If you’re in the northern hemisphere, you might be getting an introduction to the fall chill. As I drive to work, it is bittersweet to see the leaves falling from the trees and the first fall snow dusting the countryside. As one season ends, another starts…a cold one. The days are shorter, and the sunshine intermittent.
This is the time that our furry animal friends begin to hunker down to hibernate, with good reason. And as the temperature drops, we humans tend to fold into ourselves in an effort not to lose warmth, too. Unfortunately we can’t hunker down for months at a time, so we need to be more creative.
Did Somebody Say Twist?
While we don’t have the luxury of hibernation, we can still enjoy purifying twists to ward off the chill. Twists improve circulation and build up warmth while cleansing the body of toxins; a winning combo. Among other therapeutic benefits they also healthfully support the back and spine as well as stimulate the circulatory and digestive systems, liver and kidneys.
I often liken a twist to what you would do to a wet dish rag: wring out the excess to leave a more cleaned out version. Yoga twists offer a similar rinse to your muscles, glands, and internal organs by squeezing out toxins so freshly oxygenated blood flows back in when you release the twist.
Forward Bend Meets Backbend? You’re a Twist!
Twists are actually a blend of backbends and forward bends, so we can look forward and back in twists while our body stays centered. Generally, most backbends are invigorating while most forward bends are more restorative, and it can be shocking for your body to go from one to the other without a little preparation.
It makes sense that in a yoga class, twists are often used to transition between the two types of poses. Yoga twists reset the spine and can reduce strain on the back when you transition from one pose to the next.
Ultimately, twists can be heating, detoxifying, and a soothing transition to another phase in your practice. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that twists are a perfect partner for fall, a season of change. So to help your fall feel fantastic, here are some tips to remember while practicing those twisty poses.
1. Lengthen First
Elongate the spine for safe and more effective yoga twists. This will help avoid short-changing your rotation as well as avoid painfully compressing spinal discs, which can lead to issues like herniated discs and chronic back pain.
2. Keep it Real
Most twists should start from the navel up the spine, not the pelvis. For example, when twisting to the right, try not to let the left hip come along for the ride as it throws the pelvis out of stable alignment. Aim to keep the hips squared to the front so you can work the twist from a firm base.
There can be a few exceptions to this rule, of course, but most yoga twists generally benefit from having a grounded base, which reduces strain to the less mobile sacroiliac joint in the pelvis.
3. Share the Love
Try to distribute the twist evenly along your spine, not just to the more mobile parts. The spine offers different ranges of mobility, starting with the most mobile, the neck or cervical spine, and ending with the least mobile, the lower back or lumbar spine and the sacrum.
Offer some considerate attention to the hard-to-reach spots like your middle back, the thoracic spine, as well as the lower back in twists so you have an even rotation throughout.
4. Don’t Be Greedy
Work gradually and with the breath. General rule of thumb is to inhale to lengthen the spine and exhale to deepen the twist. Take your time.
Even if you may not twist like a more flexible neighbor, your patience will be rewarded with fewer injuries and more sincere depth.