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Your spine is capable of moving in many ways: forward and back (flexion and extension), from side to side (lateral flexion in both directions), and round and round (twisting in both directions). If, over the course of the day, you spend much of your time sitting—or worse, if you spend that seated time slouching at your desk—you’re encouraging flexion but missing out on the other ways your spine can move.
Practicing yoga for your spine will move you out of the plane of forward motion and into side bending, twisting, and backbending. This helps balance strength and flexibility in the muscles that support your spine—reducing back pain, improving posture, and generally making you feel good.
To protect and strengthen your back, distribute movement across the joints of the spine, especially in Wild Camel. Throughout these yoga poses for your spine, aim to keep the lumbar curve in your low back from doing all the work, and don’t let the cervical curve in your neck crane too much, either. A helpful way to remember this is to cue “long spine” to yourself as you come into a pose.
Yoga poses to support a healthy spine
Start on hands and knees, with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips.
Prone Twist, With Variations
Walk your left knee to meet your right knee, lowering your left hip to the ground. Twist and look over your left shoulder for prone twist. This position echoes the Andrew Wyeth painting, Christina’s World. Stay here for several breaths.
Variation 1: If you’d like to spice this pose up a bit, you can lower to your elbows.
Variation 2: Another option is to take your chest to the floor, with arms spread wide.
Lift your torso and move your right shin behind you, with the sole of the left foot near the right knee. Lean on a diagonal over your left leg onto your palms or elbows for a hip stretch. Stay here for several breaths. To bring more fire into this pose, lower your forehead to a block; angle your spine more to the left or more to the right.
Keeping the pinwheel shape, lift your torso, push your left hand into the floor behind you, lift your hips, and point your toes as you arch into a backbend. Stay in wild camel several breaths. Then lower to the floor, and take several breaths in a wide-kneed child’s pose. Repeat the sequence on the other side.
Excerpted from Everyday Yoga by Sage Rountree, PhD, E-RYT 500.
About our contributor
Rountree is the author of several books on yoga for athletes and yoga sequencing, including The Professional Yoga Teacher’s Handbook. She specializes in creating accessible classes for students from all backgrounds.