Have you noticed how, at the end of a long super-productive day– when that voice inside your head is telling you, “You made it! You accomplished everything on your to-do list! Ready, Set, RELAX!” –you just feel stiff and depleted?
That’s because your body isn’t there yet. All of the stress from the day – whether you realize it or not – gets stored IN your body. Literally, now you’ve got issues in your tissues, and you can’t force the body to flip a switch in the same way the mind can. It takes patience. In fact, it takes heat, time, and your own body weight. So, at the end of a long day, roll out that yoga mat (or just lay on the carpet), grab your bolster (or a firm pillow, like a couch cushion or throw pillow!) & Twist. Your. Day. Out.
Twists are typically peppered throughout a yoga practice, with longer more restorative twists found at the end, because they help to neutralize the spine and reset the body in preparation for what is to come (relaxation).
Twists are also powerful detoxifiers because they stimulate vital organs, aiding in the elimination of toxins as well as digestion!
Since it is key to elongate the spine before twisting, it is helpful to think of wringing out a wet towel... You have to pull it long before you twist if you want to get all the water out. When your bodyis the towel you are twisting out all the energy you have absorbed throughout the day, positive & negative, so you can start with an (energetically) clean slate tomorrow!
One more important tool to utilize when twisting… your breath! With the mouth closed, focus on taking deep inhalations through the nose and even longer exhalations through the nose. Nasal breathing helps the mind, body & breath to slow down and get on the same page. Allow the inhalation to lengthen you and the exhalation to melt you deeper into the twist.
Keep reading for a step-by-step guide through three powerful twists that will target each section of the spine and totally transform your day!
Let’s start at the Top (of the Spine) with my personal favorite…
“Thread the Needle” (Cervical Spine)
1. Come onto all fours - hands and knees – with a neutral spine to start
2. Lifting your right hand, thread your right arm out long underneath your left (hence the name of the pose) bringing the right shoulder down onto the mat
3. With the back of the right hand, arm, shoulder & head heavy on the ground walk the left fingertips forward towards 12 o’clock until the left arm is straight
4. Use the left hand into the mat to spiral your heart open counterclockwise
Breathing through the nose, direct your breath into the space between the shoulder blades. Twist here for at least a minute before repeating on the other side!
Moving down the body, this next twist increases rotational spinal mobility & massages internal organs to aid in the release of toxins!
Seated Spinal Twist (Thoracic Spine)
1. To begin, sit down on your mat and bring both legs long out in front of you.
2. Bending your left knee, plant the sole of your left foot down on the mat, landing on the outside of your right leg – between the knee and hip
3. As you inhale, elongate the spine and plant the left hand behind you for support
4. As you exhale, twist to bring your right elbow across your body so it hooks on the outside of your left knee
Remember to lengthen the spine *sit a little taller* with each inhalation, rooting through the sole of the foot and palm of the hand to twist a little further with each exhalation. After 8 rounds of breath (about a minute) unwind the spine and give yourself a light counter-twist before repeating on the other side!
Finally… Time to recline!
Supine Spinal Twist (Lumbar Spine)
1. Lay down on your back, with arms and legs out long on the mat
2. Pull the left knee into chest as you inhale & think of stretching the top of your head away from your right foot resting on the ground
3. Use the right hand to guide that knee across the midline of your body as you exhale, keeping pressure on the left knee to anchor the twist
4. Keeping both shoulders squared and rooted into the mat, extend the left hand long and take the gaze over to the left, fully completing your spinal twist!
Add a yoga bolster (or pillow) underneath your knee – and a few minutes on the clock – to turn this into a Yin pose. With your limbs fully supported, additional time spent in this twist will only increase the benefits, further stimulating the digestive system and targeting the connective tissue & fascia of the body!
-Wellness Please Contributor Grace McLoughlin