spinal twists and awakening sushumna

Spinal twists have many musculoskeletal benefits as well as a detoxifying effect on the abdominal organs. Spinal twists strengthen back and abdominal muscles, improve spinal range of motion and alleviate tension in deep spinal muscles. Compression of the abdominal organs in spinal twists pushes blood and metabolic waste out of the tissue, when the twist is released a rush of fresh blood enters the organs, rejuvenating and purifying them. In addition, spinal twists increase our awareness of Sushumna, the primary channel of energy running through the center of the spinal chord.

Twisting postures include movements where we rotate the torso along the vertical accesses of the spine, and can be gentle and restorative or deep and invigoration. Regardless of the intensity of the action we must keep a few principles in mind to keep the spine safe. The first principle is to firmly ground your foundation, especially on the opposite side from which you are twisting. In whatever direction we twist, we need an oppositional counterweight to stabilize the body, creating a stretch or strengthening effect on the intended muscles around the spine.

The second principle is to continuously lengthen the spine from the tailbone to the crown of the head. Lengthening the spine is an important part of maintaining safe alignment of the vertebral joints. Particularly in seated and standing twits the tendency is to collapse forward, which can cause uneven pressure on the vertebral disks or pinch vertebral nerves. It is much easier to start with a tall spine and gradually deepen the twist rather than twist too far and then try to lengthen the spine. If you have a history of herniated disks this is a rule you must follow!

The third principle is to initiate the twist internally, at the base of the spine with the abdominal muscles and feel the peripheral body follow this movement, rather than forcing the spine into a twist with the arms or shoulders. Both lengthening the spine and initiating the twist internally can be aided with our subtle awareness of Sushumna, the line of energy running through the spinal chord.

Sushumna is considered the channel for awakening of spiritual consciousness and the conduit for Kundalini energy (the ultimate aim of Yoga). The energy moving through Sushumna always travels upwards, originating in the first chakra a the base of the tailbone/sacrum, and traveling up through each of the seven charkas until it moves out through the top of the head at the crown chakra. While twisting feel this energy traveling up your spinal chord, creating space and height, and centering your mind.

Finally, twists give us great insight into the ever-important relationship of breath moving through our body. Inhalations will aid in lengthening the spine while exhalations will aid in deepening the twist and compression of the abdomen. Remember, if you’re not breathing your not doing yoga. If the twist restricts your breath too much, back off a bit and allow the muscles to slowly open. If you’re patient you’ll find you can deepen the twist and maintain smooth, even breathing and find a steady and comfortable pose.

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