Author Archives: Laura Mary

Aloha Yogis,

I feel our greatest power in life is choice. No matter what is happening around us, we can always choose how we perceive and react. In fact, no one but you can determine what you choose to think. You can choose to believe in miracles. You can choose to have faith in the goodness of others. Seeing the goodness in others isn't always easy, sometimes this is a challenge. I know some of you are reading this and nodding knowingly! 

Simply by not assuming malice in others, and rather, looking for goodness in others, you invoke those qualities in the world (of goodness that is). If we believe in the goodness of the people we interact with, they will be much more likely to show you that goodness.

Our thoughts become things.

For instance, when you believe in the possibility of miracles...they start to happen.

Gosh, the power of the mind is the coolest thing. The best part is that we can always change our mind. None of our thoughts are set in stone. Remember, the brain is plastic!

I hope you can join me for yoga class tomorrow (Sunday) at 8am (HST). Email info@lauramarylinlsey.com to join, I would love to have you in class. Class is donation-based (Venmo: @LauraMary-Flynn).


I believe in miracles,

LM

Aloha Yogis,

Another 2020 fitting intention: I pave my own way.

The desire to fit in and conform to societal norms has always driven American culture, juxtaposed to the desire for individualism. What an uphill battle we are in: needing and wanting to fit in and be well liked, yet, simultaneously trying to make a name for ourselves. It is a dance of proportions. Too much individualism and we stand out (not in a preferred way), too little and we aren’t successful.

If you’ve lost me, all good, I’ll explain. I may or may not be liked by everyone. As a yoga teacher, this was once a really hard pill to swallow. I’ve learned this lesson though, and it takes so much pressure off of everything I do.

Along those same lines…not everyone will:
            1) see things in the same way I do
            2) feel what I feel
            3) think what I think

Okay, so knowing this, why do I feel such anguish by the political divide in our country? I should know better. Well the pain I feel is caused by me, and the belief that others should experience 1, 2, and 3. And they don’t, so now what?

Step 1 - Identify the source of the anguish (self-inflicted).
Step 2 – Make a commitment to yourself (validate your truth).
Step 3 – Pave your own way (create the future YOU desire).

The political divide in our country and the associated anguish I feel related to this is simply a microcosm of what I am getting at here. We all feel anguish over one thing or another, usually it involves people. We create stories related to the anguish, and we can forget our truths and even lose sight of our purpose. On top of that, we might still be balancing the desire to fit in with the need to simultaneously carve out a niche for ourselves. 

Remember, the story in your head was created by you. Let’s take steps to empower our story.

Yes, the anguish, the stress, the 'what if' thoughts - all founded by you. You can also be the founder of your own commitments and declarations, vision, and future.

For instance, I commit to living my authentic truth, even though at times it feels like a solitary journey (enter, future anguish). In some ways, there is clarity, for example, I have no desire to fit in with really any of the modern societal norms (i.e. Instagram Influencer Culture, fewf). However, it is a challenge to not listen and take to heart everyone’s input on what I ‘should’ do.

But here’s the thing, everything depends on you finding your own place in the world. Truly, everything depends on you uncovering your purpose. You are your best, in everything, when you are authentic.

As my matriculation approaches, I feel lots of pressure to ‘figure it all out’ and I haven’t yet. I will follow my own interests, practice vision meditation, and choose future directions that feel ‘right’ for me. And concurrently take action! Not action on some future date or once I have my vision all perfect, now. It’s not enough to just dream and manifest, get moving.

I trust that I will pave my own way. Thanks to a keen eye for discernment, the right attitude, and lots of years of school, I am paving.

Join me tomorrow morning (Sunday) at 8am (HST). Email info@lauramarylinsley.com to join, I would love to have you in class. Class is donation-based (Venmo: @LauraMary-Flynn).

