You may have noticed that we tend to do twists later on in class, often close to relaxation. They are also nice to include in a gentle warm up sequence. This is because they are neutralising poses, helping the body to stretch out and recover. They are good to include if you’ve been doing lots of strong back bends or forward bends.
Twists work a range of muscles including the abdominals, the muscles that support the spine, and areas of the shoulders, pelvis, and neck. Some types of twists can also be quite demanding in themselves, especially especially standing or involving binding (using the arms to deepen the pose), so it’s important to pay attention to alignment and come into and out of them mindfully.
How can we do them safely?
Begin with an inhale to lift up and lengthen the spine before moving into a twist. If sitting on the floor, push down with the sitting bones. You can sit on a block to help you lift and keep the spine long.
Think about starting at the bottom and working up the spine. This is because different parts of the spine have different range of mobility. The lower part, the lumbar, rotates only around 5 degrees, the thoracic spine rotates about 35 degrees whereas the cervical spine has the most mobility with around 50 degrees.
Protect your neck by turning it last of all. Try and keep your shoulders/body level, and spend the same amount of time on each side.
An aid to digestion?
Twists are thought to aid digestion. But there is no medical evidence to support the theory that they may be detoxifying. However, depending how deeply you are twisting, they certainly put pressure on our internal digestive organs, squeezing them first on one side then the other.
BKS Iyengar said that twists are detoxifying because of the squeeze and soak action. This is because the digestive organs are compressed pushing out old blood and so then allowing fresh blood to flow in when we release. Perhaps it’s safest to say that twists help to stimulate our organs, including our organs of ‘elimination’, which in turn can help stimulate our metabolism and rate of excretion.
We focussed on kneeling and standing twists this week, starting and ending our practice with some gentle lying twists. We’ll look at a couple of sitting ones this coming week.
Here’s a reminder of some of what we did.
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