Get Twisted: Why Yoga Twists are so Beneficial

A twist in yoga is a pose that involves spinal rotation, i.e. when the shoulder girdle turns in an opposing direction to the hips.  Twists can be done while standing, seated, or lying down, and when performed properly, are very energizing and healing.  Here are a few great reasons to start adding more twists to your yoga practice:

 1.   Improve Spinal Health – Twisting postures build strength and flexibility in the muscles that support our spine, helping to retain and restore the body’s natural range of motion.  Rotating the torso also stretches the shoulders, hips, and neck, all of which prevent stiffness and hardening of the joints.

2.   Aids Digestion – Twisting creates movement in and around our digestive organs.  By alternately compressing and stretching that area, circulation to the digestive organs is increased, thereby improving their functionality.

3.   Detoxifying – Other abdominal organs including the liver and kidneys are also stimulated while twisting.  This movement encourages the body’s natural detoxification process, promoting cleansing on a cellular level.

 

Below are a few of my favorite twists.  As always, those with injuries and limitations should speak to their doctor before attempting any of these poses.

Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose):

1. Begin in a seated position with your knees bent and feet in front of you.

 Ardha Matsyendrasana

Ardha Matsyendrasana

2. Slide your left foot under your right leg so that the leg is resting on the floor, and the ankle sits near the outside of your right hip.  Lift the right foot over the left leg bringing the right knee pointed upward toward the ceiling, and the bottom of the foot resting on the floor outside of your left hip.

3. Lengthen through the spine and twist toward the right. The the right hand should be pressing into the floor behind you, as the left upper arm moves to the outside of your right thigh.  Make sure to distribute the twist throughtout the entire spine, and not just in the low back. 

4.  Hold for 10 to 20 breaths, then release and repeat on the opposite side for the same length of time.

Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose variation):

1.  From Downward Facing Dog step your right foot forward to a high lunge.

 Parivrtta Parsvakonasana variation

Parivrtta Parsvakonasana variation

2. Bring your hands to prayer pose, and then extend through the spine as you begin to lean forward.  

3.  Bring your left elbow to the outside of your right knee. Keep your left leg active by pressing firmly into the left heel.

4. Hold the pose for 10 to 20 breaths, then release and repeat on the opposite side for the same length of time.