Daring to be different,

LM

Aloha Yogis,

Inertia is the tendency of an object to continue movement in whatever direction it's moving in, unless it is introduced to a counterforce. This idea of inertia has me thinking about choosing to be a counterforce.

To be honest, I love reading the New York Times every day, but 2020 feels so heavy and the news so morbid. It is filled with negative energy. Which is why I decided to take a little news hiatus. I realize this was a choice, and probably a privileged choice at that, but the momentum of the negativity felt contagious.

Which is why, I want to instead be a counterforce. I want to consciously and proactively participate in a counterforce to the world's despair.

I choose to consciously participate in the world's transformation.

Above is a picture of one my happy places, a place that stirs up feelings of peace and love. This is probably our favorite hike on Oahu, we've done it countless times. When I think of positive imagery, the one above comes to mind: my little family hiking together at our favorite spot.

I guess I began thinking about energy and interaction and how I don't want to be a contributing factor to someone's day feeling hard. I want to make the people around me feel better. The only way I can do that is if I properly take care of myself. Mind my own energy. Because it is contagious. We can feel each other's energy, in person, of course, but even over the phone or Zoom.

It's important work. Being a counterforce, that is.

When enough of us...

  • love -> fear dissolves.
  • find peace in our hearts -> war ends.
  • stand on what we know to be true -> falsehoods no longer hold sway.

I want to live in that world. Here is the thing, I can only control my own energy. It does nothing to think with anticipatory dread about wanting to change someone else. Hopefully, in some small way, my thoughts and actions bring us closer to "enough of us" because "I'm in."

Join me tomorrow morning (Sunday) at 8am (HST). Email me at info@lauramarylinsley to join, I would love to have you in class. Class is donation-based (Venmo: @LauraMary-Flynn).

See you tomorrow!

LM

Aloha Yogis,

This weeks intention: What I appreciate appreciates.

With so much hardship all around us this year, it is easy to get overwhelmed in the stress of it. Swallowed with worry, if you will.

Let's not forget all of the blessings that we already have in our lives. Let's appreciate these blessings. My practice this week is to not take any of it for granted, and to receive each daily blessing with a humble heart.

Here is my short list: Because I woke up today, because I have clean air to breathe, a roof over my head, an amazing husband, a family that loves me, and lifelong sister-friends. Because I have a healthy pup, and the opportunity to better myself with years of education as I work towards my PhD. Because I have my health, because I have this life...and the list goes on.

I appreciate my own abundance. And this acknowledgement of my abundance will cause it to increase. What I appreciate appreciates. As a brand new week approaches, I hope to be used. Sunday, use me up.

I know that others are living in pain and I want to be useful to help the healing of others, to attenuate their suffering. Let's appreciate - our own abundance - and so that we might increase our own abundance. Because when our cups are full we can be used for greater good. So with that, week: please use me up. 

Join me tomorrow morning (Sunday) at 8am (HST). Email me to join at info@lauramarylinsley.com, I would love to have you in class. Class is donation-based (Venmo: @LauraMary-Flynn).

See you tomorrow!

LM

Aloha Yogis,

I think it is very fitting that the final academic class of my career is titled "exercise prescription" - this simply fits. Exercise is medicine. I am in this business to help people. I am a student in this discipline to learn more about how to help people. And I hope I have helped you all, in some way or another. If you are needing the motivation to get moving, I am here for you. Pop into class tomorrow and move your body for 75 minutes. You will feel better.

Exercise and movement, really is a prescription for health. Here are the physical activity-related health benefits for the general population of adults:

Source: Exercise is Medicine.

Sign me up. Unfortunately, 36% of adults engage in no leisure time physical activity. We are supposed to engage in either 150-minutes of moderate physical activity/week or 75-minutes of vigorous physical activity/week. I know, COVID-19 makes things tough. There is a lot you could do from the comfort of your home. For example, yoga with me online (live on Sunday mornings or via youtube), or from one of the many instructors who are teaching online! 

