Of the many benefits of spinal twists, the most important in Ananda Yoga are that they:
• Open the breathing.
• Release tensions surrounding the spine.
• Help draw energy up the spine.
Alignment and Technique
In spinal twists, twist evenly throughout the spine and maintain the spine's natural curves as much as possible. This cannot be done perfectly, the structure of the facet joints adds to a twist a slight sideways bend, and vice versa, but nevertheless it should be a direction of one's practice. Keeping the entire spine (including the neck) long throughout the twist will help this happen.
Practice Tips for Spinal Twists
• Thoroughly warm up the hips, pelvis/ spine, neck, and shoulders.
• Begin twists low in the spine and gradually move the twist upward to the neck.
• Move slowly into the twist in stages, keeping the spine (including the neck) long and expanding into the pose, not pushing or pulling yourself into it.
• Use the breath in the same way on both the entry and the exit: inhale and lengthen, exhale and gently rotate. Keep the breath slow, even, and deep.
• Concentrate on the spine as you twist, especially on the tighter areas.
Cautions for Spinal Twists
• Never force a twist by applying excess leverage.
• Contraindications: spinal injuries (herniated discs, pinched nerves, etc.), rib injuries.
• Most twists are contraindicated by hip replacements or easily dislocated hips.