Doin’ the Bobble-Butt

When I demonstrated the Daoist Spinal Wave in my sister’s kitchen in California, she and her friend agreed that I’d best not do it in an airport or, indeed, any other public place.

The world simply is not ready for a senior citizen bobble-butt action figure.

Which is a shame.

The Daoist Spinal Wave is wonderfully relaxing, even hypnotic, and terrific therapy for the back. You get your pelvis rolling and your spine flowing and – well, I think most anyone would benefit, not just energy geeks.

I learned the Daoist Spinal Wave from Damo Mitchell’s book, “Daoist Nei Gong: The Philosophical Art of Change,” where it is offered as a tool for relaxing the muscles of the back and bringing the pelvis and spine into proper alignment.

Mitchell considers it essential to have a relaxed, properly aligned body with loose joints and mobile spine before attempting the serious internal energy work of Nei Gong.

I find this most interesting.

I had not encountered such overt emphasis on body preparedness before reading his book, but based on my experience with scoliosis, I think he’s got a point.

Six or seven years after I started studying taiji, my teacher began making comments about my not standing straight. I remember him stopping me once as I was beginning the opening move of the Yang 108 form and saying, “Couldn’t you at least start out facing forward?”

I said, “I am.”

I truly didn’t know what he was talking about until I took off my clothes and watched myself in a full-length mirror as I did taiji moves. And I didn’t understand why my body was so out of kilter until I noticed the sideways bow of my spine in a chest X-ray and learned that I had scoliois.

I’m guessing that I had mild scoliosis as a kid, but when I hit my 60s and started losing height, instead of pancaking down, the way most people do, I spiraled down. My scoliosis may not have been obvious when I started taiji at age 60, but six or seven years later, it had become so.

I worked really hard to correct my twistedness, even changing the way I slept, but I found it difficult because it required the ability to visualize in 3-D, which I don’t have

When I began doing Yi Ren Qigong, I discovered I had an unexpected ally:

My qi.

It did not want to come up through my body crooked. It would insist on pulling my hips and back into alignment, providing a de-spiraling stretch that my thinking mind could not figure out how to orchestrate, a powerful stretch that somehow felt very natural and safe. And I do believe that very slowly but surely, I am becoming less twisted as a result. I don’t know if I can change my bones, but I may be able to change the tissues connecting them.

So although Damo Mitchell sees proper alignment as a prerequisite to serious energy work, in my experience there’s a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg element at play here: It probably helps to be properly aligned when you start internal energy work, but if you’re not, perhaps your qi will set you straight.

In any event, I think the Daoist Spinal Wave is helping my qi straighten me out.

Mitchell writes that he does it for 10 minutes a day when he first gets up, for the health of his spine.

My sister said, “Ten minutes!”

But 10 minutes is easy, once you get into a nice, flowful groove.

To do the Daoist Spinal Wave, stand with feet hip-width apart and arms hanging by your sides. Bend your knees slightly, and as you sink, gently push your pelvis forward a bit.

As you straighten your knees and you and your pelvis start to rise, release your pelvis back to neutral.

Bend your knees again, and begin to feel that your pelvis is describing a smooth circle as you slowly sink and then rise.

Now note that as your pelvis moves back and then begins to sink and move forward again, a wave of motion is traveling up your spine through your neck. (Don’t get too carried away with this; keep it slow and gentle. You don’t want to give yourself whip-lash.)

I also pay particular attention to my lower and middle back—not to make the muscles relax, but to let them relax—and as they relax, my spine detwists a bit.

I wrote this post longhand in the San Diego airport and did a little bit of low-amplitude Daoist Spinal Wave to figure out how to describe it.

For the record, I did not set off any alarms, and security was not called….

NOTE: For reviews of “Daoist Nei Gong” or to purchase it through my web site from, click here.


Filed under Practicing

3 responses to “Doin’ the Bobble-Butt

  1. Jules Johnson

    Thanks Barbara. I’m pretty I am doing it the same way, it is just the confusion of tilting the pelvis vs pushing it forward.

    The circle I am making seems to match up with what is mentioned in the book.

    I’ve tried it the other way it and doesn’t seem to work so well, so I assume it is correct.



  2. Jules Johnson

    Hi Barbara,

    I have Damo’s book and am not sure if I am doing the spinal wave correctly, so I thought I would ask you to see if you could shed some light on it.

    When starting, do you tilt the pelvis forward (Have your bum sticking out) and release in a slight thrusting motion, or do you start with tucking your pelvis under and releasing backwards?

    I am doing it the first way, but am getting confused with pushing the pelvis forward and tilting it.

    Best wishes,


    • Hi, Jules:
      It’s difficult to describe movement in words, but I will tell you what I do as best I can—and I do still do this exercise as I think it has really helped me to loosen up my lower back on the right-hand side, which had become contorted by my adaptation to scoliosis.
      I’ll break the motion down and then suggest an image that might be helpful.
      I start by bending my knees slightly and pushing my tailbone/sacrum forward.
      Then I begin to straighten my knees, which increases the curve in my back and causes my shoulders and head to move backwards, until my knees are just short of being locked.
      Now I begin pressing my lower back backwards, i.e., flattening the curve, which causes my head to drop forward—and then I begin bending my knees and pushing my tailbone/sacrum forward again, and my head comes back up to straight.
      It takes a cycle or two, and relaxing into the curves, to get the wave going. And you can make the wave little or big—just don’t give yourself whiplash or force anything.
      An image I have is of my tailbone/sacrum making a circle that is down, forward, up and back. When I first started doing this exercise, the circle had a pronounced wobble. It has taken me quite a while to be able to do it smoothly—which I count as a major victory.
      Please let me know if this helps. And again, this is what I do. I hope it is what Damo does, too.
      Yours, Barbara

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