The Power of Twisting in Your Yoga Practice
Twists, like revolved high crescent lunge and revolved chair, were always challenging for me when I began my yoga practice a few years ago. I felt…breathless, in so many words. I could not focus on my breath even though my teachers were always reminding me to breathe through the twist. I would concave my chest (I’m top heavy) and that would cause my shoulders and overall posture to falter. In my head, I would cuss out my teacher anytime a twist was called during my practice for the first three years.
When I started focusing on (a) lengthening before twisting and (b) opening my chest and shoulders while twisting, I started to develop an affinity for twisting. It took a while but now I genuinely love twists and I teach them as much as I can, along with modifications, that I learned from my teachers and other resources that helped me in my personal practice.
Here are some physical benefits of twists:
– Holding a twist stimulates your organs, encouraging healthy metabolism;
– Stimulates circulation;
– Stretches and lengthens your spine; and
– Helps maintain flexibility in your vertebral discs and ligaments, maintaining the natural range of motion in your spine.
Here are some mental/emotional benefits of twists:
– Twists can be very energizing;
– Twists can give you a detoxified and cleansed feeling once the twist is released.
The photo in the body of this article (in front of the lake) is from almost a year and a half ago and the photo on the main blog page (with the red background) is the most recent of the same twist–Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes). Being heavy in the chest region has always challenged my overall alignment and posture (especially my shoulders) and holding twists presented me with more of a challenge because of the build of my body. Here are the improvements I’ve gradually made over a year and a half: I’ve found more length in my spine, twisting from the core, having a more open chest and shoulders by having a backbend, etc.
These changes did not happen overnight and it’s constant practice and awareness that’s helped me in my twists. It’s very easy for me to nitpick these photos regarding my form and alignment but I’m very proud of how much my body has opened. You, too, will see improvement in your practice over time.