The sixth and final of the 6 abdominal engagements is twisting. Twisting is great for the intervertebral discs of the spine. Their pressure increases when we twist, drawing circulation and nutrition upon release. This is of vital importance for a part of the body that doesn't have its own direct blood supply.
The strongest muscles that the body uses to twist are in the abdomen: the external and internal obliques. These are the muscles to the sides of your 6-pack. The external obliques connect the sides of the ribs to the pelvis and the middle of the body (pictured above left). When we twist to the right (right shoulder goes back), the left external oblique engages along with the right internal oblique. You can feel this as a tightening on the left side of your abdomen as you twist to the right, essentially pulling your left ribs toward the center.
There are also some muscles in the spine that are essential for twisting and dynamic stabilization, the multifidi and the rotatores. They are pictured above right, with the multifidi on the left side of the spine and the rotatores on the right.
DON'T JUST PULL
The biggest mistake we make when twisting is using our arms to pull us, essentially relaxing all the twisting muscles of the body and stretching them. This is beneficial for tight muscles, but it fails to strengthen these vital tissues in any meaningful way. Next time you do any twist, whether it is standing, bending, seated or lying, don't use your arms. Only use your twisting muscles. You won't go as "deep," but the integrity of your movement will improve. You will build functional strength at the same time as you build mobility and flexibility.
This type of muscular action encompasses (starting below, top left) Twisting Triangle, Side (Twisting) Crow, Side (Twisting) Crane, Archer, Reverse Spinal Twist, Seated Spinal Twist
Scott & Ida are Yoga Acharyas (Masters of Yoga). They are the head teachers of Ghosh Yoga. This blog is about their experience with yoga practice, study and teaching.
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