Twisting in yoga has long been regarded as a way to detox and cleanse the body. It is commonly associated with an idea of “wringing out a towel”, as if there is a way your spine soaks up toxins that then need to be released with a twist.
This analogy compares your complex spine to a piece of wet fabric. Not only is this incorrect, it poorly demonstrates spinal rotation in general.
The problem lies in a miss understanding of how the spine functions using rotational torque. Rotation alone in the spine is limited, as is lateral flexion (aka sidebending). Performed independently, these actions do not provide proper stability and could be dangerous at end ranges.
However when we combine the two, we create the rotational torque that is needed for a healthy spinal twist.
Sidebending + rotation = rotational torque
This can be observed in an action like throwing. As you reach back to throw a ball you are rotating in that direction.
Notice how your hip moves forward and up as your reach the shoulder down and back for power. This is the act of side bending while rotating to create “rotational torque”. Every twist should be performed this same way in the body.
Here is a great video that might help you to understand rotational torque and the complexity of your spine.
I was first introduced to this method of twisting through David Weck from Weck Method Labs. After going deeper down that rabbit hole I realized how much improper spinal rotation affects our daily lives.
For more information on how to incorporate this concept of twisting into your yoga practice, check out the Yoga Framework course book.