Twists and Turns of Yoga Practice
By Dr. Robin Armstrong • December 3rd, 2008 • 9329 Views
Twisting postures are an enjoyable, challenging, and some might say vital part of our yoga practice. Poses like marichyansa/Marichis pose, revolved poses like parvritta trikonasana/revoloved triangle ,and parvritta parsvokonasana/revolved extended side angle pose allow us to move and lengthen our spines to improve our spinal and pelvic flexibility, as well as our strength. Traditionally twists are thought to be detoxifying, literally wringing out the organs of digestion and detoxification. To better understand the benefits and considerations surrounding twists, let's take a closer look at the spine.
The spinal column is formed by 24 mobile vertebrae, and the nine fused and immobile remnant vertebrae of the sacrum and coccyx. Each mobile vertebra is separated by a shock absorbing, jelly filled disc. The vertebrae move and glide in relation to each other according to the angle of the joints between each vertebra, known as facet joints. There are four facet joints per vertebrae – two joints on the left and right part of the top of the vertebrae, and two joints on the left and right part of the bottom of the vertebrae. The angle of the joints dictates how much motion can occur in each part of the spine.
The spine is divided into the seven cervical vertebrae of the neck, the twelve thoracic vertebrae of the mid back, and the five lumbar vertebrae of the low back. The neck is the most mobile section of the spine with generous movement in flexion, extension, and rotation. The angle of the facet joints change as we move into the thoracic spine where flexion and extension are limited (also due to the attachment of the rib cage) and rotation is free. In the lumbar spine the angle of the joints change once again, flexion and extension is freely available but rotation is limited. These restrictions in movement are literally created by bone meeting bone and preventing further motion. Of course there is muscle and connective tissue that covers the vertebrae, and if certain muscles are tight or shortened, this can further prevent motion in certain ranges....