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Twisting Postures for Grounded Flexibility
Although we often focus on remaining grounded and centered in our yoga practice, strength and flexibility are equally important for remaining balanced and limber both inside and out. Twisting postures can help us to move between solidity and fluidity by practicing staying both rooted and pliable. This helps us to become more adept at facing uncertainty on and off the mat.
What’s more, twisting postures have a number of health benefits including detoxification and stretching and strengthening of vertebral (spinal) muscles. As we twist our tissues and muscles literally “wring out” our organs. This is particularly helpful as we’re moving into spring and ridding ourselves of winter stagnation.
Yoga Twists for Detoxification
Try taking a relatively mild twist from Baddha Konasana (Tailor’s Pose). First sit with the bottoms of your feet together and knees wide. Play with the distance from your feet to your pelvis until you are comfortably rooted into your sitbones (ischial tuberosities) at the base of your pelvis.
To get a deeper sense of grounding you can rotate your upper leg bones (femurs) out and away from the midline (external rotation). Some practitioners find additional stability and comfort from sitting on a block, pillow, or blanket. You will definitely need to do so if your knees and upper leg bones do not reach the floor.
With your seat established, lengthen your spine from the pelvis to the crown of the head on an inhale. As you exhale, twist your spine to the right, initiating that movement in the lower torso upward until you gently turn your head in the direction of your spine. Continue to elongate the spine on the inhale, and deepen the twist slightly on the exhale. Repeat on the left side.
Another somewhat challenging posture is Marichyasana III/C. Extend your legs in front of you, as if in Dandasana (Staff Posture). Find a comfortable seat as you did in the prior posture. Bend your right knee toward you, and place your foot flat on the floor as close to you as you are comfortable. Make sure that your legs are parallel to each other, and the foot of the extended leg is flexed with your toes pointing upward.
Place your right hand on the floor or a prop behind you for balance. On the next inhale, lift your left and as you exhale, hug your right knee toward you while keeping your right foot on the ground. You also have the option of bending your left arm and placing your left elbow on the outside of right knee if you have sufficient spinal rotation. Again, elongate your spine as you inhale, and gently deepen the twist on the exhale.
Twists are a wonderful way to explore the “dance” between stability and flexibility both physically and mentally. Try incorporating more twists into your practice and enjoy the benefits.
Kathryn Boland is a third-year Master’s degree student in Dance/Movement Therapy at Lesley University (Cambridge, MA), and an E-RYT 500. She is originally from Rhode Island and attended The George Washington University (Washington, DC) for an undergraduate degree in dance (where she first encountered yoga). She has taught yoga to diverse populations in varied locations. As a dancer, she has always loved to keep moving and flowing in practicing more active Vinyasa-style forms. Her interests have recently evolved to include Yin and therapeutic yoga, and aligning those forms with Laban Movement Analysis to serve the needs of various groups (such as Alzheimer’s Disease patients, children diagnosed with ADHD, PTSD-afflicted veterans, all demographically expanding). She believes in finding the opportunity within every adversity, and doing all that she can to help others live with a bit more breath and flow!