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Two Spinal Twists to Open Up Your Stuck Upper Back


If you're like me, the winter's cold has left its mark on your body in the form of tense shoulders and a tight upper back. It may feel as though your breath is stuck in your chest and it is difficult to stretch the collarbones apart from one another, or even turn from side to side. Spinal twists are yoga's solution to these issues, and a good spinal twist can leave your spine feeling rejuvenated, (they help replenish the fluid in your spinal discs) and kick start your spring detox! (they help to wring the vital organs of toxins and aid digestion)

The following are two intermediate level spinal twists. I classify them as "intermediate" because they are standing poses, rather than supine (lying down) or seated, so prior experience with yoga is suggested. To get your spine warmed up, do 3-5 sun salutations if you know how, or take a Child's Pose (balasana), Downward Facing Dog (adho muka svanasana), and/or a Forward Fold (uttanasana) to help lengthen the spine. 

Note: do not practice these twists if you are pregnant. 


1. Revolved Chair/Fierce Pose (Parivrtta Utkatasana)

Start by taking a standard Chair/Fierce Pose (Utkatasana), and make sure that your knees and feet are touching. You will engage your core by drawing navel to spine, and sit your hips back and down, in the same direction you would sit if you were actually about to sit into a chair. Breathe deeply and shift the weight into your heels. 

Place your palms together in front of your heart, thumbs touching your sternum, and on an inhalation, lift your chest. On your exhalation, twist your body to the right and hook the outside of your left elbow around your outer right thigh. 

Keep your lower back protected by continuing to draw your navel to your spine. Look down at your knees and make sure that they are in one line, side by side. Keep pressing your thumbs to your chest to widen your collarbones and deepen the twist. Continue to sit your hips low. 

Stay for 3-5 long breaths. Repeat on left side. 


2. Twisted Wide Legged Forward Fold (Parivrtta Prasarita Paddotanasana)

Begin in a wide legged forward fold then take a half lift through your spine. If you have a block, place it at the tallest height just beneath your face when your spine is half lifted, and place your right hand on the block. Keep two strong legs and an even lower back as your begin to peel your chest open to the left. If you allow your hips to veer off to one side, you will not revive as deep a twist. 

Press down onto the block, and reach up into your top hand so your chest widens. Keep a firm belly to deepen you future into the twist. 

Stay 3-5 long breaths, and then switch sides.