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Yoga Twists and Yoga Postures. Good or bad for your Spine? Let’s re-think teaching Yoga!

Yoga Twists and Yoga Postures. Good or bad for your Spine? Let’s re-think teaching Yoga!

To lengthen (your spine) or not to lengthen. That is the question…

Well, that wasn’t exactly the Q, but it’s how I answered it!

The Action Ship is flying into the controversial world of YOGA! Ooohhhh! Ommmmm :)

Unfortunately we are seeing more injuries in yoga but “is yoga bad for you?” Can you practice it in a healthy way? Who cares?

Whether or not you practice or teach yoga, you do have a spine and if you want it to be healthy, you need to know this.

We cannot blame our teachers for giving us ‘wrong’ information when we know how our own body functions. So if you’re ready to take responsibility for your spine, know this and stand up for it !

You will free your body’s untapped flexibility, movement and brilliant wisdom.

Now this video might be a little challenging if you’ve been practicing the ‘dangerous’ version and I completely understand. I used to believe what I was told and always wonder why it didn’t work.

It was frustrating.

So if it does contradict what you’ve been doing, use this as a gift and opportunity to feel a deeper unquestionable wisdom that comes from deep within you. Once you feel it cannot be argued… Because you feel it.

And only then it is real!

Power to you and your spine. And you can both finally be in peace :) –> leave me a comment and let me know how it feels! 

See you in class…

Namaste and joy




CLICK TO TWEET “Does yoga injure your spine?”

33 Responses to Yoga Twists and Yoga Postures. Good or bad for your Spine? Let’s re-think teaching Yoga!

  1. Lindy says:

    Hi Laura,

    Just watched your clip in rotation of the spine and as I am a Pilates Teacher I found it very interesting and helpful and worrying. I will be using the cues lengthen and shorten when I am teaching rotation exercises as the difference that made to my spine was contrary to what I would have expected and worked beautifully. You make it so logical and easy to understand.

    Thank you


    • Hi Lindy

      Thank you :) I totally understand and remember how it feels to presume it works in the opposite way… but as Eric Franklin has taught me… if you can lead people through a process that is logical and you can feel, step by step to discover the insight that already exists in one’s own body, it makes total sense and gives boundless freedom!

      I’m happy to hear you can integrate this awareness into the spines you work with and hope you will want to explore it further :)

      With love, Laura xo

      • margaret says:

        well done. i am looking forward to the stretching video. as someone who spends a lot of time stand up paddling and out rigger paddling, stretching is extremely important. i have had injuries from not stretching properly.

        thanks again.

  2. Such an important video!

    Everyone should watch this and certainly everyone who does or ever intends to do Yoga, Pilates, Dance or just twist their spine in their chair!

    The Happy Spinal Cord League.

  3. More from the Spinal Cord League

    (PS: Is it chord or cord? Both are permissible..)

    The spinal chord should not be lengthened.
    When you rotate your spine there is a natural (bone rhythm) shortening down of the whole system. Its the same principle as in the disks. The tissue is only extensible to a certain degree and allows rotation by a decrease in the angle of the fibers relative to each other.
    This is a classic example of biomechanics being contrary to the common cue to lengthen the spine when rotating.
    The dura, the protective covering of the spinal cord, is attached to the sacrum and the base of the skull, so tucking your tail and lifting your head while rotating your spine will cause a stretch of the cord.
    In addition the small muscle of the neck, the rectus capitis posterior minor is fascially connected the dura, so if your neck and spinal muscles get tight in the process of rotating, you even have a direct muscular pull on the dura.

    The Happy Spinal Chord League

    • Thanks Eric, Happy Spinal Cord League Fascilitator!!
      You’re insights and brilliance on this topic has transformed me to the depths of my being! I don’t know how I lived without this information! Thank you for sharing it so passionately and I am honored to share the message of the Happy Spinal Cord League :) xoxoxo

  4. Emily Suggs says:

    Hi Laura

    Thanks for this weeks’ action ship!
    It feel so good in my spine when I twist with the awareness of my spine shortening. I have done the “twist and lengthen” stretch many times in my life and I always thought the feeling I got after it was a good thing. Thanks as always for sharing your insights with us.
    I look forward to them every week.


  5. Jess Morrow says:

    You are so spot on with this … I’ve taught yoga on and off, and my teacher-training was really rooted in alignment. Too many teachers, I think, teach less carefully. Sometimes I practice less carefully, too, so thank you for reminding me!

