This week I taught a class with a focus on twists. It included a couple of standing and a few seated twists. And it’s only a 50-minute class! I admit that twists are not my favourite. I almost always do a reclined twist at the end of my practice but otherwise tend to avoid them.
But I think that the poses we avoid are probably the ones we most need! So for the past week I have been twisting. A lot.
What is a twist?
A twisting posture is one where your shoulder girdle moves in the opposite direction relative to your hips. There are different twists that target different areas – the upper, middle and lower areas of your torso.
Why the heck would you want to twist anyway?!?
There are actually some pretty big benefits. Here are some of the main ones.
- Maintain and Improve Spinal Mobility
Twisting is one way that the spine moves (also left, right, forward and back). Twists rotate the spine and also stretch the muscles in the back.Twisting helps to retain the spine’s natural range of motion. If you don’t employ the natural range of motion, there is risk of joints stiffening and fusing. By continually extending the surrounding muscles and tissues, you can avoid this atrophy.
- Are Energizing
Twisting creates space and lubricates the area between the vertebrae. It works the action of lengthening. This supports the health of the central nervous system allowing it to function more efficiently. Energy flows uninhibited. Twists decompress the spine and this can give you an instant energy boost!
- Help Relieve Stress
Twists help to relieve tension in the neck, shoulders and back. These are common places where we hold stress. By releasing tension in these areas, you relax and help reduce feelings of anxiousness. For a double whammy (in a good way), focus on deepening your breathe as you twist.
- Improve Digestion
Twists help with digestion by creating movement in and around your organs. Twisting increases blood flow to your digestive organs improving their function!
There are a couple of principles to keep in mind in order to twist safely; 1) grounding and 2) lengthening.
1) Grounding: Create a stable base
In reclining twists, the upper part of the torso is stabilized and most of thetwisting occurs in the lower back and spine. In standing and seated twists, it is really important to stabilize the core and pelvis in order to support the low back. Always make sure to start with a strong base!
2) Lengthening: Create space
Inhale and lengthen the spine before you twist. In seated twists, elevate your hips on a block or pillow if you round forward at all. You want to be able to retain the natural length and curvature along your entire back.
Twist from the lower spine. Different parts of the spine have differing ranges of motion. The lumbar (low) spine has the smallest range. Then the thoracic (mid) followed by the cervical spine (neck area), which has the largest range. In order to avoid having your neck do all the work, involve the whole spine. Begin your twistat the base and work your way up from the lower spine. Neck is last!
The best way to feel the benefits of twists is to try them out. Reclined twist is a nice, gentle twist. It’s great at the end of your practice or even at the end of your day before bedtime. Here’s how to do it!
How twisted are you? Just leave a comment to let me know 😉
Image courtesy of Tiffany Berry