“Can you twist yourself into a pretzel?” Is usually the first thing I hear when I introduce myself to someone as a yoga instructor and, unfortunately, no I can’t twist myself up like doughy goodness but I do appreciate a good twisting asana (pose). Let me introduce three of my favorite yoga twist that you can practice at home to get amazing benefits like, improved flexibility, spinal mobility, internal health benefits, and mental clarity.
Uttanasana (Forward Fold) With A Twist
Take a deep exhale and bend forward from the hip joints, not from the waist. As you descend pull the belly button to the spine and begin to release out of the base of the neck (take out any wrinkles back there). Place left finger tips or palm on the floor (use a yoga block or thick book if you are having trouble reaching the floor) and place right hand on hip, bend right knee and begin to spin open keeping your belly button to spine. Keep your hand on your hip or extend your finger tips up or drape the right arm behind your back and reach to the inner left thigh continuing to spin open from your heart center. Hold for 5 breaths then release and repeat in other side.
Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, or just seated twist)
Sit on the floor and bend your knees, put your feet on the floor, then bend left leg under your right to the outside of your right hip( for a modification straighten leg out) Step the right foot over the left leg grounding it to the floor. The right knee will point directly up. Exhale and twist toward the inside of the right thigh. Press the right hand against the floor just behind you and set your left upper arm on the outside of your right thigh near the knee. Sit up tall and spin open keeping your belly button to spine. Hold for 5 breaths, unwind and repeat on other side.
Lie on back spreading arms out to the side bend knees up and drop knees to the right bringing your drishti(gaze) to the left. Stay here as long as you like, if you like extend top leg out and bottom leg down moving a little deeper into the twist. Take a deep inhale and on the exhale unwind and move to the other side.
Twisting is going to be different from side to side each day so twist to your comfort. Before you begin a twist, use your core to square your hips, this provides a stable base. Keep your shoulders comfortably back and your posture upright. This is the ideal way to start a twist. If you have back issues stick to seated or lying twist. After your twisting asana practice take a few minutes in Savasana just allowing your body to reap the benefits. Enjoy!
Heidi Templeton is a former competitive gymnast and Bay Area yoga instructor specializing in vinyasa, hot, and standup paddle board yoga. Heidi shares her zest for all things health and wellness at www.facebook.com/HeidiFit.