You could do a series of planks and push-ups, add in some balance work and core too. You want to be sure to get your heart rate up though. I need to complete a project this semester for my exercise prescription class and I am thinking of tailoring the project to COVID-19 restrictions. Meaning, I will address issues on how to motivate folks to work out, how to improve adherence to the exercise plan, how to build it properly and safely, all for an at home setting. The entire plan will be evidence-based, and you just might learn more about it in my emails!

You guys are all the experts now. You've been working out at home for six months. I would LOVE to hear from you with any and all of your ideas for this project (tips, tricks, advice, home gym hacks, motivation ideas, adherence, etc.).

Unfortunately, exercise scientists are very aware that the American College of Sports Medicine recommendations do fall a bit short, in that they don't recommend balance work. Balance work is particularly important as we age. We lose our ability to balance, which continues to decline unless we work on it. If we don't work on our balance, it can lead to falls and other issues from there. 

Yoga, the fitness multivitamin.

As far as workouts for health go, yoga is in many ways a safety net catch-all. Yoga is analogous to a multivitamin, but for fitness. We practice so many key movements and challenge our body in various ways, build mobility, strength, cardiorespiratory fitness, and more. Chances are if in your other workouts you've missed some key component of your fitness, you will hit it in your yoga practice.

If I haven't convinced you to get moving and join me for a yoga class yet, now is your chance. I teach every Sunday morning at 8am (HST). Email me for the link to join, I would love to have you in class. Class is donation-based (Venmo: @LauraMary-Flynn).

See you tomorrow!

LM

Happy ALOHA Friday,

Sometimes when things feel hectic, wild, and crazy, you just gotta step outside and look up. It can be that simple, where fresh air and palm trees is all you need.

Take a mindful moment.

Leave the stresses, give your mind and body a true break. And then go back as you were with a refreshed perspective. One that is less inclined to have a knee jerk reaction. Where you will also be more thoughtful in your work and interactions.

Physically, your breath rate will decrease and it might even feel like you've removed a weighted vest. Cognitively, your thinking will be clearer. Emotionally, your mood will be lifted. Spirits? Well, those will feel restored. And how about that once impossible to solve problem? It will now feel possible.

Who should practice mindfulness?

We all benefit from mindfulness. It’s no longer just for the yogis, this is for corporate executives, bankers, athletes, store clerks, scientists, surgeons, your mother, your brother, this is human work.

When we approach our lives holistically from an open mind perspective, the world truly shifts around us. No matter one’s background, we are drawn to grounded individuals. And we are grounded when we are mindful.

I’ve experienced firsthand the personal growth that follows this adoption of a mindfulness practice. My introduction to this way of conscious living was in an academic course at Skidmore College. We practiced yoga, mindful eating, walking meditations, and so on. In any case, it was my very first introduction to the practice of being intentional in the way I live.

What followed was years of working in the hospital and academic research world, many years of yoga practice and teaching, and more schooling than any one person should ever go through. I’ve learned a lot about the body and brain, and the way they work together.

And as complex as my research work can be, one simple truth is that we can all implement effective mindfulness practices, right now.

1. Step outside, look up.
2. Hold that image in your mind.
3. Take several deep breaths.

Taken together, the sunlight or starlit sky, the breaths, the fresh air, the pause in your routine, will calm down your nervous system, your mind and body. Even if you can’t pause and step outside, hold an image in your mind. Make the vision as complete as you can, imagining all the sensations of the moment. Breathe into it.

In a time where we are all cooped up inside, this simple break is even more impactful. I love the work of my friends at Yoga Ed., who bring these practices to life in an accessible way for children.

I shudder to think about the unknown impacts from shelter in place orders and virtual classrooms. I know we are all doing our best, but let’s be better. Implement a mindful moment in your day.

The fall semester begins next Monday, I am teaching academic courses and I will definitely be implementing some mindfulness practices in teaching.