  6. Hi Laura, thank you for featuring some insight into how doing yoga that causes over-stretching of the spinal cord anatomy in particular the nerve tissue itself. Another key point is what happens when we twist the body when the lumbar spine is in flexion at the same time. Many yoga and pilates use poses and abdominal exercises which require one to keep the naval area drawn in tight. This makes the lumbar spine go into flexion and people are then twisting from a spinal position that is putting huge compressive forces on the discs. I have treated many yogis who have completely destabilized sacral regions from constant forward bending with both legs straight and engaging in radical twists. Many older yogis I know have flat butts and feet because they engage in poses that stretch out our natural shock absorbing ligament structures in the feet, knees and sacral area. Yogis consume far too many twists and do other dangerous poses like staff that engage the body to look like the right angle shape of a chair. thank you Eric and Laura for speaking out. I have been a lone ranger in Yoga for a long time with my YogAlign system and appreciate you helping to illuminate the way with science. The sad part is all the yogis who BELIEVE what they are doing is good for their body. Plow pose is one of the worst for over-stretching of spinal nerves while at the same time compressing it with the weight of the lower body.. It is time for yoga to make anatomical sense. We need to focus on the value of a pose not beliefs about them.

  7. Sharon says:

    Hi Laura,

    Thanks for the information and the demo – as a Pilates and Yoga teacher, I am at a stage in my career where I am attempting to systematically revisit all of my cues to be more biomechanically clear and to slowly ditch some that were taught to me in the past which I no longer understand as genuine or empowering to the body. This is a new one and I believe it will take a while for me to swallow it! I totally understand your logic, and I also personally felt better and more “buoyant”, less stressed, when I allowed for some shortening during rotation. But I believe the intention of us teachers cueing length in rotation is to protect the discs (and subsequently the nerves) from too much compression. Often I see a lot of shortening and hunching happening in students trying to twist like crazy – lots of people have a tendency to want to push past their limits no matter we say. Is there a risk to the discs of too much compression during a twist? Maybe what we are looking for is a happy medium? Anyway, I would be VERY interested in what you think about this.

    Thanks again for your insight and creativity, much love –

    • suzanne willets brooks says:


      What a great!!!!!video. I have been taught this way and of course taught this way, even though IT FELT WRONG. Again as usual with you I see how easy it is to let a “teacher” (doctor,physical therapist….) take you farther from the truth of your body. How did we get here? What scares me, is how many well meaning health specialist do a lot of harm even though THIS information is out there. I am incorporating every thing I am learning from both you and Eric and letting people know what I am doing and what the method is Thank you for helping me again to trust the information my body is giving me. Oh yeah the twist felt absolutely brilliant!


      • Thanks Suzanne! And YES I agree. And as we keep sharing it, and people start to be able to trust in their own body, and it’s wisdom, we will all begin to enjoy a happier, healthier existence! Thanks for being the conduit for others to connect to that! xo

  8. mary lorenz says:

    Thank you so much for this video Laura. It explains so much. I often feel “nerve-y” after twisting and now I know why. Rotating the spine with this mental image of the spine feels so natural and great!

  9. Dorothy Friesen says:

    Thanks. That felt great. looking forward to more body-felt insight.!!

  10. Emily Anton says:

    Amazing video Laura!!

    Thank you so much for sharing it on this wide world of the web! :)

    Love. Love. Love.

    As a very classical ballet dancer, learning the spine doesnt lengthen when you twist (like I’d ALWAYS been told) in the Franklin Method teacher training was beyond my comprehension! So much so I left the second week of the training not embodying the movement of the spine when it twists, still FEELING that when I twisted my spine it lengthened!

    I heard and saw all the illustrations given to us but still every core of my being said, “no, no, no! it isn’t possible, that is too scary to believe! The spine surely lengthens!” But nevertheless, I gave myself the space to not believe…. yet.

    Then one magical day in ballet class/or on the subway/or at work I twisted my spine and the magical bubble of, “Ofcouse!” came to me. Of course the spine shortens when you twist! Of course, of course, of course. The movement really felt truly magical and I LOVED it! I couldn’t stop twisting my spine and embodying its movement.

    Knowing all that from my own experience, watching your video was a powerful moment of seeing just how far Ive come embodying my body’s true functioning in movement. When the compare/contrast came for the twisting with a lengthened spine verses twisting with a shortening spine the difference was profound! The lengthened spine was painful at every vertebrae and I couldn’t twist that far at all! The polar opposite of what I’ve come to expecting when twisting my spine.

    Thank you Laura!

