When we think about moving our body we may only envision it as forward or backward. Movements to the side are often skipped or underestimated. Spinal twists, however, open a whole new arena in both our understanding of ourselves and what’s possible in development. They are also excellent counter postures in moving forward and backward in becoming more holistic in practice.
While I consider all of the postures of yoga as a learning tool (and not isolated from the ‘whole’ of practice), there are certain aspects that spinal twists bring out in the body that a forward bend does not. This makes them both dynamic and unique. Twists can reveal mental habits, patterns, unintentional body patterns and habits, and unconscious preferences toward certain movements as well as aversions.
There are two important points to consider in learning twists. One is that the rotation of the spine starts from the bottom up. Usually we feel the pressure from the top down or mid-spine. Yet to create a firm and more stable twist, a strong base or foundation from which to support the movement needs to be created. Grounding the sit bones and pelvis develops a firmer seat (asana) from which the spine can twist against and/or away from. Using the hips as the base, helps to create the bottom up movement.
The second is the breath. The ‘in’ breath is new energy, oxygen and life. It opens the body and prepares the body. Inhalations allow the mind to become centered on the present. The ‘out’ breath is either the reinforcement of the movement or an extension; a supporting counter-part to the ‘in’ breath. It may also be used to exert more pressure on the body as well as to release, let go and extend the spine.
Moving from side to side creates growth, support and balance. Because both sides of our body support each other, twists aid in the process of finding balance and harmony. I like to think of all the postures creating a conversation between the breath and your body. But twists are one of the good receivers.
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