Moving The Spine During Twisting Poses

How Should You Move The Hips Or The Neck During Twisting Poses?

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Transcript below of: How should you move the hips or the neck during twisting poses?

Hey everybody! Welcome to this month’s question of the month. As you know you can go to yoganatomy.com/my question and submit your question. We’ll get it answered on video. This month’s question comes from Helle and it’s about what parts of the spine to move during twisting poses.

The Question:

Thank you for sharing your tremendous knowledge of anatomy with all of us. I have two questions for you. One is about rotation of the spine in yoga. I have learned to hold my pelvis aligned in all asanas, but I think the latest knowledge about that is that it compromises the SI joint. I have learned from [a] physician and yoga teacher that the spine and the pelvis are rotating together. I am very interested in this subject because I experience that so many yoga students get pain in the SI joint after having done yoga for some years, including myself.

The other question is about rotation of the head towards the ceiling in utthita trikonasana and similar asanas. I have read about the law of side bending and rotation, and my conclusion is that it is not normal to turn the head looking upward when you are side bending. The head would naturally turn the other way, and it may be dangerous to turn the head upwards. What are your thoughts about these two questions? I am looking forward to hearing your opinion.
Namaste, Helle

The Answer:

Okay, once again the questions. We might have to put a rule on there. You’re only allowed to ask one question. Just kidding! Alright. So, the trap of right and wrong is feeling kind of strong right now. I’m a little unclear about what the rule of side bending is, or the law of side bending, so you might have to send me a link to something regarding that.

But, let’s take on the first part which is SI joint, pelvis, and spine. There’s some good truth to what you’re talking about. So, ideally the twist is happening through the spine and the pelvis is generally square. There are always exceptions to rules though. So for instance, if you have SI joint issues already then — 100% and I talk about this in the book and I’ve talked about this on other videos and articles on the website — you just allow the pelvis to move along with the spine in twisting poses. So, it depends on what your focus is and it depends on the circumstances of the student.

I don’t know how realistic it is to assume, however, that if you keep your pelvis square and only twist in the spine that it will compromise your SI joint. That’s not true for everybody who does twisting poses. But to be safe, if you wanted to in your class, depending on the demographics — let’s say you have women post-pregnancy who have a higher likelihood of SI joint dysfunction and looser ligaments there — you might have everybody turn their pelvis. But, I don’t know that I would hold it as a rule, 100% of the time.

And that’s the unfortunate part about all of this is that it’s all so complex. There are so many moving parts. So, teach to the student as best you can. And if you have a particular population, teach to that population. But, don’t assume that those things for that student or population should apply to everyone.

The second part was related to the law of side bending, which I’m not familiar with. Because I don’t know what the law of side bending is, I can’t really speak to it. I’ve been doing side bending and turning my head up for 25 years now. I don’t have any neck problems as a result of it. That doesn’t mean that it won’t happen to somebody else.

It might not feel natural depending on a lot of factors. One is how flexible is somebody’s neck? How healthy is that ability to rotate? Or, how tight are their hips and how out of alignment is their body when they then have to look up in twisting poses? So, if the looking up is the issue, then I would always — and I always do this — go back to the foundation of the posture. Go back to the spine and to the pelvis. Do adjustments need to be made there? If adjustments need to be made there, you might actually have to go to the feet and adjust the feet, just using triangle as an example.

So, when I come across students who do have neck problems in twisting poses, or if let’s say it does hurt when they look up, I have them look down. But don’t think that it’s just the rotation by itself, because if you look down you’re also rotating your head. So, are you suggesting that we just always keep our head looking straight forward and we should never look up? That doesn’t seem very realistic because our bodies are designed to do those things.

So, maybe this is the way to frame it for you. Instead of making it about the posture and that particular movement, what is it about that individual that makes it a problem? And then, adjust and adapt based on the individual as best as you can. I hope that helps and if you can send me a link to the law of side bending and I’ll give it a read and see what I think about that as well. Maybe that will be another question of the month. Alright, I hope that helped. I hope that gave you some insight and some ways to think about that. If you have a question, go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion and we’ll get it answered.

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