In our physical yoga practice, there are 6 ways that we manipulate the spine. One of which is twisting postures. The spinal twist is integral to the practice and supportive of holistic wellness for the whole body. Although twisting poses are supremely beneficial, they are tricky to master and require proper technique to avoid injury.
The Benefits of Twisting
- Elongates the spine and creates space between the vertebrae for spinal decompression
- Increases circulation to aid in cellular detoxification
- Aids in digestion by massaging the internal organs
- Increases thoracic mobility to minimize back pain and overall stiffness
- Strengthens deep core muscles, the obliques AKA the “twisting muscles” on the sides of the torso
When we are twisting, it is very important to be aware of the differing degrees of spinal flexibility. The cervical spine, neck to top of the shoulders, has the most flexibility/mobility to rotate with ease. The thoracic spine, shoulders bottom of ribs, is the second most flexible due to the limitation of the ribs. The lumbar spine, bottom of ribs to sacrum, can only rotate 5-15% with each lumbar vertebrae only able to rotate about 2 degrees. With this knowledge we can see that the majority of our spinal rotation comes from the thoracic and cervical vertebrae.
In order to protect our spine from injury we can practice the following:
Elongate the spine and maintain the natural curvature while twisting.
Use the muscles of the abdomen to twist rather than cranking or forcing with the arms.
To protect our spinal disks, we never bend(flexion) and twist the spine at the same time.
Keep the neck long to avoid pressure on the cervical spine.
When there is limited spinal mobility, taking twists while laying on the ground or standing are optimal. These positions allow the hips to move freely to adjust for compromised spinal rotation.
Always twist in the order from the bottom of the spine to the top.
Twisting may seem simple and self explanatory, but upon further examination there are many facets and nuances to this movement. Try these techniques on your own to safely deepen your twists and increase the mobility of your spine!