Mobilising the spine in a seated position

Many helpful stretches for the back are done on all fours: it feels wonderful to arch the spine in cat pose, rest in child’s pose, loosen the hips by circling them around on hands and knees. These are all simple and beneficial movements, especially if you want to release tight lower back muscles. But what if you can’t kneel easily? What can you do, for example, if your knees prevent you from putting weight on them, or if this position with the head looking down is counter-indicated for glaucoma? There are many soothing yoga poses that you can do lying on your back, but mobilising the spine in a seated position can be beneficial too. Today I am looking at how you can stretch your spine in a cross-legged position or seated on a chair.

The positions below are demonstrated in a cross-legged position, but can be done on a chair as well. So if you can’t lower yourself on the floor, you can do all stretches on a chair. If you do sit cross-legged, practise the movements with the legs crossed both ways. We often favour one way of sitting cross-legged, always with the same leg in front, but for the equilibrium in the body it is important to practise with both leg positions.

Not all causes of back pain benefit from the positions below. Never continue a position or movement when it hurts. If you would like more advice about yoga therapy for your particular back condition, do drop me a line here. I also teach via Zoom and you can book a free consultation call here:

PS: by popular demand, the yoga dog is back!

Lengthening up

Start by sitting on your chair or in a comfortable cross-legged position.

-Balance the weight on the centre of the two sitting bones. This is important for the alignment of the pelvis and the spine.

-Place the palms together.

-Inhale and stretch the arms up as high as comfortable — careful with sore shoulders…

-Exhale and lower the arms down to each side.

-Repeat about 4 times.

Circling for hip flexibility

Place one hand on each knee and make circles, keeping the back as neutral as possible. This ensures you mobilise the hips rather than only move the back.

Cat stretch

-Hold one knee with each hand.

-Exhale and lean the weight back, rounding the spine so you roll the weight behind the sitting bones.

-Inhale and return to sitting on the centre of the sitting bones, feeling tall and with a broad chest.

Side stretch

-Keeping the weight balanced on both sitting bones, inhale and lift one arm to the side and up.

-Exhale and stretch the arm slightly over: concentrate on lengthening without collapsing the other side. Also keep the weight on both sitting bones.

-Inhale and return to the centre with the arm up.

-Exhale and lower the arm to the side.

-Repeat a few times on each side.


Forward stretch

-Keeping the back straight and the chest “tall” (not collapsed), lean the upper body forward over the legs. Breathe into the stretch that you are likely to feel in the glut area. You should not feel any pain in the lower back, or no pain anywhere, just a stretch.

-Because you have to keep the back straight, you can’t lean far forward. Maybe rest the elbows on the knees or place the hands on the floor.

-After a few breaths, come up and try the same with the legs crossed the other way.

Rest on the back after this series for at least 5 minutes. Pay attention to the sensations in the body and the breath.


This Post Has One Comment

  1. Susan jensen

    Excellent reminder and I’m so pleased we start our sessions off with these exercises. Thank you.

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