Personally, I crave those mindful moments. My husband is always joking with me about how I enjoy silence. Don't get me wrong, I love music, but I need pockets of silence in my day too.

Chaos breeds opportunity. Cheers to the year 2020, and the growth mindset mentality.

Deep breaths,

LM

Choose Happiness

Aloha Yogis,

I am out of my academic conference bubble, with a very unconventional piece for you today. Well, sort of, in content yes, but in the thesis of my message no. 

Be your best, now.

This should always be what we are striving for, but COVID-19 has reinforced this message more than ever. 

As a public health professional, I feel it's my duty to share some information with you. It seems like a massive public health oversight that known behaviors to promote a healthy immune system aren’t being discussed. We are bombarded with only disempowering news. Day in and day out, we hear COVID is on the rise, no vaccine is ready yet, more deaths due to COVID, and yet no where in the flood of negativity is there a positive takeaway.

And yes, a positive thread of news shouldn't simply be included for mood and morale balancing purposes, but there are actual steps we could all take today to improve our overall health. COVID aside there are behaviors that foster a strong immune system. These practices are even more important right now, considering that we are all living through a pandemic. 

What does the data say?

The evidence is more and more tipping towards the second theory of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality, which is the ‘immunologic collapse’ of the host’s protective system, or the failure to control unrestrained viral replication and dissemination with direct host cytotoxicity. Support for this theory emerged based upon observed progressive and profound lymphopenia (I will explain below, keep reading), often to numbers seen in AIDS.

What are these terms? Lymphocytes?

White blood cells are an important part of the body's defense system. They fight infections and play a role in inflammation, as well as in allergic reactions. Lymphocytes exist in both the blood and the lymphatic system.

There are three different types:

  1. B lymphocytes (B cells) produce antibodies.
  2. T lymphocytes (T cells) recognize foreign substances and process them for removal.
  3. Natural killer cells (NK cells) directly attack and kill abnormal cells such as cancer cells or viruses.

What is lymphopenia?

This is a reduced amount of white blood cells in your blood. During an infection, such as COVID-19, white blood cells attack, attach to, and help induce the production and secretion of chemicals that help fight the virus. An important pathogenic mechanism of COVID-19 is impaired immune competence.

Considering the recently published data on COVID-19 and the immune system, shouldn’t we be reading about ways to proactively bolster our immune systems? The reality is we may get COVID. Hopefully not, but if we do, we all want to beat it, right? We want our body to be in peak form, so we have the ability to fight the virus, right? 

Immune System Strengthening 101:

1. Get enough sleep.

2. In the words of Michael Pollen, “eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Personally, I eat a lot. It is all veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes, etc. If you splurge on non-plant foods, follow the ‘not too much’ rule of thumb. 

3. Drink water, a lot of it, often, and especially first thing in the morning. 

4. Exercise. Light to moderate exercise seems to do the trick. 

5. Related to #4, stand up every hour. We are all on Zoom every day, which makes it easy to stay seated and not move. Be sure to get up and walk around every hour, do 30-seconds of squats or push-ups, or if all you can do in the moment is stand, stand! Avoid sedentary behavior, standing up will help move lymph, facilitate blood flow and muscle contraction. 

6. Get your vitamin D. There is already evidence associating optimal vitamin D levels to better COVID outcomes. We need vitamin D, always, but especially right now.

7. Calm the nervous system. Practice yoga, meditate, sit quietly, journal, etc.

8. I am not a huge supplement advocate, but it is a good time to take a multivitamin, just in case you are missing something from your diet. 

My thesis also happens to be my life mantra: be your best, now. Love yourself like you love your family and friends. I can help with a few items on the list above, if you want to join me “live” tomorrow for my Sunday Yoga Flow, I would LOVE to see you!

Stay healthy,

LM

P.S. email me for the recent publications on this topic.

Aloha Yogis!

