Anatomy and Asana: I Love Anatomy Ezine Principles of anatomy for your yoga practice. Easy to understand. Simple to apply.

By Susi Hately Aldous, Founder

Functional Synergy and Anatomy and Asana Feeling the flow of body, mind, and soul

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The Delight and the Devil Of Twisting

Where back bends are delicious and forward bends are gracious, twists are profoundly delightful. They take us deep into the spine - rotating, squeezing, strengthening, and releasing all the tissue that lies along the midline of the body. The effects of twists can be felt even with a brief practice - just one or two asanas midday can help release locked up tension that occurs from daily activities at home or work.

Twists indeed feel great. The delightful exclamation in a student's voice as the twist releases tight, tense areas is as if freedom is born within. Almost immediately, the upper body stands more upright with greater ease and relief.

The incredibly awesome feeling that comes from twisting can also unleash a certain dark and devilish addiction to going deeper. With addiction comes the potential for dysfunction and possible injury. For example, depth in twists before the body is ready can shift the mechanics of the shoulder girdle and pelvic girdle as they relate to the spine. In the shoulder girdle, depth too soon can lead to instability of the scapulae. In the pelvic girdle, twisting deeply too soon can lead to overtwisting at the pelvis, and possible imbalance at the SI joints.

The Anatomy of the Twist

When we twist, the primary movement is a rotation of the spine. There are 5 muscles associated with that

(open your Anatomy and Asana book to pages 74 and 75 to see these muscles):

On the front and side:
external obliques
internal obliques

On the back:
trapezius - middle and lower fibers

Connecting the front and back:
serratus anterior

Together these muscles help to create the corkscrew action of the twist, much like wringing out a wet wash cloth. When you twist following their line of movement, the depth you experience will be strong, stable, safe and succulently satisfying.

Moving from the dark and devilish and back into the delight

Perhaps you are someone who experiences a blockage when you twist - as if you bump into something midway through your twist that stops the movement; perhaps you are someone who has injured yourself overtwisting; or perhaps you are a teacher wanting to give your students or yourself the best practice yet.

Here is something you can try:

We will be twisting sequentially to the right.

In sitting (on a chair or the floor), settle your pelvis so that it is in a neutral position. Your sitting bones, or ishial tuberosities are even on the floor. Let your spine be as vertical as it can be. Breathe. Take a moment and relax on the inside of your body, while maintaining your posture.

Place your hands on your shoulders, they will not be involved in the twist.

Moving from the bottom, inhale, then on the exhale, rotate your navel to the right. Keep your nose in line with your navel so that your head doesn't lead. (You won't twist very far).

Then, inhale again, and on your exhale, rotate your solar plexus, or the base of the sternum to the right, keeping your nose in line with your sternum. Breathe easily.

Next, inhale again. Allow the clavicles to remain broad as you exhale. On the next inhale feel for your right scapula. As you exhale, move only the right scapula toward the spine using the middle and lower fibers of your right trapezius and the rhomboids. Be sure to not lead with the right elbow and keep the upper trapezius, levator scapula and other neck muscles relaxed. Now feel for the left scapula and move it away from the spine as if it is moving under the left armpit. Did you notice that you twisted further?

Now, add your arms. Keeping the integrity of the twist, use the arms to leverage the strength, stability and mobility already created by the initial twist. What do you notice?

Breathe a few times and switch to the other side.

Take this into your more complex yoga asanas - begin by moving from the 5 twisting muscles, then add the arms. Notice what you feel.

(Then let me know, I'd love to add your experience into the next series of I Love Anatomy ezines. If you know of someone who would benefit from this email, please pass it along.)

Copyright 2005 Functional Synergy, inc and Anatomy and Asana. All rights reserved.