When I first started teaching yoga, many years ago, I taught hard and fast flows. However, now I have more education and experience I approach things differently. I’ve thrown out the “one size fits all” traditional alignment cues. Instead, I offer somatic yoga variations. In this post I want to share Seated Spinal Twist modifications to avoid lower back pain
The problem is, when people come into seated spinal twist they lock everything down and then try and rotate. This causes a LOT of torque on the sacrum and lumbar spine. Which anatomically have very little capability for rotation. If you’re a visual learner check out the video below.
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How to do seated spinal twist – traditional
Begin sitting in dandasana. Legs extended in front, feet hip distance apart and hands resting down by the side. Traditional alignment tells us that the legs and feet stay parallel and pelvis stays square to the front of the mat.
Inhale, reaching the arms up. And, as you exhale, rotate the torso to the right. Let the arms rest towards the leg/floor. Notice how you feel in the pose. Where do you feel the rotation? How much twist do you have towards the long edge of your mat? As you notice these things. Notice the lower back/pelvis. How does it feel? If you have SI joint issues or lower back pain you may feel uncomfortable in this position, if so STOP IMMEDIATELY.
The problem with these alignment cues is that they create a lot of torque on the lower back and sacrum. And regardless, not everyone will not be able to rotate fully to the long side of their mat. In fact, very few people will while they keep pelvis squared.
New alignment to avoid lower back pain
Consequently, my recommendation is for a healthy pain free twist for the lower back and SI, move your pelvis! Begin in the same position. Dandasana. Same cues as before, but this time allow your pelvis and legs to be light and loose!
As you rotate to the right side this time, lift the left side of your pelvis and rest it towards the front of the mat. This small action, offsets the pelvis and allows more freedom in the twist.
Notice my left leg appears “longer” than my right leg. It’s not. (Otherwise, I’d be walking very funny afterwards!) It’s just that my pelvis is now asymmetrical to the front edge of my mat. Resulting in more rotation of my torso towards the long edge of my mat. Because, I moved my pelvis!
In conclusion, this is a game changer for twists. For everyone, but especially those with lower back or SI join issues. The pelvis is the ringleader of rotation. It directs and leads the way. To pain free yoga poses!
Try it and experience the difference yourself. As they say, the proof is in the pudding. I can guarantee you’ll find more rotational freedom. Above all, you’re back will be much happier if you move the pelvis in twists!
- Do you suffer with lower back pain?
- Is twisting easy or difficult for you?
- What yoga poses are challenging for you?
Girl, thanks for this! I’ve been seating for long hours while enjoying my sewing, and I often get backache. I need this exercise.
Yes! This is a great way to help lower back issues from sewing. I sew also and man it’s terrible for our backs! lol!
I really want to try this Seated spinal twist exercise for my lower back pain. Recently I’am starting to do workout for losing weight and I would love to try this. Thanks a lot.
awesome! How much weight do you want to lose? What lifestyle changes are you making?
These exercises are really good. Especially now, cause most of the people are working from home with a not so good chair. So this one would really help some back pain.
Yep we need to move more!
Thanks for the idea, I’ll have to try this since I sit in an office chair all day.
This can be easily done on an office chair! Ooooh just had a great idea to do a 5-10 min yoga for office chair workers such as yourself!
Kristine Nicole Alessandra
Would these exercises be okay for people who already have chronic back pain? If so, I may try to coax my husband into doing these exercises. I hope it would help!
This would be the ideal modification for lower back pain. I’d suggest this post first though
I had a lower back scoliosis before and I suffered from severe lower back pain. I must say that these exercises are really helpful!
Yes, this a great modification for scoliosis!
Charlotte Petit Noble
Your posts are so detailed. Thank you for making yoga easy for us. I appreciate it.
Wow! You really make it look doable. Will try these poses, hoping I could pull them off!
It’s super easy IF you use the tip I suggest 🙂