Teaching Cues:  Twists- Avoiding Excessive Leverage in Twists

Teaching Cues:  Let’s twist again! Avoiding Excessive Leverage in Twists

Many twists are taught and practiced using the arms or legs as ‘levers’ to torque and thereby rotate the body on its axis. Whilst this may allow you or your student to superficially go deeper or further into the pose it destabilises the pelvis as well as creating constrictions, misalignments and strains in other areas.

By twisting we rehydrate the discs of the spine, and when done gently and in alignment twists realign the shoulder girdle, the pelvic girdle and the spine. Twists work like the action of wringing out a towel as the upper back and pelvis move away from one another with either the upper back or the pelvis remaining grounded or relatively motionless depending on the type of twist.

TEACHING CUE. How do we achieve the rotation in twists without using the limbs as levers? The Teaching Cue here would be: use the abs to turn! Using the abs will maintain stability in the pelvis and engaging the abs and core muscles also prevents the ribs from flaring out, so this has the further advantage of keeping length and alignment in the spine.  Turning from the abs rather than using leverage prevents overworking, straining or forcing parts of the body where there is tightness or impingements. This encourages lower, middle and upper core stability and if we connect our breathing to the three corresponding places this will work your spine and truly massage your organs!

Twists can be done at different levels and using this more integrated gentle approach may mean that you or your student need to do a slightly modified or easier version of your chosen twist to allow your body to get gently into the pose with alignment and engaging the correct muscles. Further Teaching Cues would be:

Lengthen the spine. This will stop the chest from collapsing and prevent building tension in the neck

Use progressive abdominal contraction to stabilise centre, move from this centre to turn the rib cage and the pelvis in the opposite direction.

Poses and adjustments. You could look at reclining upper back twists as progressive, beginning with bent-knee Jathara (Revolved Abdomen Pose) focusing on upper torso rotation and working the shoulders independently of the hips and then move on to variations, for example:

  • Intermediate: Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)
  • Intermediate: Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose)
  • Advanced: Full Jathara Parivartanasana (Revolved Abdomen Pose)
  • Advanced: Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (Revolved Half Moon Pose)


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By Samantha Doepel

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