Back pain in yoga? Could twists be the culprit?

Yoga and Back Pain. Are you twisting the right way?

Something to consider….

The importance of your TVA (aka transverse abs) in twisting is crucial to helping you stabilise your core and pelvis. what is your TVA in yoga terms? Uddiyana bandha (upward abdominal lock). If we twist without this active engagement we can compromise the SI joint (sacroiliac joint) in the lower back as well as the large thoracolumbar fascia which runs the length of the spine and connects the shoulder to the opposite hip. So if back pain is an issue for you in your practice this could be why! Are you actively engaging or are you looking for the deepest twist and bind, forsaking stability.

Diagram of transverse abs and pelvic floor. Core stabalizers

Why do we twist?

So why do we twist and what are the benefits? Well, twists create space between the vertebral disks, helping to maintain a healthy range of motion. They aid in healthy digestion. For women they help maintain a healthy reproductive system. They increase fresh blood to internal organs and flush out poor quality blood. They relax the nervous system and release tension.

So lots of benefits if practiced the right way!

This is how I practice engagement …

When we engage the TVA there is the sensation of spreading and expanding across the lower back as we draw up and in through the core of the body, actively lifting from the base of the pelvis into the lower abs, the rib cage is free, engagement is from the belly button down. We want to be drawing and pulling up from the pelvic floor to the crown of the head. You can begin to feel your back broaden and your spine lengthening – the whole central axis of the body begins to feel integrated into one whole, not separate parts. Just one system! The pelvis remains rooted and does not shift back as you move through the twist, it is stable and grounded, the neck long. Do not twist with your eyes… I have heard this in yoga instruction!! A good way to see if you are actively engaging your TVA and pelvic floor is to twist without using your arms as leverage … let it come directly from the core of the body and see where you go without letting the pelvis shift.

Twisting is such a key element of all yoga practices so give this a go, become actively engaged, focus on your bandha, stabilise your core, twist from there. Depth doesn’t matter, being pain free does!!  You will still receive all the benefits and that is what yoga is about… actively maintaining a healthy body and mind both inside and out.