Twists penetrate deep into the body’s core, offering potent benefits to the muscles and organs of the torso while encouraging the breath to grow deep and full. Practicing these postures regularly can create a suppleness and freedom in your spine that in turn brings a spring to your step.
Like any yoga posture, though, twists should be practiced with mindfulness and care. Remember the following principles as you move through your daily dose of them.
Elongate Before You Revolve: To create freedom and spaciousness within, lengthen the spine before you twist by extending upward through the crown of the head and downward through the tailbone. Imagine the space between your vertebrae becoming as vast as a clear blue sky, and maintain this spaciousness as you spin.
Let the Breath Be Your Guide: Because twists tend to compress the diaphragm, they leave you with little breathing room. But there are ways to let your breath support and guide you through your twisting explorations. Here’s one approach: As you inhale, lengthen the spine; as you exhale, revolve gently into your twisting posture. Pause and lengthen again on the next inhalation, then rotate farther as you exhale. Continue breathing and moving in this wavelike fashion until you feel you’ve nestled into the very depths of the asana. Breathe as steadily and rhythmically as possible for several breaths, then slowly unfurl out of the pose.
Stabilize the Lower Spine: Stabilize the lower spine as you move the upper. To avoid injury while twisting deeply, some part of you must be firmly anchored (typically the pelvis, the lower back, and the neck) while another part revolves (usually the upper spine). The irony is that the neck and lower back (just beneath the rib cage) usually spin more freely than the other parts of the spine; without mindfulness, these areas often bear the burden of revolving actions. Each time you move into a twisting posture, be conscious that you don’t overtwist in the more mobile areas. Instead, try extending the movement into some of the more resistant areas of the spine.
Practice Evenly on Each Side: Practice evenly on each side. Because twists are asymmetrical postures, it’s a good idea to spend equal time revolving in each direction to promote balance. That said, if you know that one side of your body is tighter than the other, you might try doing a twist twice on that side.
Take Care: Take care when combining twisting actions and forward bends. For some, these combined movements create a significant strain on the back. If you know your lower back or sacroiliac joints are strained or challenged, seek the guidance of an experienced instructor before exploring forward-bending twists.
Enjoy the Aftereffects: Enjoy the aftereffects. Moving into a twist feels a little like wringing out a washcloth. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to enjoy the sensations of clarity, vitality, and ease once you’ve emerged from your favorite twist.