Happy August, oh my, we have made it so far in this quarantine struggle. I hope you are staying healthy, happy, and are making the most of this time. True story I have about 1,000 blog post ideas these days from muscle cramping to the benefits of downdog for shoulder health to the benefits of apple cider vinegar for overall health, but most of my time is spent hunkering down and writing all about the brain for my dissertation.

In my Goal Chaser Series this Summer, one of my students asked me what my goals were, and truthfully, they are all academic this year.

Mission: write the damn dissertation, publish, and graduate!

In other news, I am presenting next week at the American Society of Biomechanics Annual Meeting. The conference was supposed to be in Atlanta, GA but it is now virtual, thanks COVID-19. I am really excited to attend, and even more thrilled to present.

I am presenting my work on a processing paper I’ve written with some colleagues. It is actually quite technical. Initially, I thought it was beyond the scope of my knowledge, but I am grateful that I challenged myself to learn the intricacies of processing.

Here is the gist: I processed the biomechanical outputs of two of the “hottest” variables (knee adduction moment and dynamic knee varus angle) on the same nine patients in four different ways. One of the processing methods yields wildly different outcomes compared to the other three. Clinically, this is confusing.

Why should anyone care, you say?

The paper speaks to the need for authors to specify their data processing methodology, because processed one way it would appear the surgery was a huge failure; however, processed the other three ways it appears the surgery was an immediate and long term success. Because with total knee arthroplasty, clinical decisions are made based on the outcomes of biomechanical analyses, it is actually some important work!

Don't researchers always think their work is important though?

Don't worry, I am not oblivious to this truth. Needless to say, my mind is deeply steeped in the research world right now, I will let you know how the presentation goes! In the meantime, I am still recording yoga classes, but have run into a minor YouTube upload hiccup. If any tech readers want to lend a hand, I am all ears! Hopefully, I have more classes for you soon! It has been fun hearing from those of you who have taken my online classes! I definitely recommend the Foundations Yoga Class for beginners! I will include the link below.

As always, if you would like to join me “live” tomorrow for my Sunday Yoga Flow, I would LOVE to see you! It is seriously the best start to the week, sweating out all the worries on the yoga mat. Looking forward to tomorrow's big exhale.

Until tomorrow,

LM

P.S. this is a photo of me with all of our 31 retroreflective markers on as we were going to collect some pilot data.

Aloha Yogis,

Happy Saturday! Admittedly, my academic year has already taken ahold of my schedule. With it, I feel a lot of stress to get things done. I know I am in good company with these feelings. Which is why I wanted to reach out to you and share what I do to spark productivity and maintain happiness in busy/hectic times, enter my non-negotiables list. That's right, my tip is to make a list. Figure out what it is you need in your day in order to live into the best version of yourself.

I have a few non-negotiables, that I know I need in my day. I fit them in, no excuses, as it is better for myself and all of those around me!

Here is my non-negotiables list:

1) morning oil pulling - once you start, you can't go back. it feels so clean and rejuvenating. ultimate reset.
2) journaling - anything, free flow, check in, let it out, inspire yourself.
3) coffee - need I say more? sometimes I do hot chocolate (yes, even in Hawaii).
4) healthy food/plenty of water - all the fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, I eat a lot.
5) vitamin D from sunlight - enter endorphins, energy, essential vitamins, circadian rhythm reset.
6) outdoor running - cardiorespiratory health, fresh air, and that vitamin D (again).
7) yoga - moving my body every day of this life, because I want to maintain my ROM and feel good, always. I also like to get that lymph flowing, blood flowing, and again, endorphins.
8) standing up every hour - typically included - 30-60 seconds of squats (true story, even at 11pm. last stand hour of the day, you get me?).
9) time with my Derek - this one, is so important. I love him dearly, but we are both busy people. we are better together, and quality time with him makes me better, period.
10) quiet time with candles - is there anything quite like a dimly lit room with a delicious smelling candle? just the imagery of this brings me inspired peace.
11) reading in bed - generally reading everything these days, I ended up purchasing kindle unlimited over quarantine.

