I would like to touch on something quite important, especially if you have digestion and back issues, but is hardly considered in everyday movement. And it goes something like this:
Just kidding. It’s more like this:
In my yoga classes, I talk a lot about the spine needing to move six ways. Front and back, side to side, and twisting both directions. I start all of my classes with warming up the spine in all of those directions. It may seem simple enough, but it’s amazing at how we mostly move the spine forward and rarely move it through its other ranges of movement.
Adding some gentle twisting into your everyday life can have very profound effects on overall back health, digestion health, and even with your energy levels.
I’ll get to some simple poses in a moment, but here are some fun facts about why twisting is so important.
Keep It Movin’
It seems that most of the clients I work with have poor digestion. For whatever reason, chronic stomach pain is getting more and more common. This is disheartening to hear because the condition of our digestion is usually connected to other issues in the body, and when you have an angry tummy, you can have an angrier everything else.
So it's even more important to make sure our organs are set up for success. We need them to have the best conditions possible to do their job.
There are all sorts of things that can affect digestion, but twisting postures can help massage the internal organs, releasing muscular and connective tissue tension that can keep your organs from doing what they do.
Tight abdominal muscles can be the missing link in resolving digestion issues.
Along with massaging the organs, twists also cut off oxygen and blood flow for a moment, so when you release the twist the flood gates are lifted and all of that good stuff, including your lovely waste matter (i.e. the poops!), can be pushed through at a higher intensity.
Energy and Attitude Pick-Me-Up
Another magical thing that happens after releasing a twist and letting the healthy fluids rush back through the system is that it sends an energy surge throughout the body.
Twists also elongate the spine, breaking up any compression that may have incurred from poor posture. This compression can result in a drop of energy, so the space created when lengthening the spine can bring the energy back.
Along with boosting your energy, some happy hormones like serotonin are released in the intestines. So moving things along can allow space for those hormones to be released. This can decrease stress, depression, and anxiety.
Soothes the Achin’ Back Pain
Twists can help restore the spine’s natural curvature. It also loosens and strengthens those ropey, tight muscles along the spine that get weak from lack of movement and being overstretched from hunching over a desk all day, for example. Twisting on a regular basis is vital to preventing stiff and fused vertebrae and in keeping those back muscles healthy.
Bonus points: Twisting is also good for shoulder and neck pain!
One of these days I’ll put together a little video for you on my favorite twists, but for now, please enjoy these photos of random strangers twisting what their mother gave them.
But first, some twisting guidelines. And please don’t do any intense twisting if you are pregnant, have really acute stomach issues (i.e. the runs!), or have SI joint issues.
Inhale and lengthen the spine first, and then on the exhale, release into the twist.
Be gentle! Listen and honor your body’s limits.
Keep your hips planted and twist from your mid-back. I like to think of it as just twisting the ribcage.
Your arms should not power any movement. They are just along for the ride.
*These photos are from yogajournal.com*
I wish you well on your gentle twisting adventures. Your tummy, back, and whole being will thank you. And after you’ve tried it once, try it again and again to really feel the benefits.
If Chubby Checker can do it, you can too.