In this video, we explore the alignment of the pelvis, spine and knees in parivrtta utkatasana, revolved chair pose. We revisit some of the themes presented in other recent videos that we've posted about rotated postures (e.g., the benefits of maintaining a neutral spine and allowing the pelvis to follow the lumbar spine during twists), but with specific cues that pertain to revolved chair pose. We also discuss the common cue to "keep the knees level" in this pose and present an alternative viewpoint as we feel that the outside knee should move forward a bit to accommodate the rotation of the pelvis.
In order for the thoracolumbar spine to rotate to its full potential (about 35-45 degrees), it is important to maintain spinal extension. If the hamstrings, glutes or other hip extensors are relatively tight they will limit the anterior tilt of the pelvis in seated spinal twists and revolved triangle, which will in turn cause the spine to flex (round). It is also common for students to posteriorly tilt the pelvis and flex the spine during supine twists.
In the following video we explore the importance of preserving spinal extension during rotated postures in order to allow greater range of motion, foster the free flow of the breath, and prevent stress in the shoulders, necks, intervertebral and sacroiliac joints.
In this video we explore the twist potential in the thoracolumbar spine and extol the benefits of encouraging all of the lumbar and thoracic intervertebral joints to do their fair share in all rotated postures.
A cue that we often hear when twisting is to try to twist from the navel up. The navel is located at approximately the level of L3, or perhaps L4 on some people. Most people can rotate approximately 2-3 degrees at each of the thoracic intervertebral joints and about 1-2 degrees at each of the lumbar intervertebral joints, for a combined rotation of somewhere between 29-46 degrees. If we try to isolate our twists "from the navel up" we'll lose the potential 1-2 degrees of rotation between L3-L4, L4-L5 and L5-S1... which adds up to somewhere between 3-6 degrees of rotation. In addition, we'll lose some of the benefits of twisting in the lumbar spine, which include nourishing the intervertebral discs and creating a squeeze and soak effect on the abdominal organs... which are located in the, wait for it, abdomen! During the twist the abdominal organs get a bit of a squeeze when helps to propel the venous blood in these organs back toward the heart (veins have one-way valves that only allow blood to flow toward the heart), and then when we come out of the twist the organs are decompressed which allows fresh arterial blood to flow through the capillaries.
A common instruction in Virabhadrasana 1 is to ground the outer edge of the back foot. However, if this instruction is coupled with the cue to wrap the outer back thigh forward it can create rotational torque at the knee joint and stress the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). The ACL attaches from the underside of the femur (posteriorly) to the topside of the tibia (anteriorly), and has two main functions: 1) to prevent hyperextension of the knee, and 2) to prevent excessive rotation between the femur and tibia when the knee is flexed. It's important for a flexed knee to be able to rotate a little bit, as this is what allows a person to pivot and change direction when walking. However, when the knee is straight the ACL becomes taught to prevent hyperextension. If a rotational force is applied to a straight knee, the already taught ACL will be overly stressed, potentially leading to pain within the knee and over-stretching of the ligament that causes subsequent instability in the joint.
In the above video we offer alternative cues for the back foot, leg and thigh that help prevent rotational torque and keep the knee safe.