Mobility for Life
I remember watching my elderly (and favorite) aunt while she turned, or attempted to turn, her head. It didn’t turn far before poor range of motion stopped the process. If she needed to turn farther, she was forced to engage her shoulders because her neck was too stiff.
We lose mobility as we age and my aunt was proof of that. But, it does not have to be that way as long as we keep moving. As promised, we will continue exploring gentle yoga movement as a way to maintain and improve range of motion even as we age. This week we will explore twists.
Being able to twist is fundamental to keeping daily activities efficient and enjoyable. Imagine trying to reach something in the back seat of your car if you could not twist. And, if you play sports, you are well aware of the importance of a flexible spine.
In yoga, the primary purpose and benefit of twisting is to keep our spines flexible and strong. Other physiological benefits include:
- Improving elasticity in discs and ligaments
- Strengthening abdominal and back muscles
- Opening and stretching the chest
- Improving digestion
And, my personal favorite, twisting is calming and relaxing. It is a wonderful way to release stored up tension. Twists just seem to wring out the tension from the body and mind. This is especially true when the breath is used the way we do in Viniyoga.
TECHNIQUE: Viniyoga Style
Twists generally occur when the shoulder girdle moves in one direction and the hips move in the opposite direction. They can be done standing, lying and sitting.
As in all Viniyoga postures, the breath is critical to the twisting movement.
- Initiate the twist on an exhalation that begins in the low belly. The key to twisting is to control the movement from belly and spine as you exhale.
- Avoid trying to force a deeper twist by leveraging with arms, shoulders, hips and/or legs. Instead, use your abdominal muscles and exhale to control the depth and speed of the movement.
- During inhalation, lengthen your spine and maintain that length as you exhale into the twist. The goal is to avoid collapsing the chest and rib cage, especially in seated twists.
- It is very important to counter pose the twist by doing a forward bend before moving to a back bend or lateral bend. Viniyoga emphasizes care of the spine and forward bends bring the spine back to neutral before moving in another direction.
Twists, especially deep twists, are contra indicated for those with acute or chronic back pain, back injuries or degenerative disc disease. Be sure to get clearance from your medical professional.
Do not begin a yoga practice with a twist. It is important to warm up with some forward bending before moving to twists.
As I mentioned in Twisting – Adds Spice to Yoga, twists are a nice addition to any practice, complimenting the more symmetrical movements of forward bends and back bends.
Enjoy and breathe easy
Health is a precious gift and my goal is to help you live a healthier, happier life through yoga. Every private session is uniquely designed just for you. For a free telephone consultation call me at 303.818.4181. Discover whether personalized, private yoga instruction is right for you.
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