The simplest standing twists combined with bending are the ones discussed in chapter 5 in relation to strengthening the knee joints: you twist in one direction and bend forward and backward from that position; you twist in the other direction and again bend forward and backward; and facing the front you again bend forward and backward. These six bends, done repetitively with the upper extremities in different positions, are excellent whole-body twisting and toning exercises. Using them as a warm-up is also a good preparation for more formal standing postures such as the triangles and the warrior poses.
Here we'll look at the exercises in detail, using the simplest position for the upper extremities, which is grasping the elbows or forearms behind the back. Stand with the feet parallel and as far apart as is comfortable. Keep the kneecaps lifted, the hamstrings strong posteriorly, the adductor muscles firm on the medial aspects of the thighs, and the hips firm. This creates a solid foundation for the postures from which you can be aware of your limits. How far apart you adjust your feet is the single most important feature of the stance. They should be placed as far apart as you can manage and at the same time maintain strength and control in your foundation when you twist and bend. If the feet are too close together you will not feel as if you are getting much exercise from the waist down, and if they are too far apart you can't gather enough strength in the hips and thighs to stabilize the posture. The other general policy is to bend to please yourself. Intermediate and advanced students usually prefer to bend from the hips, but beginners and those who have poor hip and sacroiliac flexibility will find it more natural to bend from the waist. If you have any low back problems. work with extreme caution. Few movements are as hazardous for bad hacks as bending the spine after having twisted it.
Twist right and slowly bend forward. Notice that gravity helps you in Part, but that you have to make an effort to keep from dropping straight to 'he front. Try to find an easy point of equilibrium among muscles, ligaments, and joints that are under stress as gravity pulls you forward.
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Observe that keeping yourself twisted requires that you hold the postur isometrically (fig. 7.17a). Take 3-7 breaths. Slowly come back up, stay twist« and bend backward, keeping the head in line with the torso rather tha 1 thrown excessively to the rear. Be aware of the muscles that are holdii you isometrically in this asymmetric twisted backbend (fig. 7.17b). Create i feeling of lift in the backbend, try to squeeze the hips together, and aga 1 take 3-7 breaths. Keep the knees straight. Slowly come to an upright positii , twist in the other direction, and repeat the forward bend (fig. 7.17c) a d backbend (fig. 7-i7d) on the other side. Come up again, face straight to t e front and again bend forward (fig. 7-i7e) and backward (fig. 7-Yji). Sque< e the hips together to create as much counternutation as possible in all e backbends. In the forward bends, those who have good hip and sacroil ic flexibility will bend from the hips and at least start their bends with nutati n; everyone else—namely those who can't bend easily from the hips—v ill keep their sacroiliac joints in counternutation throughout the series.
Turning to the side in these postures will create a whole-body sw el that includes a pronounced torque in the feet, ankles, legs, knee joints, id thighs, as well as a torque plus a twist in the hip joints, torso, and ni k. You have to keep the feet parallel to get these results; if you allow ther to rotate in the direction of the twist, the entire body swivels around at he hips and you will get little twisting of the vertebral column. The purpc of these exercises is to effect the twist mostly in the hips and chest. Ave ge students in good health may rotate a total of Hoc between the feet ant he shoulders, including about 5" of axial rotation in the ankles, 40' of swi\ ' ng in the hips, 50 of twist in the lumbar spine, and another 30° in the cht
Beginning, intermediate, and advanced students will all have diff nt reactions to the gravitational field. Beginners and those who are espec illy stiff will quickly butt up against their limits. They may come forward nly a little, and their "backbends" may involve little more than standii up straight. Intermediate students, after a week or so of practice, may me into an uneasy equilibrium with gravity and still not be entirely comfoi ible in the full forward and backward bends. Advanced students can act ely pull themselves down and back, or in the case of the twists, dowi md around, and back and around, beyond the point at which gravity one would take them. As they do this they will protect themselves eith by firming up their antagonistic muscles or by releasing tension in a m; ner that the body recognizes as safe
As your musculoskeletal health improves, you will feel like pulling l0re deeply into each position. And as you intensify each movement, you v> I be strengthening all of the muscles involved in creating the postures, not the agonists but all their synergists and antagonists. You will be a iing gravity with your musculoskeletal efforts, but at the same time you w I be
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stimulating reflexes that relax the muscles that are antagonists to the prime movers, and this in turn allows you to come further into each position.
In addition to catching the forearms or elbows behind your back, you can do these exercises with six more arm positions, all of them subtly different from one another in the way they affect the twists and bends. These are: with the arms and forearms stretched laterally (fig. 7.18a); with the arms overhead, forearms behind the head, and hands catching the elbows (fig. 7.18b); with the hands, palms together, in a prayer position behind the back (fig. 7.18c); with the hands interlocked behind the back and pulled to the rear (fig. 7.i8d); with the upper extremities in the cow-face position with one hand behind the back reaching from below and the other catching it from overhead (this one should be done twice, once on each side; fig. 7.18c); and with the hands astride the ilia, bending from the hips instead of the waist for a change of pace (figs. 7.i8f-g). Repeat the series of six bends for each hand position.
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