These are my resets, this is what I need.

While I didn't intend to make this list in the chronological order of how my non-negotiables fall in my day, it ended up following the actual order. To be clear, I know I will be okay, if one of these 11 items doesn't happen. However, I generally hit all of these in a day, or at least try to. One day per week, I don't run, but I usually have to push myself not to run!

I've communicated this list to my husband, he knows this list as well. Which is helpful, because he can check in with me when I've been sitting at my computer all day and say, 'hey, did you get outside yet?'

Different from the "shift-list"

In the goal chaser series I lead, I have the students make a "shift-list" - they write out effective ways in which they can shift back into living their values. We all go 'below the line' at times, meaning we lose sight of our values in a moment (ie being short with someone) and we are reactive. It might be that we are thirsty, tired, in need of alone time, you name it. 

Write your own non-negotiables list - you are that important.

Shift-list aside, I am suggesting that you write a list of non-negotiables. In other words, this is not the list to get you to shift when you need to be pulled back above the line, but rather, this is a list of your essentials. You want to check these boxes everyday - they are preventative. Your list will help you stay restored. Make your own list, because each of us will have different items.

The older I get, the more effective this list has become. It's a really helpful tool, a non-negotiables list. A composed list signifies that you know, and love yourself enough, to honor what you simply need in order to show up fully in a moment, again and again. I hope you can make a list that has you jumping out of bed in the morning, for real! 

I would love to hear from you! Feel free to reply to this email and share some of your non-negotiables with me.

Cheers to endorphins, coffee, and 11pm squats,

LM

Twists

ALOHA yogis!

Everyone loves a twisting class. I want to share some thoughts on the practice of twisting with you. I definitely don’t want to make baseless claims that lack scientific evidence, but for teachers and students alike it is always an interesting practice between trusting what you feel in your body over what the Western medical evidence for yoga benefits might reveal. There is a major lack of research in this area, at least on a larger scale. I studied yoga benefits in grad school but only for a small cohort of around 30 yogis.

Let’s dive deeper into the topic of twists: the alignment, benefits, contraindications, and myths.

What is physically happening in a twist? The action of twisting, rotates the spine and helps to stretch the muscles throughout the back body. A safe twisting practice will help to restore the spine’s natural range of motion. If we don’t continue to practice finding our spine’s natural range of motion, we could, not surprisingly, lose some of that mobility, our joints may harden or even fuse. The supportive muscles around the spine can also become shortened, however, if we practice daily twists we can hopefully maintain full mobility and function.

There are some really important fundamentals of twisting, and the most important is the action of lengthening the spine before adding any physical rotation or twist. The inhale breath coincides with the action of lengthening so as to create space between the vertebrae. When there is little space or length between vertebrae the spine may slump or have a pinching sensation. Additionally, the sushumna nadis lies along the spine, our major channel of energy flow, through all 7-chakras or our "bulbs" of energy. If there is a stop in the flow of our energy, it’s no bueno for our state of mind, we might feel our energy levels drop, or even our mood. A twist on your yoga mat will help you lengthen your spine and eventually create space between the bones, so that our energy can flow more efficiently through our sushumna nadis. The immediate benefit from a twist is energy as we safely lift and decompress the vertebrae.

I love to sequence twists throughout a yoga practice, but especially at the end of a more focused class, such as a workshop on back-bending or forward folds. Twists are neutralizing postures, as they engage your core, abdominals, obliques, and the synergistic muscles that support different movements of your spine, shoulders, pelvis, and neck. Twists are a whole body effort. Be very wary if you enter a twist without a long spine and or without steady breathing, it means that something is off.

