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Do We Keep the Hips Fixed in Twists?

Revolved chair with different hip alignment

Figure 1: Keeping the Hips Fixed (Left) vs Allowing the Hips to Move with the Spine (Right) in Twists

To be honest, I used to be so fixated with keeping the hips fixed because I was taught that it's the only 'correct' way to do twists. I remember always experiencing pain in the lower back when doing revolved chair pose with the hips fixed but refused to acknowledge that something was wrong. Visually it looked looked like a perfect version of the pose, and I felt happy when the instructor nodded in my direction. The moment the instructor looked away, I'd allow one of my knees to come forward, while feeling an instant relief.

Yes, keeping the hips fixed can help to encourage the twist to come from the spine, but it can also concentrate the force going into the sacroiliac (SI) joint, where the spine meets the pelvis. This is especially if it's done with leverage from the limbs (e.g.: elbow pressed against outside of opposite thigh) to go deeper into a twist. Let's take a quick look at where the spine meets the pelvis:

Lumbar spine and pelvis structure

Figure 2: Lumbar Spine and Pelvis Structure

The sacrum is wedged between the hip bones on both sides so the spine pretty much 'merges' into the pelvis. Coupled with a strong architecture from the ligaments spanning this area (not shown), there's very limited allowable movement in the SI joint so it does make sense to allow the pelvis to move naturally along with the spine. Having said that, I think it's important to not vilify deeper versions of twists, or keeping the hips fixed in twists. The message here is really to allow the sensations that we feel guide us as we're in our twists, and understand that there are often many ways to do the same pose.

Nowadays I encourage students to experience both in twists - letting the hips be fixed vs. allowing it to move with the spine. Of course, there are classes where I want students to feel what it's like to encourage more rotation from the spine, but I'll also constantly remind them to allow the sensations that they feel guide them on when to stop twisting deeper.

I hope you'll allow yourself to experiment both ways to twist as well, and find one that allows your spine to be happier.


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