Indiana & Yoga Magazine Summer 2016 Issue 1 | Page 56

PHYSICAL YOGA Practice Safety in Twists By Alyssa Pfennig Twists. We love them because they make us feel so complete by helping us release the deepest layers of tension, both physically and psychologically. But many of us don’t realize twisting improperly can really wreak long-term havoc on our bodies. I especially used to love supine (lying on the back) garudasana twist where you shifted your hips over to one side, crossed your legs and let your knees fall to the other side. Often I would hear a pop around my hip in this twist, but it felt so delightful and my teacher understood the musculoskeletal structure extremely well, so I thought it was a good thing. However, after I became a teacher myself, I started seeing a correlation between what I thought was a delicious twist and some low back pain and my hips getting out of place. So, I stopped teaching my favorite twist. Then, while completing my advanced training in yoga therapy I realized my hypothesis was correct and that twist was in fact causing issues because of the way the spine and pelvis are structured. Furthering my knowledge about anatomy beyond a weekend at my first teacher training and the realization that, as yoga teachers, we are often passed down information that might not really jive with the musculoskeletal structure of our bodies, was mind blowing to say the least. Get to Know the Spine The next time you see a replica of a skeleton, make sure you take the opportunity to explore it with your hands. Really get to know the spinal column by running your hand along its curves and twisting the thoracic spine (mid to upper back) and the lumbar spine (the curve that is in line with your belly button). You will literally see the difference in how the facet joints move and how the ones in the lumbar spine just do not twist like the ones up above. Herein lies one of the major issues with twisting from the bottom up. The lumbar spine won’t twist the way the thoracic spine will, so instead, the pelvis might move to accommodate the shape you’re trying to create. POP! While it may not necessarily mean major damage just happening once, that popping sound for many people over time can cause a variety of issues, including misaligning the pelvis and creating destabilization in the sacroiliac joints, which is what happens to me. Iyengar-certified yoga teacher and Stanford-trained scientist, Roger Cole, Ph.D., Safe Seated Twist 54 INDIANA & YOGA MAGAZINE ISSUE I