Now for the piece I really want to cover, do twists really aid in digestion? You’ve probably heard in class after class, twists are “detoxifying,” “great for digestion,” “cleaning your insides,” or maybe even “wringing out your internal organs,” etc. Before or after a big food holiday, such as Thanksgiving, you will definitely see a twisting class up on the schedule. What do all of these claims actually mean? And are they claims or truth? Twists create movement through our torso, including, in and around our organs, so they do help speed things up in terms of digestion by encouraging our food along.

BKS Iyengar believed that twists are detoxifying because of the squeeze and soak action. The organs of detoxification and elimination are compressed pushing out old blood, when we release the twist fresh blood can flow in. This is widely accepted in the yoga world, but like many things in life, there is some healthy debate on this topic.

Others suggest that the concept of the ‘squeeze and soak’ action is not that accurate. “Twists do affect our mobility (movement of organs in relation to each other) and our motility (movement within an organ). However a number of factors are involved in stimulation of our organs” (Yoga Anatomy, Matthews).

It would be safe to say that twists help stimulate circulation to our organs, including our organs of elimination, which in turn can help stimulate our metabolism and rate of excretion.

Perhaps twists aren’t literally “wringing out the internal organs” just as in a backbends aren’t literally “opening your heart” but there is a grain of truth to both metaphors as we certainly feel energetic releases to the organs of that particular area and they can be helpful guiding metaphors for us on our mats, to deeply connect to the posture and its intention.

I usually start off every class by asking my students if they have any requests, and one of my students always says, “well, you know I am pro-twists, as always!” (I adore her). After a long day at the office, sitting, traveling, just living, here are some good reasons to insert twists into your daily life. Twists stimulate circulation, they create heat, release tension in the muscles of the spine, abdomen and rib cage which has a carryover effect of helping the other systems in the body work effectively. 

There are countless twisting postures and they could be seated, standing, or supine. A supine twist stabilizes the upper body, therefore allowing the twist to happen through the lower spine by rotating the pelvis and legs. Be sure to draw your belly in and keep both shoulders grounded. In a seated or standing twist we must both ground ourselves and lengthen through the spine, draw your belly up and in so as to stabilize the pelvis and low back. If seated root down through the sitting bones and if your back rounds, prop yourself up onto a bolster, blanket, or block to maintain the natural length and curvature of your spine before adding in a twist.

Both students and teachers should be aware that different parts of the spine have different ranges of mobility. Knowing this takes some self-imposed pressure off of yourself that you “should be” somewhere you are not or quite frankly somewhere you will never be. Your body will tell you where you need to be, but if that isn’t good enough, know that anatomically your spine will have varying degrees of mobility. The lumbar spine rotates only about 5 degrees, the thoracic spine rotates about 35 degrees, and the cervical spine rotates about 50 degrees. Practice very mindfully, and work the whole spine into your twist, with all of its degrees of mobility, be patient and kind to yourself. Start with the low body, and work your way on up, allow your neck to twist very last.

If your body is restricting a movement, don’t force it, breathe, be present, listen to your body’s wisdom and adapt your posture.

There is also some debate about what is going on in the pelvis and hips in your twist. Some yoga instructors will say the hips should be completely level or if seated, that the sitting bones should be completely fixed to the floor in a twist. This would make for a deeper twist in the more mobile areas of the spine, ie thoracic. However, if you are doing this rather than just engage your quads, you must really draw the thigh bones into the hip sockets. Because the other school of thought is that it is easier on the SI joint to let the opposite hip to the side you are twisting lift slightly, and this is a much more natural movement for the body. As you know, hips are not only the largest joint, but it is a big area of injury for yogis. Twists are contraindicated if you are pregnant! Skip the twisting portion of class if you are pregnant. There are other modifications you can take if you are a mama-to-be!

If you are in a twist, aligned well, comfortable through the hips, shoulders, etc., you might be ready to deepen your expression with a bind. Twists open the back, shoulders, and chest nicely. Let’s cover binding on another day. Let your takeaways today be: listen to your body, breathe, lengthen through your spine before adding any rotations, and stay present.

Happy Twisting,

LM