Active Twist / Passive Twist

ON April 4, 2019
Meet Your Teacher Sierra Wagner Active Yoga Pose vs. Passive Yoga Pose

What is the difference between an active yoga pose vs. passive yoga pose?

Most of us learned to use our hands to push and pull us into a twist, for example, in Easy Sitting Twist with one hand on our knee and the other on the floor. This is using our passive range of motion, which involves adding an outside force in addition to using the muscles needed to create an action at a joint. In a twist this is rotation between spinal bones. In the seated and standing twists, that outside force is usually your hands and arms. In other types of poses, like forward or side bends, there can be other outside forces.

When we move the muscles in the torso to twist without using our hand to push or pull on anything, we are engaging only our active range of motion of our spine.

This is the actual amount of movement that our spinal rotating muscles can create on their own, including both the deep rotator muscles, such as the rotator muscles that are present in all spinal regions, and more superficial muscles, such as your middle abdominals (the obliques), as well as others.

Doing an active twist versus a passive twist is beneficial, because we are building strength in the rotating muscles.

And, because those muscles attach directly to our spinal bones, they can also help to keep the spinal bones stronger. We are also more likely to avoid over-rotating our spinal bones. Over-rotating, which can lead to soft tissue or bone injury, is more likely to occur in a passive range of motion where we are involving the hands and arms more actively in creating our twists.

To feel the difference between your active and passive range of motion, you can try a little experiment.

Active Twist vs Passive Twist

Compare how it feels to actively twist, vs passively twist, in this gentle therapeutic offering with Sierra Wagner Sierra Laurel Yoga

Posted by Namaste Yoga + Wellness on Thursday, April 4, 2019

1. Sit in Easy Sitting pose or another seated posture where you can easily find an inner lift through the center channel of your body. You may want to sit on a folded blanket or other lift to help you find that length in the spine. 

2. Bring your arms into Cactus Arms. This means take them out to your sides at shoulder level, with your elbows bent to 90 degrees and your fingers pointing to the sky.

3. Slowly rotate your upper belly, chest, and head to the right as you exhale until you cannot go any further, noting where you are. Consciously contract the back and ab muscles. This is your active range of motion.

4. Inhale and turn back to center, lengthening your spine again.

5. Exhale and turn to the left in the same way you did on the first side.

6. Repeat this a few more times on each side while moving with your breath. 

7. When you are back on the right side, bring your hands to your knees and the floor. Ground down into the hands as you inhale and lift the spine. Then, slowly push with your back hand and pull with your front hand to see how much further you are able to turn. This extra distance is your passive range of motion.

8. Release to center and repeat on the second side.

Learn more about Sierra on her website Sierra Laurel Yoga, or read the interview with her on our blog. Check her class schedule here.

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