For forward or back spin kicks, the ability to twist is important. A lot of us have trouble targeting in a back spin kick, so these twisting poses will help us get our upper body around in time to spot our target before kicking.
Start in a comfortable seated or kneeling pose. We’ll start with some gentle twisting flows to warm up the spine, similar to the cat-cow warm-up from the beginner/intermediate kick series.
On an inhale, bring your arms up and overhead. As you exhale, twist gently to one side, placing your fingertips on either side of your knee (or anywhere that’s comfortable).
Note: we’re not placing too much effort in these beginning twists; this is more for warming up. On your next inhale, bring your arms overhead again, then twist in the other direction on an exhale. Continue at the pace of your own breathing for four to eight more breaths, so that you go in each direction three to five times total.
Bring your left foot by your right hip so that your knee is pointing directly forward. Place your right foot just to the outside of your left knee so that the right knee is pointed toward the ceiling.
Hug your right knee into the chest with your left arm. If this is enough, stay here. If this is too much, extend your left leg. Otherwise, place your right fingertips at the base of the spine behind you. With a deep inhale, extend your left fingertips toward the ceiling and draw your spine long.
On your exhale, twist to the right and bring your left elbow to the outside of your right knee.
As you continue with three to five more breaths, use your inhales to extend the spine long, exhales to twist from your core and deepen the twist. Continue looking over your right shoulder. The twist should come from deep in your core, rather than cranking from your shoulders.
If you still have a little more space, you can bind the twist by bringing your left arm under your right knee and reaching your right arm behind your back for your left hip or fingertips.
When you’ve completed your breaths on this side, bring your head around first to release the twist. Gently bring your arms to the other side for a couple breaths for a counter twist. Repeat on the other side.
Come back to hands and knees. Place your hands one hand’s length forward and place your right foot in between your hands. Tuck your left toes under and lift your left knee off the floor, coming into a high lunge.
Plant your left hand on the floor and your right hand on your right thigh, twisting your left ribs toward your thigh.
If you feel stable here, bring your right fingertips toward the ceiling and stack your right shoulders over your left. If it feels okay, you can bring your gaze up toward the ceiling to intensify the twist.
Hold for three to five breaths. To release the twist, bring your right hand back to the floor. Place your opposite hand on the floor and walk your right foot back beside the left, then bring your left foot forward. Repeat on the other side.
For a variation on pigeon pose (see Yoga for Hip Stretching), start in downward facing dog.
Plant your palms on the floor and, with your knees bent, bring your hips back and up. Come into three-legged dog: lift your right heel up toward the ceiling with your toes pointed toward the floor.
From here, bring your right knee in between your hands, bringing your right foot towards your left hip. Make sure to keep your right foot flexed to protect your knee joint.
Start slowly lowering your hips and upper body down as far as is tolerable. Hold for at least five breaths. To reverse, plant your hands and push back into downward facing dog. Do whatever feels necessary to release your hips and right leg. Repeat on the other side.