    With a now very HAPPY spine!

    xo Emily

    • Hi Emily :) thank you for sharing this! It’s so powerful and real :) I totally know what you mean as well. When I first took the Franklin Method Teacher Training this was something which totally contradicted everything I’d been taught before. And now it feels so obvious and totally wrong and painful if I try to go against it. Thank goodness I know better now! Here’s to happy happy spines! Xo

  11. Linda Dubeau says:

    Hi Laura,
    This video is great and illuminating. I am a yoga instructor and I felt bad over the years of letting go of most yoga postures because my body just would not give me the flexibility I felt when I was younger. I’ve been using the Franklin Method’s books referred to me by my osteopath to adapt my yoga session. I always felt that one day I “should” go back to trying the postures but have been afraid of hurting myself. (Thankfully, I have been listening to my body). I am encouraged to continue this gentle yoga. Un grand merci,

  12. Amber Nightingale says:

    This video was beautifully done, and brought a clear understanding and demonstration of the spine and how it may be affected by foundational movements often taught in yoga. As a lover and dedicated practitioner of yoga, I have been deeply seeking a more integrated, practical, and knowledgeable approach that really honors the body in its wholeness.

    Unfortunately, I see many teachers that do not seem to have this clear understanding or anatomical clarity—which ultimately perpetuates misaligned movement and (as you describe) can actually lead to harm within the body. As a teacher myself, I feel a deep sense of responsibility for all my students, and this video brought some incredibly important concepts to light!

    Thank you so much, Laura, for taking the time to create this video, and busting old paradigms that are no longer serving our bodies to the highest! This will certainly empower my personal yoga practice, and what I share with others. My spine sends loving gratitude! ♥

  13. Reid says:

    Interesting video! I hadn’t thought of the rotation before and have definitely used the cue to lengthen to rotate. I’ll definitely have to try out this approach. One question: if it’s dangerous to stretch the spinal cord, why does it feel so good to hang upside down? I feel release in my back, and it feels like a good thing. But wouldn’t that be stretching the spinal cord?

  14. mary says:

    I am a yoga teacher of 7 years, trained heavily in alignment, and also a personal trainer. I do not disagree with your video, and thanks for a different viewpoint.

    For me, I see many students starting a rotation from a slumped position, similar to how they sit behind a desk…think it is now call ‘chair sitting disease’. So they have all the reverse curves in their spine from what nature intended, such as a flatter lumbar curve rather than an anterior curve. That of course translates into disfunction all the way up the spine, and then we offer a twist. So I ask then to lengthen up before they twist, even keeping their chest and head facing forward, to simply bring them back to a natural spine. Dump the ego, don’t force into the twist, just ease into the pose with the breath. If they don’t assume a natural spine, and jump into the twist, and often times force with the ego, then compression and injury are a risk.

    Same thing happens in your car or when you twist and reach to pick up something.

    If we can only break our poor posture habits, the cues in yoga would be simplified and clear!

  15. Krissy says:

    Oh Miss Laura! What a brilliant video! It reminds me of why I do yoga… to be more in touch, present and honoring of my BODY! In doing this exercise with you I realized again that the truth is in the EXPERIENCE AND OBSERVATION of a new way of thinking about HOW the body functions… not just gobbling up an interpretation of HOW yoga poses are to be done. As a yoga teacher myself, I am grateful to the Spinal Cord League for sharing new paradigms… cheers to the natural expression of the bodies intelligence!

  16. Stephanie says:

    Does this mean dancers should stop trying to “pull up”?

  17. Jeanne says:

    Hi Laura,
    Is this video still available. I would love to see it!

  18. Celia says:

    Thank you for this amazing video. I love how you break it down. Thank so much for sharing.

  19. forelance says:

    Hi thank you for the video it’s very helpful.

    I have a question that has been worrying me for a few months and has prevented me from practicing the pegion pose.

    I have a straight and healthy spine, but when I bend backwards in a pigeon pose, i feel like the cartilages of the lower spines are seriously “compressed”, and if I do a forward bend immediately afterwards, the compressed parts actually “pops” and feels “lengthened again”! I hurts a bit but not badly, and I felt better after electrotherapies.

    This has been happening everytime I do the backbend, but does not happen when I do the “normal” backbend in a standing pose (I was able to do it since I was very young).

    I am a generally flexible person, splits are easy for me, but I get worried everytime when I do the pigeon pose because I start imagining that I might break my lower intervertebral disks by regular squeezes and stretches… The squeezing and popping really bothers me.

    What that just normal? or am I somehow doing it wrongly?

    Thank you so much!

  20. forelance says:

    sorry, i meant the “KING PIGEON POSE” hurts me a bit, not the normal pigeon pose. Should I stop it or did I do it wrongly?

  21. julia says:

    Thanks so much for sharing these tips – super useful!

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