Have you ever considered or observed the natural movement of the human form while walking or jogging? Do you notice the often subtle shifting of the upper body and/or the lower body while in motion that seems to replicate subtle twisting-like movement from side-to-side? When the body is functioning optimally in a walking or jogging pattern the body rotates. When the left leg comes forward in stride the right arm moves forward with it (the left arm rotates back to do this). This rotation is a natural occurrence in a body that is unhindered from tension, stress or stiffness.
Chronic compression of the vertebrae accompanied with an extended (over-arched) spine for hours, weeks, months or years is a guaranteed way to slowly limit the necessary twisting mechanics of the body while in motion. Sedentary lifestyles, poor posture, previous untreated injuries and anatomically misaligned chairs at work, home or in the car can all be contributors to chronic compression of the spine. The results of which invite lower back pain, degenerative discs, arthritis, stiffness, poor breathing mechanics and tension into our lives. These issues can progress further to constipation, poor circulation, fatigue, numbness or tingling in the lower extremities, to name a few. That is a lot of problems resulting from one area! So, how do we decompress the spine and ease the workload put on to the back?
Stretching, as well as regular exercise, is a great way to experience relief from acute and chronic lower back pain brought on from sitting, say, at your work desk or at home. Twists have been used to target the trunk area and are particularly useful in stretching deep back muscles close to the spine and the superficial outermost layers of muscles running along the entire back. From a yogic perspective, twists are beneficial in relieving constipation, increasing energy levels as well as massaging and stimulating the internal organs to improve function. Twists can vary in intensity and bring about a present-focused awareness on the body, our posture and the breath. Dynamic twists versus longer-held twists can offer different results including diaphragmatic strengthening and core work.
When performing any variation of a twist it is CRUCIAL that your spine be as lengthened as much as possible. Keeping the spine long ensures that the vertebrae are spaced as far from each in order to maintain maximal space in between the discs. Without this space, the vertebrae are compressed; and compression within a twist will only increase negative symptoms and lead to further damage. Try these twists below to decompress the spine, increase energy levels, strengthen the core and diaphragm, all while stretching the entire trunk:
Seated upright twist — static hold
Sit up tall at the front of your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Inhale to lengthen the spine upwards and exhale to twist the torso to the right. Place your left hand on your right thigh, and your right hand on the seat or back of the chair. Hold this position for 5 slow breaths; inhaling to reach the top of the head higher, and exhaling to twist deeper without forcing yourself. Repeat on the left.
Spinal decompression — dynamic twist
Stand with your feet hip-width apart or just wider. Bend your knees slightly and place your hands on the thighs, straightening the arms firmly. Sink the hips down but keep the chest upright. Feel a ‘hollowness’ in the abdomen as your spine feels ‘suspended’ between the shoulders and hips. Inhale, lengthening the spine. Exhale and drop the right shoulder towards the left knee without collapsing the upper body. Inhale back upright, and exhale the left shoulder to the right knee. Repeat for 10 rounds on each side.
Want to learn more about exercising with diabetes? Read “Add Movement to Your Life,” “The Health Benefits of Walking,” and “Picking the Right Activity to Meet Your Fitness Goals.”