Let's Twist Again

Mobility and flexibility are the key to staying young, avoiding injury and making the most of daily life, but they are the classic examples of the rule of ‘use it or lose it’. You don’t have to be a senior citizen to find that out. Spinal mobility is an issue for anyone who works at a keyboard. The good news is that you don’t have to leave that keyboard to do something about it.

Seated on a chair, put your arms out straight, then bend them at the elbow so they cross in front of you like a Russian dancer with each hand flat, extended and parallel to the floor. One hand rests on top of the other elbow, the second hand is under the elbow of the first. Slide the shoulder blades back and down, and extend the neck as if that string was running through your spine and out the top of your head pulling you upwards.

Scoop the stomach, park the pelvis and without moving the pelvis at all start breathing out, pivot the spine and head together slowly through 90 degrees so you are facing sideways. You should count five seconds to complete the move, breathing out smoothly all the while. Breathe in and return for the same count, then breathe out again and do the same to the other side. Six to ten twists to each side will help stretch and work the oblique muscles down the sides of your torso, and maintain the mobility of your spine while tensing the transverses for good measure.

As an alternative you can extend the arms straight out to each side for the movement (be careful not to take out any desk lamps/potted plants/co-workers as you twist) to work the obliques a little harder and emphasis the movement. If you do that you will also add to the work done by the shoulders so it’s important to ensure that they don’t hunch up. Although it feels as if all of the work is being done by the upper body, this also brings in the lower body which is working unseen as it stabilizes the pelvis to stop it from turning with your torso. By focusing on sliding the shoulders back it also helps open up the chest and encourages you to breathe deeply. All this means it can be a nifty little stress buster into the bargain. Ideally the move should be combined with some lateral stretching, to get all-round spine movement and stretch the muscles of the ribcage.

Here's an idea for you...
The idea of having a full glass in each hand is a sure way of ensuring you’re twisting smoothly and evenly, particularly if the glass happens to be full to the brim of precious liquid. If you do perform twists with anything in your hands, be particularly careful to slide your shoulder blades back and down. Otherwise you can end up using the shrugging muscles to help do the work and that creates tension in the neck.

A slightly more common (but ultimately less fulfilling) prop is the simple pole or broom handle. Place the pole on the shoulders behind the back of the neck, with your elbow in front and beneath it and your wrists wrapped around so they rest on each end. You should look a little as if you’d been put in the stocks. Turning this way helps keep your arms and shoulders in line, and makes it much easier to feel the pivot at the hips and so keep the pelvis out of the movement.

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From Power-up Pilates by Steve Shipside

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