Twist in Yoga for Back Pain

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A yoga twist is an effective way to mobilize the spine and manage back pain. Depending on the setup of the twist, you can target different sections of the spine. It is important to be mindful when twisting as not to strain the back or cause unnecessary aggravation of any preexisting condition. Props are a great way to support the body in twists so you can fully relax into the stretch without going too far. The following options are safe yoga twists for back pain.

yoga twist back pain

Low Back Twist

This twist targets the lower spine. By keeping the knees together, you keep your iliosacral joint safe from strain.

  1. Start lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor.
  2. Use your leg strength to shift your hips over to the right side of your yoga mat.
  3. Draw your knees up in towards your chest and slowly lower them to the left side of your yoga mat.
  4. If your back is especially tight and your legs cannot reach the floor without your right shoulder lifting off your mat, place a block or bolster under your knee.
  5. To give you low back more space in this twist, place a block or rolled up towel between your knees.
  6. Turn your head gently to the right if your neck feels comfortable in that position.
  7. Breathe in and out through your nose. Think of relaxing a bit more into the twist with every exhale.
  8. To exit the twist, lift the right leg back to center, followed by the left leg. Draw your knees into your chest and hug your shins to neutralize the spine. Repeat on the other side.

Mid/Upper Back Twist

Even though this twist looks similar to the lower back twist, it targets a different part of the spine.

  1. Start lying on your back with your knees bent and drawn in towards your chest.
  2. Roll over to your left side. Keep your knees bent at 90° angles. Stretch your arms forward so they are perpendicular to your body.
  3. To create more space in the low back, place a block or blanket between your knees.
  4. Lift the right arm up towards the ceiling and then lower it to the other side of your mat. Your arms should create a T shape. Keep both legs on the ground.
  5. If your right shoulder does not touch down, place a blanket or block underneath it for support.
  6. Turn your head gently to the right if your neck feels comfortable in that position.
  7. Breathe in and out through your nose. Think of relaxing a bit more into the twist with every exhale.
  8. To exit the twist, remove any props from underneath your right shoulder. Lift your right leg back up to center, followed by the left leg. Draw your knees into your chest and hug your shins to neutralize the spine. Repeat on the other side.

Gentle Neck Twist

The neck is a sometimes forgotten part of the spine that can contribute to back pain. When stretching the muscles of the neck, it is important to do so gently as not to strain anything. The following exercise is an effective and safe way to twist the neck without overdoing it.

  1. Start lying on your belly with your legs stretched out. If you have a tight lower back, place a rolled up towel underneath your hips to relieve pressure in the low back. Legs can be side by side or spread out to the back corners of your mat.
  2. Place your arms beside your body with your palms turned up towards the ceiling.
  3. Bring your left ear to the mat so you are looking right. If you have quite a bit of tension in your neck, tilt your chin towards your right shoulder to help connect your ear to the floor.
  4. Be mindful to keep the shoulders and upper body relaxed as you go deeper into this twist. Relax your jaw and let your tongue fall away from the roof of your mouth. As this is a gentle twist, it may feel like nothing is happening. Be patient and breathe deeply.
  5. Breathe in and out through your nose. If it helps you to relax more, let a few exhales go through your mouth.
  6. To exit this twist, carefully lift your head back to center. Place your forehead on the backs of stacked hands to let your spine neutralize. Repeat on the other side.

When twisting with back pain, the idea is to keep your spine mobile. It is not necessarily to go into your deepest twist. Be move slowly in and out of twists to avoid tweaking anything in your back. Use your breath as a gauge when figuring out the ideal depth of a twist. If you are struggling to maintain a deep and steady cycle of breath, back off until breathing becomes easy once more. Over time you should notice a reduction in tension in your back and a greater feeling of ease in these yoga twists.

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