Life is busy, with many twists and turns along the way. Many of us get caught up in our fast paced busy lives that we maybe forget to make time to simply move our bodies.
Despite being super busy, a large majority of us are living sedentary lives – basically we are spending too much time sat down and inactive. Sat in the car, sat at a desk, sat looking at our phones...
To a certain degree it can’t be helped, the world we live in has changed beyond recognition, with huge chunks of our lives now being online, especially in the current Covid situation we are faced with. It can be hard to stay active.
But the sad truth is if we don’t use our body’s the full range of mobility, we will lose some of it. Connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, muscles, fascia) need lengthening a few times a week, otherwise overtime they shorten and limit the range of motion of the joints they support.
So, I want to talk to you about twists! Because one twist that could be missing from your life is a yoga twist! And if so, you are missing out! I love twisted postures.
How many times a day, or maybe even a week, do you make a movement where your spine is moving in rotation (twisting)? I am going to hazard a guess that it might not be that many... unless you have a dog like mine who insists on spinning you round because she suddenly decides she really wants to walk in the other direction…
Twists have a multitude of benefits; aside from restoring and maintaining spinal mobility, twists are said to massage the internal organs of the abdomen and therefore aid digestion and stimulate blood flow.
Or perhaps Chakras are your thing? Chakras are invisible energy centres located along the spine, twists are perfect for balancing the solar plexus, the third chakra located just above the belly button. This chakra is responsible for confidence and self-esteem, when out of balance it can cause feelings of indecision and a lack of motivation. More on Chakras in another blog post soon!
We can perform twists seated (easy twist), standing (twisted chair pose) or lying down (supine twist), so there really is a twist to suit any style of yoga practise. Of course, these are just 3 examples of twisting postures, there are many more.
What is happening to the spine when we rotate it? Well most of the movement comes from the thoracic spine, the upper back.
If you consider the movement of the spine you will probably notice that range of motion in relation to twisting decreases as we move down the spine. The cervical spine (the neck) moves most freely, then we move down to the thoracic spine, here we lose some rotation capability, this is because the connection of the ribs means we can’t twist as freely as we do in the neck.
Moving down to the lumbar spine (lower back) rotation range reduces further due to the joints between the vertebrae limiting range of rotation to protect the lower back from twisting too far.
So now we know how twists work in different areas of the spine, we can look at how to perform a twist safely and how to get the most benefit from our twisting postures.
Creating length through the spine will allow for a smoother deeper twist. On an inhale we would create length and extension through the spine, making space in the joints along the spine. To do this imagine a thread from the crown of your head, as you breathe in imagine you are being pulled up by the thread.
On an exhale we gently twist, let the twist gradually work its way up your spine. To avoid over twisting imagine twisting from the lower spine upwards, even though the lower spine will have little rotation. Once we have rotated, we check in with our breath, can we still breathe easily and smoothly? Or does the breath feel difficult and jagged? If it does, we have gone too far, ease out a little.
Twists can offer a sense of deep release, but sometimes we may need to adjust a little to get maxim benefit from the posture.
I have previously mentioned I have scoliosis, for me personally, twists feel good with little adjustment, but I do need to be mindful about not twisting too far and thinking about where I need to try create space to allow for my curve.
In a recent workshop I took with YogaBerry, which focused on Scoliosis, we did a very gentle movement that would work very well as a strong twist alternative, in fact it felt amazing, here is what we did:
Begin laying on your back with, perhaps with blanket underneath to support any concave areas of the back.
Have the knees bent, feet flat to the mat.
Very gently think about massaging the back of the pelvis from side to side.
Your knees can move from side to side as part of the movement if you wish.
Making the movement as big or small as your body needs.
So now you know the benefits of twists, some basic anatomy about the spine and which areas rotate the most, plus a relaxing alternative to deep twists if you have need to be mindful of spinal rotation. I hope you found this information useful, I would love to know what your favourite twisted yoga postures is?
Love Steph x
If you have spinal issues, such as disc issues or spinal fusion, you will need guidance from a health professional when it comes to the mobility of your spine, please do speak to your doctor before embarking on any new physical practises such as yoga.