One of my favorite things to do on long holiday weekends is to take a road trip. Dallas is a 8 hour drive from Kansas (my favorite place to visit) and I find myself often on this drive with my son as my co-captain. As much as I enjoy the time spent with my son the trip wrecks my lower back and leaves my hips aching! At every stop we get out of the car and have our own little yoga session. I find that a simple sequence of stretching up with a gentle back bend, gliding down for a forward fold, followed by a downward dog is a great lower back pain reliever.
Before our last trip home, I did a lot of seated twists and hip openers to see if they would prevent the lower back pain. Amazingly, after a seated twist sequence (pictured above) I had no back pain and my hips were open for the drive.
I enjoy this particular Seated Twist Sequence because not only are you opening the lumber and thoracic spine, you are opening thru the hip flexors, inner thighs, outer hips, knees, and shoulders. It is a multi-tasking sequence! And for a busy mom and yoga instructor, it is exactly what I need for those long trips.
Guide to the sequence:
Come into Sukhasana (easy seated pose) and take a few Ujjayi breaths. Center and ground the body by focusing on the sitz bones and their relation to the earth.
Lean the body to the right as you unbind the right leg and pull it to the side to a half Virasana (half-hero pose). Adjust the left leg so that the left heel is directed towards the pelvis. Very similar to adjusting the front leg for a Pigeon pose.
Find your hips even to the earth. Raise the arms along your ears. Extend the fingers and soften the shoulders down your back. Lift your sternum and look up. Stay here for a few breaths, elongating the spine. Take a final deep inhalation and on the exhale release the arms down as you twist to the right. Take the left palm to the right knee and right palm to the side of the right hip.
Inhale and extend the spine, exhale as you twist deeper. Look over your right shoulder. It is important you don’t move to your extreme spinal twist but instead focus on a challenging twist that allows your breath to flow. Stay in your spinal twist for 5 breaths, deepening on the exhalations.
On a large inhale, release the spinal twist as you move back to center. Arms extend towards the heavens, as the fingers spread. Lift your sternum and look up. Stay here for a few breaths, elongating the spine. Take a final deep inhalation and on the exhale release the arms down as you twist to the left. Take the right hand to the left knee and left hand to the side of the left hip.
Inhale and extend the spine, exhale as you twist deeper. Look over your left shoulder. It is important you don’t move to your extreme spinal twist but instead focus on a challenging twist that allows your breath to flow. Stay in your spinal twist for 5 breaths, deepening on the exhalations.
Slide your left palm back from the hip about 8 inches. (The palm location can be adjusted as you move in the backbend.) Press the left palm into the earth as you also press the knees into the earth. As you ground the limbs into the earth lift the hips and press them forward. Lift the sternum and reach the right arm past the ear. Extend the right arm fully, fingers spread as you open your heart center.
Reconnect your intention with your Ujjayi breath as you reach and extend thru 5 breath cycles. At the conclusion on your breath cycles, bring the hips back to the earth and return the hands to heart center. Take a few breaths to center and ground the body and then repeat on the other side.