The spine has a total axial rotation of 90 degrees – the neck/cervical has a range of 50 degrees, the upper back/thoracic of 35 degree and surprisingly the lower back/lumbar has only 5 degrees of rotation. For this reason, care needs to be taken with our twists, so that we don’t put excess pressure on the sacroiliac joint (where pelvis and spine meet). Our twists come from the waist and with the majority of the rotation coming from the upper back/thoracic. The spine has five different ranges of movement – forward, backwards, right side, left side and rotation. But we also have a fifth movement called axial extension. Axial extension is the movement we hope to achieve when we ‘reach through the tip of the crown’, to find as much space as we can between the vertebra, to allow the spine to rotate. When you are working with  twists, draw a line through your midline from the base of your spine to beyond the tip of your crown. When you have found this line twist your body, from the inside out, around this extended midline, like a spiral staircase. You will find you also get a better twist if you extend through your midline, and twist evenly from both sides of the midline.

Twists penetrate deep into the organs of the body, bringing fresh blood flow – stimulating the digestive system for maximum nutrition absorption, the liver and kidneys to remove toxins, and the lymph system which supports the immune system. They release stress and physical tension in the chest, shoulders, neck and hips. They also stretch and strengthen the muscles of the respiratory system, bringing with it the many health benefits of ‘good breath’. Try taking some deep breaths in your twists, to get the full stretch and benefits for the lungs. Click this link to get a full list of twists.

The above sequence has two peak poses – Parivrtta Trikonasana/Revolved Triangle and Parsva Bakasana/Side Crow. Before you come into your full expression of Parivrtta Trikonasana/Revolved Triangle on the right side, when you have reached forward with your spine, place your right hand on your right lower back and check if your hips are level. When you have found a level hip position, place your right thumb in your right hip crease to ensure the hips stay in place, as you slowly reach your left arm to a brick or the ground to the right side of your right foot. In Parsva Bakasana/Side Crow draw your navel strongly in towards your spine and reach up through the crown before you take the deep twist to the right. If taking the balance is not in your practice come to the setup stage of the asana for a really deep twist. Working towards hooking your left upper arm outside your right knee.

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Ruth Delahunty Yogaru