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Five-Minute Yoga Challenge: twist in a chair to free your back

Using a chair helps you find a straight spine in your twist.

Using a chair helps you find a straight spine in your twist.

When something feels as good as a deep twist, how is it we  forget to do it when we need it most?

We sit at desks, shoulders tense and upper backs gripping, then get up and walk away, carrying our tension with us, when we could, with a few minutes of twisting, leave them behind with all those unanswered emails.

This week’s Five-Minute Yoga Challenge is to work at least one refreshing, back-freeing twist into your day.

How do you twist well? Two things:

• The longer your spine, the deeper your twist. Find length before you twist, keep it as you twist and maintain it as you come out of the twist.

• Don’t let your head go first. It will want to, but restrain it. Instead, keep your chin lined up with the centre of your chest until your last few breaths in the pose.

Now, sit at the edge of a chair, with your left side close to the chair back. Check that your feet are parallel and your knees are directly above your ankles.

Tall?  You may have to sit on blocks to achieve this alignment. If you’re short, you may need to put a block under your feet.
If you have a yoga brick handy, put it between your knees and squeeze it, or use a thick paperback. You can also just imagine a block there – if  it’s working, you’ll feel a pressure at the inner knees that transfers up your inner thighs and firms your core.
Now make space in your spine. Lengthen the back of your waist toward your buttocks. As you press your sitting bones down into the chair, bring your  body to an upright position,  with the crown of your head directly over your spinal column.
Exhale and release your shoulder blades down your back. Lift the crown of your head toward the ceiling.
Lift the sides of your navel as you inhale. Exhale and bring your navel toward your spine.
Turn to your left and bring your hands to the back of the chair.
Rotate your rib cage.

Check that your shoulders have not tensed. Move the bottom of your left shoulder blade toward your spine. Move your right shoulder blade away from your spine.

When you have rotated as far as you think you can, turn your head toward your the right, and lengthen your left collarbone toward your left shoulder. Turn a little more,  then let your head turn again to look over your left shoulder.
Repeat on the right side. Then do each side once more. The second twist will be even deeper and more delicious than the first.

Benefits: Seated twists ease tight backs and tone, massage and rejuvenate the abdominal organs. Do a seated twist in a chair, and you’ll have more freedom of movement and twist more deeply than when you sit on the floor.

Sequence: This Bharadvajasana variation is a great pose to do any time of the day, especially if you’re stuck at a desk.
In a longer practice, use this variation as the first in a series of seated twists, so your body feels a sensation of freedom in twisting first and has a correct sensation to work towards.

Ouch: If you feel squeezed and breathless at the end of your twist, you’ve gone too far. This gentle twist is safe for almost everyone. If you feel pain in the pose, consult your teacher.

Sanskrit corner: Say:(bah-ROD-va-JAHS-anna). Bharadhvaja was one of seven legendary sages who are credited with writing the Vedas, the oldest portions of the holy books of Hinduism.

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  • Mary A November 8, 2013, 12:48 pm

    Wow, does this feel good!!! I’ve slipped away from daily practice, with too much time spent hunching over a computer keyboard and/or the steering wheel of my car. I think this will be the 5-minute practice I commit to in order to begin moving in the right direction.

    • Eve November 8, 2013, 2:55 pm

      Hey Mary, Nothing like a good twist to take the computer posture out of your upper back. It’s a great way to relaunch a practice.