Many of you who have heard me speak before, have heard me say, that out of all the yoga postures, the most spiritual are twists. Why? You just have to experience that for yourself or get into a class with me to find out why.
Twists are generally done towards the end of a practice, to help the body find balance in stillness. Generally, twists are extremely balancing. If you are too energized, twists will calm you down, and if you are experiencing low energy, twists will pick you up again.
The are definitely the precursors to a successful meditation practice, and helping yogi’s to prepare to enter the higher states of consciousness.
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika tells us about a twist called Ardha Matsyendrasana:
“Practice of this Asana (posture) increases the digestive fire to such an incredible capacity that it is the means of removing diseases and thus awakening the serpent power and bringing equilibrium in the bindu. (crown of the head)”
The movement of Ardha Matsyendrasana and other twists also tones the spinal nerves and ligaments and improves digestion.
When practicing this posture, keep your spine erect and your shoulders leveled in the position. Breathe steadily. Twist a little more each time you exhale. Twist first to the left, as below, then repeat the sequence twisting to the right.
How to do Half Spinal Twist Yoga Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
Step 1 Kneel down with your legs together, resting on your heels.
Step 2 Then sit to the right of your feet, as illustrated.
Step 3 Lift your left leg over your right, placing the foot against the outside of the right knee. Bring your right heel in close to your buttocks. Keep the spine erect.
Step 4 Stretch your arms out to the sides at shoulder level and twist around to the left.
Step 5 Now bring the right arm down on the outside of the left knee and hold the left foot in the right hand, placing your left hand on the floor behind you. As you exhale, twist as far as possible to the left. Look over the left shoulder.
This important yoga pose takes its Sanskrit name from a legendary teacher of yoga Matsyendra, who was believed to be one of the first founders of Hatha Yoga. This yoga pose is one of the few yoga poses that rotates the spine. Twisting postures in Hatha Yoga complement forward and backward bending yoga poses by exercising the muscles in more complex ways than is accomplished by the movement of flexion and extension alone. That’s why the twisting poses are essential for a completion of Hatha yoga practice.
The yoga poses spinal twist simultaneously stretches the muscles on one side of the back and abdomen while contracting the muscles on the other side. The compression of the spine improves nutrition to the inter-vertebral disks and squeezes blood out of the internal organs of the abdomen and pelvis, improving circulation to the spinal nerves, blood vessels and tissues.
The Half Spinal Twist is one of the best yoga pose for cultivating flexibility and strength in the spine. It soothes the upper back tension and stiff neck caused by poor posture, stress, or prolonged periods of sitting in one position.
Regular practice of this yoga pose relieves lumbago (pain in a lower part of the back) and muscular spasms. The movement of this yoga pose tones the abdomen, thighs, buttocks, hips and spinal nerves. It massages and stimulates the kidneys, liver, gall bladder and spleen.
The breathing: Twisting the torso constricts abdominal breathing because it makes the lower abdominal wall taut which prevents its expansion. It also limits the diaphragmatic (between the chest and the abdomen) and thoracic (chest) breathing.
But what makes the spinal twist a blessing is the fact that the least desirable form of breathing; the paradoxical breathing (when the abdominal wall moves in rather than out during inhalation and out during exhalation) will not be possible and this asana will give a chance to anyone who would like to break that habit.
The Half Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana) yoga pose has tremendous benefits to our body. However, there are some health conditions in which this great yoga pose should not be performed.
Reasons not to do Yoga Pose Half Spinal Twist:
* In case of pregnancy this yoga pose should not be practiced.
* In case of spine injury do not attempt this pose.
* If you have recent or chronic knee, hip, back or shoulder injury avoid this yoga pose.