Baby, Let’s Do the Twist…

If you have ever taken a yoga class with me, you know I loooooove twists. Twisting your spine is like taking a dirty wash cloth and ringing all the dirty water out of it. You are literally slowing circulation to certain parts of your body then WOOOSH filling them back up with fresh blood and all the good juices your organs need.

Twisting postures create rotation between the vertebra in the spine which build strength and flexibility in the spine and abdominal muscles. Twists also maintain the elasticity of the spinal disks and ligaments – which are harder to stretch, and you do NOT want to over do it when it comes to your ligaments. Twisting also compresses and stretches the chest which stimulates respiratory function, kidneys, adrenal, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, spleen and stomach. Twisting also aids in stimulating digestion and elimination.

For our structure, our primary intention of a twist is to rotate the spine and the secondary intention is to adjust the relationship between the pelvis and/or shoulders and the spine. Twists are especially good if there is an imbalance in the relationship between the shoulders and the pelvis, twists can bring back balance.
The key technique when twisting is to control the spinal rotation from the muscles of the abdomen rather than through force of leverage by using our arms to force the twist. In order to appropriately use our abdominal muscles in a twist, we must be mindful of our exhale and remember to contract our abdominal muscles on exhale while twisting. That is, the KEY to spinal rotation and twists is exhale. For my students, it may be a good idea to do some breathing exercises that focus on contraction of the abdominal muscles on exhale before performing twists so that they can feel the difference of passively exhaling and by exhaling with a contraction.

Kinds of twists:
Twisting the lower lumbar: rotate the pelvis and stabilizing the spine or rotating the pelvis and the spine in opposite direction.
Twisting the thoracic spine: Stabilizing the low back area and then rotating the shoulder-thoracic area, or by stabilizing the shoulder-thoracic area and rotating the pelvic lumbar area or by rotating both in opposite directions.
Twisting the cervical spine: Has the greatest range of motion for most people. Twisting the neck is generated either by stabilizing the shoulder sand rotating the head, or by rotating both in the opposite direction.
Things to be mindful of while you are twisting , please do not do the following:

  • Twisting by forcing with levers(your arms or legs), or initiating the action of the twist without engaging the abdominal – again – exhale is most important.
  • Displacing the stable part of the body in the direction of the twist in order to avoid the twisting of the spine. However, allowing some displacement may be helpful for someone who is very tight or overweight.
  • Collapsing the chest over the belly also inhibits the twist, so the key to avoid this is the inhale and to make sure I tell my students to lift their chests before exhaling and don’t let it collapse. I see this one a lot in class, people drooping their shoulders etc…in order to avoid actually twisting.

Happy twisting!

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About heatherswint

Hi! I'm Heather - Mom, Wife, Yogi, Music Lover, Clean Eater and Obsessed with Essential Oils.
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