Twists are great ways to reduce tension in the back muscles and they also help to undo knots in our minds as well… (It’s the yoga magic!) Additional benefits include a wringing action in the soft tissues which squeeze out fluids and then upon release of the twist refill with fresh juices – FEELS GOOD!
Here in pictorial format, I thought I would show you the development of the seated twist from basic to advanced. YOU know where you are on this scale – look out for the key alignment of the spine in all these postures and then work on it yourself. I know I don’t have to tell you – but it is best to feel accomplished in the first posture before attempting the next stage.
If you are able to sit cross legged, this is the best start for a twist. Use your blocks to get comfortable in Sukasana (cross legged) and then place the hand on the opposite knee, breathe in and as you exhale twist the shoulders around and place the finger tips on the floor behind you. Stay for 3 – 5 breaths and then untwist on the inhale. Work both sides. Keep the spine aligned throughout. Cross the legs in the opposite direction now and repeat.
If cross legged is not comfortable then begin in Dandasana with the legs outstretched. (This is also stage 2 if you did work in the cross legged pose.) Cross one leg over the other and hug the knee into the torso with the opposite arm; breathe in, and as you exhale twist the shoulders around and place the fingers on the floor behind you. NB Keep the spine aligned CROWN OVER TAIL BONE it is so easy to lean back but this doesn’t help the twist. Also, if you find this causes lower back discomfort, you can sit on one block.
Keep working on stage 2 until the shoulders comfortably twist into alignment with the outstretched leg. There are a number of different variations with different arms. This is where most people spend time working ( 3-5 breaths for each side is enough in each practice). Gently encourage your spine to twist as you exhale. Keep the spine aligned throughout.
As the twist movement comes with ease, you can begin to bend the outstretched leg. Do the previous version first and then try the new leg position in a 2nd round. Take your time with these advancements – don’t force anything. Breathe and relax the body will stretch over time – and by time I mean months and years.
In the final stage (Ardha Matseyendrasana), the shoulders twist easily around enabling the arms to ‘bind’ underneath the upright knee. The example here shows the spine beautifully aligned and the head twisted around (not as relaxed as the rest of the posture seems though). It is the ease of the legs and arms which your are seeking – this yogi feels relaxed in the posture. A feeling of being in the posture rather than pushing to achieve it – which is what you want to aim for in your practice.
No matter what stage you are at – this is the right stage for you now. Don’t force anything. If you are unsure about what you’re doing – pay attention next time you are in class! Get in early and sit at the front, I regularly demonstrate postures at the beginning of when we practice and then get up and move around the room. If it suits you better, come along for a 1-2-1 in my yoga room, great gains can be made with a few moments spent in preparatory movements to open up a particularly tight area of your body – this can’t always happen in a class environment.
Happy Twisting – and remember spine upright and practice safely x