Diets, detoxing, and down-dogs all rank high on the New Year's resolutions lists, but if there's one move best-suited for the month of January, the yoga twist comes out on top. Yoga twists are poses that involve spinal rotation, when the shoulder girdle is turned in an opposing direction to the hips. B.K.S. Iyengar likened twisting to a 'squeeze and soak' action, referring to its cleansing nature. But there's more to twists than their detoxifying reputation. These postures also play an important role in spinal strength and mobility and offer multiple benefits to practice them year round:
1. Improves Spinal health
Twisting rotates the spine and stretches the muscles of the back, both of which help to retain and restore the body's natural range of motion. When the muscles and soft tissue that surround the spine are not regularly employed, they can shorten and become stiff. Rotating the torso not only builds strength and flexibility in the back muscles, but also stretches and strengthens the shoulders, hips, neck, and pelvis, all of which prevent stiffness and hardening of the joints.
2. Aids Digestion
Twisting creates movement in and around the digestive organs. When the torso twists, it is essentially compressing these internal organs. This causes a temporary lack of circulation, which when released allows a rush of fresh blood flow to the digestive organs. By alternately compressing and stretching that area, circulation to the digestive organs is increased, thereby improving their functionality.
Twisting poses are not only beneficial when practiced alone, but are also used as transition poses to help neutralize the spine. It's imperative to return the spine to a neutral alignment after spinal flexion or extension to help soothe the nervous system and bring balance to the body. Incorporating gentle twists after practicing deep back bends or forward folds helps release and lengthen the spine, and return it to a neutral alignment.
Other internal organs including the liver, kidneys, pancreas, and spleen are also believed to benefit from twisting. The stimulation of the abdominal organs brings a flow of freshly oxygenated blood to the area, thereby encouraging the body's natural detoxification process. This movement aids in the elimination of toxins and metabolic waste, promoting cleansing on a cellular level.
5. Energizing and De-Stressing
When moving into a twist, the spine is first lengthened in order to create space between each vertebra. This allows energy to effectively flow through the spine while the vertebrae are decompressed in a safe and healthy manner. Once in the posture, the chest, shoulders, and back are stretched open, which helps decrease tension stored in the body. Moving into the twist with slow and controlled breathing also increases the calming effect of the pose.