Posted on 04/02/2020
My yogis know that I’m a big fan of spinal twists. I do them every single day, even if I’m not getting down on the mat to do a full practise. A spinal twist is literally any pose that twists the spine, whether that be standing, sitting or lying down. All yoga is great for you (obvs) and it’s good for you in so many different ways, both mind and body, but what is it that make spinal twists so good for you?
Twisting the spine helps to maintain proper range of motion. It opens up space between the vertebrae, decompressing the intervertebral discs. It loosens up the muscles and other connective tissue that make up the back, leading to increased mobility and reduced risk of sustaining an injury. Keeping the spine mobile will keep you mobile! As Joseph Pilates says, “You are only as young as your spine is flexible.”
When you twist you cut off blood supply to your abdominal organs; when you release you flood the organs with a fresh blood supply, full of fresh oxygen. This re-introduction of fresh blood can help to cleanse cells of built-up waste because better circulation leads to better cellular detoxification. Spinal twists also stimulate the flow of lymph, the fluid that transports our white blood cells, the bad boys that attack bacteria that builds up in the blood. Our lymph gets filtered through our lymph nodes and the more effectively this happens, the more effectively our bodies can fight disease. Your spleen is the biggest lymphatic organ in the body and when you twist you stimulate it, which helps to produce more lymphocytes (defenders against invaders) and antibodies, which kill foreign microorganisms and stop infections from spreading.
The spleen isn’t the only organ that is stimulated by spinal twists, all the organs located in the abdomen benefit, including the stomach, small and large intestines and the bowel. Spinal twists help to move stagnating impurities and gas through your digestive tract, aiding the removal of waste and keeping your bowels working regularly.
Twisting the spine and opening the chest and shoulders helps to counteract the hours we spend hunched over desks, craning our necks to look up at computer screens, driving and even just regularly looking down at our phones. This helps us to lengthen the spine, taking pressure off other joints like hips and knees. Many spinal twists also give a stretch to the outsides of the hips, helping to decompress the pelvis and release tension in the lower back.
Spinal twists open the chest, shoulders and back, places where the majority of us carry our tension. Heart-opening postures (anything that encourages a small backbend and some openness through the chest) are renowned for being big stress-busters. Our heart chakra, located right in the middle of the chest just behind the sternum, gets freed up and unblocked through practising spinal twists, allowing prana (or energy) to flow more freely through this major energy centre in the body. An open heart chakra leads to greater feelings of well-being, better ability to practise love, both for the self and others, more confidence, more openness and a greater overall sense of contentment. This can be a big deal in maintaining positive mental health and counteracting the pressures and anxieties of the modern lives we lead.
Everyone can stand to benefit from spinal twists, however, if you have had any issues with your back it goes without saying that you should consult with a physician before beginning any sort of new practise. If however you already have a healthy yoga practise and your back is feeling good, here are a couple of yummy spinal twists for you to try out;
A gentle twist like your Reclined Spinal Twist is a great option to go for if you don’t have much time to warm up or get into a deeper twist. You can literally lie down on the floor during an ad break on tv, spend a minute twisting to each side and reap all of the tasty benefits! It will help you to digest your dinner, it will help you sleep better, it will decompress your back and release physical tension in your body. A better life is built day by day on the smallest of changes.