Thursday, 25 May 2017

Avoiding yoga injuries-protecting your lower back in twists

Twists can be wonderful - when you twist the blood is 'squeezed' from your abdominal organs and when you release the twist, your organs receive a fresh supply of oxygenated blood.  This is BKS Iyengar's 'squeeze and soak' theory on twists. Twists also hydrate the spinal discs which sit between the vertebrae as a 'cushion'. These can 'dry' out as we age causing issues for your spine and twisting should be avoided.

The problem is that as we age also is that we can develop other problems with the spine that twisting postures can exacerbate.  For instance many of us may develop a slightly bulging disc without even being aware of it which can be worsened by twisting. Speaking as someone who has been diagnosed with osteoporosis, I am very cautious when twisting and if you have a similar diagnosis check with your doctor and if given the go ahead be mindful when twisting.  

Now let's look at practicing a twist mindfully to avoid injury.  For seated spinal twist sit with your legs outstretched and if your lower back is rounding, sit on a block.  Bend your right knee and draw your right knee in towards your chest.  You now need to engage your core muscle to create a 'corset' that will support your lower back as you twist.  To do this press your left heel into the mat, engage Uddiyana banda by drawing your navel back towards your spine and press your body into your thigh, your thigh into your body.  Always lengthen through the crown of your head before twisting. Twist as you breath out, wrapping your left arm around your right leg, keeping the lumbar spine neutral and twisting though your thoracic spine.  Never use your arm to pull you deeper into the twist.  Listen to your body and do not twist more than feels comfortable which can cause problems for your spine and strain your intercostal muscles which run between your ribs.  To protect your neck, keep your chin level with your breastbone.  Never use your arm to pull you deeper into the twist. To come out of the twist, breathe in and come back to centre, release your right leg and stretch it out. Repeat second side. Please see also 'Protecting your neck in seated twists'.

Standing twists are even harder to twist safely in. When practicing Revolved Triangle for instance and twisting to the right, your left hip will also want to turn to the right. To come into the pose stand facing the short edge of the mat near the back of the mat. Step your right foot forward and turn your back toes out. Level your hips to the front edge of the mat, breathe out and bring your torso level with the mat, your left hand to a block placed to the big toe side of the front foot and your right hand to your right hip. Engage Uddiyana bandha and twist to the right through the thoracic spine, keeping the lumbar spine neutral. Press the back heel into the mat. When you have reached your comfortable level of twisting raise your right arm. To come out of the twist breathe in and bring your body back level with the floor, your right hand back to your hip. Breathe out, bring your left hand to your hips, breathe in come up, bend your front knee and step your feet together. Repeat second side. Please also see 'Back to basics-Standing poses-Revolved Triangle pose'.

Please also see 'Avoiding yoga injuries'

Stay safe 


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