What are yoga twists?
Twisting yoga poses involve the rotation of the spine and torso. They help build core strength, improve range of motion in the spine, massage the abdominal organs and help aid in digestion. Twists help bring back balance in the body after practicing backbends and forward bends. Due to the twisting effect on the abdomen, toxins get released with fresh, oxygenated blood circulation to the abdominal organs.
What are the benefits of yoga twists?
Twisting poses are beneficial in creating space in the hips, spine and shoulders, improving muscular balance and coordination. Twists help calm the nervous system, infuse the body with energy and aid in decompressing the spinal column while relaxing the muscles around the spine.
A healthy back
Twists include a rotation to the spine. They stretch the muscles of the back, restoring the spine’s natural range of motion. Connective tissue around the region gets nourished and strengthened with better blood circulation and oxygen supply too. Apart from strengthening and lengthening the muscles protecting the spine, twists help alleviate back pain and tension and improve posture and alignment.
The lengthening effect on the spine creates space between the vertebrae. When there is lack of space, energy and life force (Prana) get stuck, leading to fatigue. By twisting and lengthening the spine, more space is created between the connective tissue, bones and muscles. This provides better breathing room and more free flow of energy.
Neutralizing and balancing
Twists are good to practice after backbends and forward bends. They work on the abominable muscles, obliques, muscles supporting spine movements, shoulders, pelvis, neck and more. This brings back a certain balance and alignment in the body.
Twisting poses pressed and massage the abdominal organs. They boost blood circulation and oxygen supply, encourage detoxification and elimination of waste and old blood, helping with metabolism and weight loss. They stimulate the digestive fire, creating heat and releasing toxins and blockages.
Twisting yoga poses are greatly helpful in calming the nervous system, boosting mood and balancing emotions. They open up the chest region, aiding respiration.
When to avoid practicing twisting yoga poses?
Most twists should be avoided during pregnancy. One must not practice without their doctor’s consent and a teacher’s guidance. In case of spinal disc injury also, get a doctor’s consent on what movements are suitable for you. When suffering from chronic digestive issues care should be taken so that the problem is not aggravated.
Tips for practicing yoga twists safely
- Create space to twist by extending through the crown of the head.
- Lengthen on every inhale and twist on every exhale.
- Keep the core and abdominal muscles engaged. This will help twist the torso better and to achieve the right alignment.
- Keep the abdomen, ribs and back muscles relaxed.
- Use the support of props such as a wall or the back of a chair to twist deeper in the pose.
Types of twisting yoga poses
Beginner level twisting yoga poses
Beginner-friendly twisting yoga poses are simple, effective and help you build the necessary flexibility and mobility for more challenging poses. Practice asanas such as the easy spinal twist, chair pose twist, supine spinal twist and thread the needle pose.
Intermediate twisting yoga poses
Postures such as the half-lord of the fishes pose, twisted prayer pose, twisted extended side angle pose and twisted triangle pose are suitable for intermediate practitioners. It is advisable to use props initially and as you practice, you’ll find the postures more easily accessible.
Advanced twisting yoga poses
This level of twisting poses are suitable for practitioners who have good flexibility, mobility and strength. Postures such as full half-lord of the fishes pose, full fish pose, full bow pose, twisted camel pose, among others are challenging and suitable for advanced level practice.
How Should You Practice Twisting Yoga Poses
Twisting yoga poses are standing, seated and reclined. For each type, there are a few aspects you can keep in mind when practicing.
In this type of pose, the upper body is stabilized while the majority of the twist happens in the lower spine. The pelvis and legs are rotated here, while the core is stable and shoulders grounded.
Seated and Standing Twists
In this category of poses, alignment is critical. Once grounding and lengthening is done, it is important to engage the abdominal muscles. This helps stabilize the pelvis and support the lower back. The pelvis should be grounded and lengthened and the spine moves upwards (as in a seated spinal twist) or forwards (as in the twisted triangle pose). With this, better alignment can be achieved and the posture accessed safely.
To practice safely, always remember to focus on the breath when lengthening the spine first. If the lower back is rounding, take the support of a block or blankets to help maintain the natural curve of the back. The twist should come from the lower back and then the rest of the back. This avoids putting pressure on the neck.
When practicing any challenging twisting yoga pose, it's advisable to do so under a teacher's guidance. Since the back is involved here greatly, practicing safely and without injuries is critical. Take your time and slowly, progressively attempt the poses.