Cool Down: Restorative Twist for the Thoracic Spine

This entry was posted on Dec 29, 2020 by Charlotte Bell.

Spinal twists may be the most often requested type of asana in my classes. Not only do they feel good, but they also help keep your core muscles supple and your spine mobile. Pair a spinal twist with a Yoga Bolster and you get a restorative twist. What could be better?

While the lumbar spine is only capable of twisting about two to four degrees, the thoracic spine—the section of the spine connected to the ribcage—loves to twist. The thoracic spine also happens to be an area that tends to become less mobile as we age. So twisting helps that more stable area of the spine maintain its range of motion.

In yoga, we practice spinal twists in standing, sitting and supine positions. While supine twists can certainly be classified as restorative, practicing spinal rotation from a prone position is arguably the most calming for our nervous systems.

The prone twist I describe here comes from Judith Hanson Lasater’s Relax and Renew. I’ve taught this twist for years in my classes. I teach this asana toward the end of a practice, especially if we have previously practiced more stimulating poses such as back bends.

How to Set Up a Restorative Twist

  1. Lay a Standard Bolster lengthwise on the head end of a yoga mat.
  2. Sit sideways on your yoga mat with your hips about 4 to 8 inches from the end of the bolster.
  3. Turn your torso toward the bolster and place your hands on either side of the bolster. Gently lay your torso down onto the bolster, chest down.
  4. Adjust your distance from the bolster, if necessary, to keep your abdomen free and your ribcage supported.
  5. Turn your head in the direction of the twist and rest your arms on either side of the bolster.
  6. Take a few deep breaths, settling onto your bolster as you exhale. Then allow your body to breathe naturally. Rest here for five minutes or more.
  7. To move out of the pose, press your hands into the floor, straighten your arms, and come to an easy sitting pose for a few breaths before turning around and twisting in the other direction.
About Charlotte Bell
Charlotte Bell discovered yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. Charlotte is the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. Her third book is titled Hip-Healthy Asana: The Yoga Practitioner’s Guide to Protecting the Hips and Avoiding SI Joint Pain (Shambhala Publications). She writes a monthly column for CATALYST Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, Charlotte plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and folk sextet Red Rock Rondo, whose DVD won two Emmy awards in 2010.

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