Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Back Stiffness

For Elise Miller, a longtime Iyengar Yoga teacher who was diagnosed with scoliosis—abnormal lateral curvature of the spine—as a teen, twisting poses are pure bliss. "I love moving from gentle twists into deeper variations," she says. "I think twists can be the most cleansing of all the poses." She's referring to master teacher B.K.S. Iyengar's "squeeze and soak" theory: The action of twisting the spine squeezes the muscles, spinal disks, and abdominal organs. When you release, blood floods back into those areas, bringing nutrients and improving circulation.

Still, Miller can understand why many people don’t enjoy twisting. The problem, she feels, lies in an overzealous approach. "You see people doing twists, and they just go for it. Then they feel stuck, like they have nowhere else to go—and they don't, because they haven’t allowed an opening to happen." Her remedy for this common problem is twofold: First, she says, you must elongate your spine and create space in it before twisting; otherwise you exert pressure on the disks and leave yourself open to injury. Second, she uses props in her twist sequences to gently prepare the body for deeper poses. Being mindful of your alignment and using props will prevent you from powering through the poses, so you can enjoy a spiraling action up the spine and reap the benefits that twists offer.

The first three poses in this sequence are often taught to people with hip or back stiffness, sacroiliac imbalances, degenerative disks, arthritis, or sciatica. With the exception of Paschimottanasana, do each pose in this sequence for five breaths on each side.

1. Bharadvajasana (Bharadvaja’s Twist), with chair
2. Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle), with chair
3. Marichyasana III (Marichi’s Twist III), with chair

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1 comment:

  1. Hi, I'm Joseph Letzelter. Bharadvajasana, Parivrtta Trikonasana, Marichyasana III (With chair) yoga is nice asana. It's useful for me. Thank you!