This week’s poses are all about taking shapes we’ve already seen, but adding a twist, quite literally! When done properly (this is different for each person’s body), twisting postures can help to increase range of motion within the spine, they’re useful for shoulder and hip mobility, and most importantly, they can bring balance back to a body that has been hunched over at a desk or seated while driving. Let’s explore a handful of twists you may see in a yoga class. The important thing to note with twisting postures is that they often rely upon the breath work to feel spacious, rather than claustrophobic. So as you inhale in a posture, try drawing the spine longer and taller (axial extension) and as you exhale, either relax, or twist gently a little deeper. The inhale lengthens the spine, the exhale relaxes and twists.
We’ve seen boat pose, which is a great anterior chamber strengthening posture. But by adding a simple twisting action, we not only increase range of motion, but we also begin to strengthen the obliques and stabilizers along the lateral sides of the body. Remember that you can still modify in the following ways:
- Bend the knees
- Reach one arm out to twist, but use the other hand to support some of the weight of the leg(s).
- Teacher’s tip: feel free to take a break between sides or challenge yourself by holding one side for 5 full breaths, then seemlessl switching to the other side for 5 more.
- Dynamics: there are lots of ways to move with this pose, try leg flutter kicks with the chest staying twisted, try switching sides with every breath, or even keep the shape but lower the torso to a hover above the ground on an inhale and lift back up on an exhale.
High Lunge Twist (two variations)
By now, you know what a high lunge looks and feels like within the body. The options above take the same foundation from the hips down, but revolve the torso around the hips. Both options are a great chest broadening option as well as a spinal twist, but variation B adds a side body stretch and more shoulders. There are a few more variations as well:
- for less intensity, drop the back knee to the ground (remember, you can always cushion dropped-knees with a blanket or by doubling over your mat
- there will be deeper levels of this pose offered in later chapters, but you might see a prayer twist option in classes– for this one, bring the hands in front of your heart like you’re saying a prayer, then hook your (for the images above) right elbow across your left thigh. This variation is a deep twist and should not be taken cold (meaning without a proper twisting warm-up).
- Teacher’s tip: either drop the back knee for more balance, or try to fix your gaze (drishti) at one point for 5 breaths. This brings focus to the pose and can often stabilize your posture.
- Dynamics: Try flowing between the two above variations by inhaling to reach back and over head and exhaling to return to an upright t-shape, then repeat.
Matseyendrasana (mot-see-un-drah-suh-nah): two variations
Lastly, this seated twisting option is a popular and effective way to cool down. By crossing one ankle over the opposite thigh, you create a little knee-hip triangle. This little triangle is a great place of leverage to gently hook and encourage your spine into a full twist.
Things to consider:
- you don’t have to hook your elbow across your thigh, you can simply wrap your arm around the outside of the leg like you’re hugging your knee in, or you can twist without even using the thigh as leverage.
- twisting the head to look over the leading shoulder is an option to twist the cervical spine– feel free to skip it for neck comfort
- Teacher’s tip: relax your shoulders down in this shape and don’t go too far. Twisting should feel as though you’re unwinding tension, not adding more to it.
- Dynamics: as mentioned in the intro above, try inhaling and growing the spine taller and longer form the tail bone to the crown of the head, then exhaling to either relax more or simultaneously twist just a little more. The inhale lifts you up, the exhale relaxes and twists.
That’s it for this week! These poses are meant to feel nice and easy in the body, providing more range of motion and less stress. The standing posture is a great way to tone the legs while the boat posture is another way to strengthen the midsection. As always, feel free to write me with any questions.