left knee). Find some length in your spine.

  10. Exhale and step your left foot to meet your right foot at the top of your mat.

  11. Inhale to slowly roll up to standing, one vertebra at a time, allowing your palms to meet over your head.

  12. Exhale to hinge from your hips and bring your hands to your mat. Simply switch sides.

Parivrtta Adho Mukha Svanasana (Twisted Down Dog)

  1. Come to table top position (i.e. hands and knees). Stack shoulders over your wrists and align your knees with your hips. Point your fingers forward (i.e. away from you) and spread your fingers wide. Inhale.

  2. Exhale and tuck your toes under. Lift your knees away from the mat.

  3. Keep lifting your legs away from the mat, as you straighten your legs and press your hips up and back. Lift your sit bones toward the ceiling. Do not lock out your knees. In fact, you can bend your knees or widen the distance between your feet if your hamstring muscles are too tight. Your heels do NOT have to touch the ground. Your body will look similar to an inverted “V.”

  4. Inhale and firm your shoulder blades against your back and energetically widen them apart from one another.

  5. Exhale and begin to press more firmly into your right palm, so much so that your left palm can lift off the mat. Inhale and bring your left hand to your outer right thigh (or to your outer right ankle for a deeper twist – as shown in the picture). Exhale and look under your right armpit.

  6. Inhale completely as you return your left palm to the mat.

  7. Exhale and begin to press more firmly into your left palm. Inhale and simply switch sides by bringing your right palm to your outer left hip or ankle (for a deeper twist). Exhale to look under your left armpit.

  8. Inhale to return your right hand to the mat.

  9. Exhale and lower your knees to the mat. Untuck your toes and shift your hips back over your heels for a round of breath in Child’s pose.

  10. For a more intense experience, you can either hold the twist on each side for several breaths (inhaling to find length in your spine and exhaling to twist deeper) or flow between twisting to each side (with your breath – inhale to come back center and exhale to twist).

Summary

Spinal rotation exercises confer many benefits to your body. As always, the information presented in this blog post is obtained from my own personal study and practice of yoga and human movement. You are ultimately your best teacher. As my trainer and mentor, Lauren Reese, M.S., E-RYT, always says, "be a student of your body." If you try one of these exercises and it does not work for you, then don't do it. If you have specific questions about adding these exercises to your daily routine, consult with your physician, physical therapist, or athletic trainer. Thanks for reading!

~Namaste, Jackie Allen, M.S., M.Ed., CCC-SLP, RYT-200, RCYT

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