Benefits of twisting postures that may make you want to revolt!
So I’m sure most of you have found yourselves holding your breath, gritting your teeth and mentally counting down the moments until you can release poses such as revolved triangle. “Smurf” yoga (holding your breath in a pose until you turn blue) is certainly not the answer. Revolved Triangle pose, in my experience, is on the top of the “we don’t love it” list. Add to that pose revolved extended side angle or revolved lunge and suddenly frowns appear, faces sink and a time clock begins before losing students via the domino effect (exiting from the pose one by one before the 5 breaths are completed).
So what is it about these twisting postures that make you want to revolt? Is it the self-awareness that becomes more apparent as you are forced to face the extra loving in the midsection? Is it the frustration with your body’s inflexibility within the spinal column? Perhaps as you are wringing out your intestines and abdominal organs, you are also limiting the space the lungs have to take in their maximum breath? Some practitioners may even find themselves caught on the borderline of anxiety or fear that they will not be able to take a deep enough breath to stay in the pose.
So with all of these stress-inducing thoughts towards twisted postures, why do them at all? There are a ton of physical benefits to twisting postures. They sculpt the abdomen and obliques (love handles). The compression and stimulation of the abdominal organs such as the liver, pancreas, kidneys, intestines, and bladder help with the removal of excretory waste as well as relief from gas pains. Maybe pick a day and skip the coffee and do a twist instead! Twists also assist with circulation. Limiting and then releasing the flow of blood through the body allows fresh movement of oxygen through the blood stream and assists with tissue healing.
Sounds great, right? Well that’s not all! Twists also neutralize the spine after back bends and help keep your natural spinal rotation and soft tissues pliable. You can be reassured that over time your body will remain healthy enough to twist this way and that without losing length or putting yourself at higher risk for random injuries. If you happen to participate in sports like golf, soccer, martial arts, football, baseball, tennis and others that involve twisting for full range of motion, then a yoga practice that involves some of these revolting twisting postures is essential as a complimentary practice to your sport!
So moving away from the physiological effect of twisting postures we can explore this both mentally and with attention to breath! Mentally, how we perceive our practice and poses can immediately create a conflict in the mind. In yoga mental conflicts are not necessarily fights going on in your head. It simply means that you have not found Santosha (contentment) with the pose. Santosha meaning you neither revel in the posture nor feel any form of aversion to it either. You simply do the posture and focus on remaining present and in the moment. By releasing yourself of the conflict in the mind and finding contentment in twisting postures you will experience a more level and open flow in the mind during your physical practice.
Ujjayai (victorious) breath should be used to take the “Smurf” yoga out of your practice. In twists, the compression of ribs and lungs can make it impossible to take full big breaths and can also make it a troubling experience to try to breathe using your mouth. Instead focus on the Ujjayai breath skills where there is the slightest constriction at the back of the throat that allows for the elongation of the duration of each inhalation and exhalation. Allow the breaths to last 5 counts in and 5 counts out. This technique is much the same as fogging up a window with your mouth and creating that condensation effect but instead of using your mouth, you use your nose for both the inhalation and the exhalation. Remember, if you are not breathing, you are not practicing.
So instead of revolting the next time you are faced with a twisting posture, take the opportunity to breathe, mentally explore the experience of being present in the pose, connect with Santosha and think about how yummy your belly, back, obliques and digestives system will feel. Instead of thinking how much longer until I get out of this pose think “Viva la Revolution” and bring on the twists!