170
THE ASANAS
Floor
This relaxing spinal twist is often done at the end of
a yoga class to calm your nervous system. Cultivate a
sense of groundedness by releasing your body weight
down into the oor. Find ease to activate the rejuvenating
“rest and digest” part of your nervous system.
SUPINE TWIST
Supta Matsyendrasana
Thighs
Although you may feel some
sensation in your bottom thigh,
allow it to be passive. On your top
thigh, your hip abductors and
quadriceps stretch. Allow your
knee to drop down until you feel a
comfortable stretch across your hip
and torso into your opposite arm.
THE BIG PICTURE
This pose stretches muscles along your spine, including the
small muscles that rotate it. Your shoulders, glutes, and thigh
muscles are also stretching, though elsewhere in your body
your muscles should be as relaxed as possible.
Particularly
relax inner
thighs
Both
shoulders
on ground
Palm up to
feel energized,
down to feel
grounded
Look away
from knees if
comfortable
Relax all muscles
completely
ALIGNMENT
Release completely to gravity, feeling your bones
dropping down. If your shoulders or knee cant
completely release, feel free to use a blanket
or bolster for support.
Foot and lower
leg relaxed
Rectus femoris
Gluteus maximus
Knee
Iliotibial band
Vastus lateralis
Gluteus medius
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171
Arms
Try to relax your arms and
shoulders completely. You may rest
one arm on your top knee; this
forearm can rest in supination or
pronation, depending on which
feels more comfortable.
Torso
On the side your head is
turning toward (model’s left
in this image), your external
abdominal obliques and
semispinalis stretch. On
the side your knee is
dropping toward (model’s
right in this image), your
internal abdominal
obliques stretch.
Neck
As your cervical spine
passively releases to gravity,
you stretch muscles on the
downward side (model’s left in
this image), including your
rotatores, multidus,
semispinalis cervicis, and
sternocleidomastoid. On
the upward-facing side,
your splenius capitis,
splenius cervicis, and
upper trapezius
are stretching.
VARIATION
To challenge your balance and stretch
your hip external rotators without lying
down, try raising one knee and pulling
it gently across your body.
Hand grasps
opposite knee
Hips facing
forward
Shoulder
drops back
KEY
Joints
Muscles
Engaging
Engaging while
stretching
Stretching
External abdominal obliques
Pectoralis major
Spine
Internal abdominal obliques
Sternocleidomastoid
Upper trapezius
Splenius muscles
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172
SUPINE TWIST
Supta Matsyendrasana
CLOSER LOOK
For many, Supine Twist is a safe way to do
spinal rotation with ease. Wiggle into the
pose and use props like a blanket until you
find a pain-free position.
Perceived pain pathway
Imagine two signals like trains simultaneously traveling
to your brain: the red train pathway carries a signal that
could be perceived as painful (nociceptive), and the green
train pathway carries a signal that could be perceived as
pleasurable. The green train is faster, reaching your brain
rst, possibly overriding nociceptive signals. This is called
the gate theory of pain.
Brain receives
faster signal first,
interpreting pleasure
Spinal cord carries
signals to brain
Gravity compresses
disks
Lighter load
on disks
Nerves transmit
potential pain and
pleasure signals
Spine safety
Supine Twist can be safer than seated or standing twists
by changing the orientation of the impact of gravity on
your intervertebral disks and spine. Also, spinal exion
often occurs with upright twists and the combination of
rotation and exion increases the risk of spinal issues.
Try using a blanket,
pillow, or bolster under
this knee for support
Arms are passive
Allow gravity to
stretch your neck
Head is resting
and turned to side
Elbow is soft
and relaxed
Pectoral muscle
stretches
Abdominal obliques
stretch
SUPERIOR–LATERAL VIEW
UPRIGHT LYING DOWN
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173
THE ASANAS
Floor
Pain relief
Bursa are uid lled sacs around
the joint that reduce friction
between joint structures. They
can become inamed, which is
called bursitis. There can be
several causes, but if it is due to
tight muscles around the joint,
gentle stretches like this can help.
During acute stages, however,
you may need to just rest.
10°
7.5°Degrees (0°) 7.5°
10°
23.5°
10° 10°
23.5°
Spinal motion
Notice that your cervical and thoracic spine allow more twisting
action than the lumbar. The shape of your vertebrae in each area
facilitates or limits the amount of movement. Technically, you
won’t have a perfectly even twist. That is a visualization to help
prevent extreme mobility or pinching in any one area. Dierent
segments of your spine allow varying amounts of other motion.
Foot is passive
Foot rests wherever
it is comfortable
Leg is relaxed
and passive
Cervical
(Oc–T1)
Thoracic
(T1–L1)
Lumbar
(L1–S1)
Inflamed
trochanteric bursa
Ligament
This pose stretches
a tight gluteus
medius, which can
press on the bursa
LATERAL MOVEMENT FLEXION AND EXTENSION ROTATIONAL MOVEMENT
Cervical spine
allows most
lateral movement
Greatest
range at
base of spine
Thoracic spine
has variable
capacity for
rotation
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