Here is a simple exercise that you can slip into your day. I’ll show you how you can do it, sitting, standing or lying down. So there’s every reason to include it in your health routine. I remember doing The Twist by Chubby Checker to the point of breathlessness and causing a “stitch” in my side. This exercise is not like that!
Here, we’re talking about doing The Twist in sloooow mooootion! Most of our daily movements are forward and backward and that’s how we judge our flexibility. But in order to maintain mobility your spine requires a lateral twist. You may not know it but the ability to twist is often the first type of flexibility to be lost. I purposely don’t have much furniture anywhere in my house so I can flop down at any given moment and do a Spinal Twist or some other exercise.
I do a Spinal Twist lying on the floor while reading (you may recall that I’m a multitasker). I do it when taking my morning walk. I do it when I’m sitting in my chair while thinking of the next sentence to write. I just did one now while standing at my pedestal desk.
Benefits of The Twist
- Promotes gentle movement in the spine and vertebrae in a way that few other exercises do.
- Massages, stretches, squeezes and can help tone the internal organs.
- Supports healthy digestion.
- Promotes nourishment of the spinal nerves and sympathetic nervous system.
- Expands, through stretching and breathing, the chest, shoulders, lower back, hips, middle spine, and upper back.
- Promotes relief in the lower back, spine, and hips.
- The Standing Spinal Twist can help strengthen your arms.
Spinal Twist: Lying Down
- Lie on your back.
- Exhale, pressing your lower back lightly into the floor.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles while inhaling and bend your knees and lift your feet off the floor.
- Exhale, stretch your arms out to the sides in a straight line with your shoulders, and your palms on the floor.
- Bend your knees and bring your feet and knees together with your feet flat on the floor.
- Inhale and lift your heels slightly higher than your knees.
- Exhale and slowly lower both legs to your left side, lowering them to the floor with your knees and heels still together. Specifically, your knees are at the level of your hips, with your heels resting about a foot away from your buttocks.
- Turn your head to the right in the opposite direction of your legs.
- Keep your right shoulder on the floor to keep the twist on your upper spine.
- Hold for about 20 seconds to one minute while breathing slowly and deeply.
- Coming out of the posture, slip your left hand under your left knee, which is attached to your right knee and let your knees come up to the starting position. lift. You will also contract your abdominal muscles to assist.
- Complete the exercise on the opposite side.
a. If your knees don’t rest easily on the ground, simply have a large pillow handy to place under your knees and feet.
b. If the twist pulls on your lower back, place a pillow between your knees.
c. If you would like to deepen the twist, place your right hand on your left knee (closest hand) and press your knees down.
d. To increase the twist further, pull your knees up toward your arm, but keep your right shoulder from lifting off the ground.
e. At #5, keep your feet on the floor with your knees together and simply bend your knees to one side, hold for 5-10 seconds and bring back to center. Repeat on the other side.
f. At #5, cross one knee over the other and lower your legs to one side, then the other. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Recross your knees the other way and lower your legs one side, then the other. I do this form of the twist when I lie in bed at night for an extra stretch on my hip muscles.
Sitting Spinal Twist
- Sit on the floor with your back straight and both legs extended straight out in front of you.
- You can sit on the edge of a cushion or directly on the cushion if you have trouble sitting
- Move your right foot to the outside of your left knee. Keep your right knee pointing
- Wrap your left arm around your right knee and hug it into your chest as you straighten
- Keep pressing your right foot down into the floor.
- Exhaling, turn to the right, twisting from your waist as far as you can, looking back over
your right shoulder.
- Place the fingertips of your right hand lightly on the floor behind you. Don’t use them to
lean on, that’s up to your core (abdominal) muscles.
- Hold for five to ten deep breaths sitting up straighter and twisting more with each breath.
- Come out of the posture slowly and repeat on the other side.
Spinal Twist in a Chair
- Sit up straight on the front half of your chair.
- Place your right hand on the outside of your left knee.
- You can place your left hand on your hip or lift it up at shoulder height straight ahead of you with your palm facing the floor.
- Inhale, sitting up as straight as you can.
- Exhale and turn to the left, twisting at the waist.
- As you turn, look over your left shoulder as far as you can.
- Hold for five to ten deep breaths, sitting up straighter and twisting more with each breath.
- Come out of the posture slowly and repeat on the other side.
Physioball Spinal Twist
A physioball is a very large inflated beach ball that can be used for various forms of exercise.
Some of you may have a physioball but never thought of using it to perform a spinal twist.
- Lie on your back with your knees at 45 degrees over the ball with your buns touching the
- Spread your arms out to the side in a T position with your palms facing up.
- Begin by rolling your knees on the ball to the right.
- Using your core muscles, you can keep your knees on the ball or let your right leg and
foot drop to the floor.
- Hold for five to 10 deep breaths and repeat on the other side.
a. A deeper chest and shoulder stretch can be achieved if you keep your shoulders on the
b. For a back and hip stretch, roll your knees to the floor and let your shoulder come off the
Standing Spinal Twist
- Stand very straight with your feet together and arms down beside your body.
- Breathe in, raise your arms in front of you at shoulder height palms facing each other.
- Breathe out, twist your torso and arms to the right.
- Keep your hands parallel to each other and your feet firmly planted on the ground.
- Lengthen your spine and twist at the waist, chest, shoulders and neck but not your hips. Be careful not to lean back. Look over your right shoulder. Do not strain or force this movement which can cause a cramp in your torso muscles.
- Hold for 10 seconds.
- Gently release, bring your arms back to the front, lower and shake out your arms.
- Repeat on the left side.
Make It Happen
This module couldn’t be more simple. Just sit on the floor or on a chair and grab onto a knee with the opposite hand and twist. It’s a great exercise to do if you’re stuck sitting for a long time. I’ve done it on airplanes and in theatres and set off a chain of people who get into the act because they know their spine wants to be untwisted! When I first wrote this article I was I’m getting ready for a 17 hour flight to Dubai so I knew I would be doing the Spinal Twist!
You can Google to find videos of the various forms of Spinal Twist. A quick search turned up tens of thousands so I will leave that to you if you want a quick visual on what you’re doing.