Twists Part 1: Where Should We Twist?


Hello friends!

I’ve got some fun game-changing information to share with you!  It’s all about our favorite, twisting postures.  Trust me, you’ve never twisted like this before, nor will you be able to twist any other way after.


I hope you’re ready to boogie

Over the next two articles I’ll be introducing you to the concept of

Anti-Rotation or Counter Twisting

Which is more or less fancy biomechanical talk for engaging your back body for better stability and strength in your yoga twists.

Here’s the agenda:

  • Part 1: Anatomy – We’ll look at where twists should occur in the spine
  • Part 2: Counter-Twist Your Twist – A new way to cue and take twists using the backside of your body (less torque, more turn)


This is going to be one of those eye opening type of reads

Where Should Twists Occur?

This has been my new favorite question, because if you ask any yoga teacher, or any article in yoga detailing twists you get the exxxxtreeeeeeemely broad answer: The Spine.


Oh yes, how could I be so daft, the name is after all is Spinal twist *Facepalm*

You may get lucky and see the also pretty vague reference of twisting from the waist.  While not correct, at lease we are now in the ballpark.

For the record, I am in no way calling anyone out, hence the reason why I haven’t referenced any of the above examples.  We are living at the dawn of a whole new era of understanding about the human body, and this information that I’m presenting represents fascial biomechanics and it’s applications to yoga.  Some of this new science reiterates things yoga has known for centuries, like the body is all interconnected via fascia.  Other things like what we know about twists, however, need to be updated and adapted into practice.

So let’s have a quick spinal anatomy refresher before you update your brain into the next plane of existence.

Your spine has a bunch of different parts, all of which do different things given how they are structured.  Check out the curves and refresh on the different areas here:


2 Types of curves: Kyphotic (Thoracic & Sacrum) & Lordotic (Cervical & Lumbar)

“Twists occur in the spine”


Which part!?

To answer that we need to delve a little deeper into spinal biomechanics.  Remember that all motion occurs in 3 planes:

Planes of Motion.jpg

Transverse: Rotation

Frontal: Lateral Flexion (Side bending)

Sagittal: Flexion/Extension (Forward and Back bending)

The Transverse plane and thusly rotation, are the combination of frontal side bending and sagittal flexion and extension.  Because it’s the combination of these movements, it’s where a LOT of your inner strength and power resides.


Power lies in rotation eh?  Kind of gives new credence to the classic evil chair spin

That’s the technical jargon.  Let’s now discuss how each part moves via ROM:


Areas of the spine: Movement they do best

  • Cervical: Lower – Flexion/Extension, Lateral Flexion.  Upper – Rotation
    • Your neck is the most movable part of your spine.  It can engage in all the ranges of motion because it’s how we look around and orient ourselves to our environment.
  • Thoracic: ROTATION
    • Due to ribs the thoracic spine is the most limited in everything, BUT rotation
    • Notice that, aside from C1 and C2, the Thoracic Spine rotates almost as much as your neck!
  • Lumbar: Flexion & Extension
    • Lumbar spines are meant to be stable, hence the reason why they are so thick.  Most spinal flexion and extension also occurs here.
    • NOTE: look at how little it rotates compared to the rest of the spine

So there you have it, twists should occur where the the spine is supposed to rotate,

The Thoracic Spine


From the heart/chest, rather than the waist

Ready for a second mouth opener?

Check back up at that ROM chart.  The common cue: “Twisting from the waist” infers lower-Thoracic to mid-Lumbar (T10-L3-ish).  As you can see the waist has the lowest rotation in the entire spine.


Time to toss that cue

“Twist from the waist”

Let’s Feel It

So know that we know that true rotation occurs in our upper and mid thoracic spine, the next question is how do we cue it, and feel it from there?

It’s actually quite easy, you “Twist from your chest” or “Twist from your heart” you can even get away with “Twisting from the ribs.”

If you think of that space twisting you’ll feel it almost right away.  We want the lumbar spine stable too, to accentuate the Thoracic twist, so how do we keep the Lumbars still?

Squeeze your butt Specifically the butt you’re twisting away from.  Example: If you twist to the right, squeeze your left buttcheek to pull the left side of your body backwards.  (The purpose of your butt is to pull everything back)

Clinical Side note:

It may be really hard to twist from your chest at first.  One of the biggest areas in our body to lose it’s ability to move is your Thoracic spine.  Sitting all day doesn’t help your ability to rotate.  You may need to regain some mobility with thoracic spine mobility drills.

I have a few that I’ve modified into yoga poses that I’ll be posting in the near future.  If you can’t wait feel free to message me, or send me an email and I can detail them to you!

Part 1 Conclusion:

So there you have it.  If you wanted to wrap this whole thing up in one simple sentence it would be:

Twist from the chest/heart, as that is where the spine is supposed to rotate.

Pretty simple.  Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll teach you how to breakdown a twist using fascial slings.  It’s insane what you’re about to learn.  You’ll never torque yourself the same again!

Until next time,

-Dr. YG


5 thoughts on “Twists Part 1: Where Should We Twist?

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