Today we talk about the function of twists in Yoga and how you can integrate them in your regular Yoga practice.
It’s the second “episode” about the self-practice series here in Corpo Giardino – Yoga Practices: the more we have a basic knowledge of the function of specific positions plus the emotional, mental and energetic effects, the more we are able to integrate them regularly.
I always encourage my students to begin practicing at home on their own, to explore themselves, to become their own guidance and understand what they need and how to take actions.
Remember, Yoga is not a sequence of asanas, it is a self-inquiry and reflection path: to release what we don’t need anymore, understand what is holding us back to grow and to contribute in a positive way on earth.
So, let’s dive deep on the function of twists in Yoga.
Function over the Form
With the synchronization of breaths and movements, we can release physical, emotional and mental blockages. In this way, Prana – our life force- can be released and can move freely in the body and in our system.
When we read this definition of Yoga, we can immediately realize that it’s not about achieving a specific form or position but it’s about:
- Observing ourselves and become witness of our own patterns (of thoughts, emotions and behaviors)
- Observing how we react to specific situations: do we get frustrated? Do we feel anger? Do we sabotage ourselves? Where do these emotions come from?
- Learning where we store stagnant energy in our physical, emotional and of course energetic body.
- Learning how to release it in a safe and supportive way.
- Become stronger and open in our body, mind and heart.
But wait a second….Is it a life-long journey? Oh yes!
As you can imagine now, when we study on a deeper level positions, and their physical, emotional/mental and energetic effects, we want to focus on the function over the form.
Our body is constantly changing, due to the nature of life and its complexity, and our positions will be everyday different, as we have different needs daily. When we only focus on the form of a pose, we are not experiencing the flow of change in our life and become rigid, creating even more stress and resistance everywhere.
Do you want to get to know my great inspiration regarding transformation, acceptance and adaptability?
Michèle Anne Barocchi first of all is a friend, colleague and the founder of It’s Yoga Firenze (now In Bodhi Yoga), the center in Italy where I studied and worked for 7 years). Her story is remarkable:
After an accident that almost took her life away, she found herself with an amputated leg, and from that moment on she embarked on a journey of Transformation.
As she was used to focusing on the function over the form, she learned how to adapt her practice to her new life. I still can see flying on her hands and find the expression of the positions suitable for her.
If you want to know more her story and work:
But now let’s go back to the main theme of today after a very important digression about Michèle.
The Function of Twists in Yoga
Let’s dive deeper on this theme and explore the function of twists in Yoga on different levels.
Even if I will divide physical, emotional, mental and energetic effects and benefits, please keep in mind that each level influences the other and there is no real separation between what happens mentally and physically.
We are a beautiful and complex system that reminds me of a Picasso painting: we can deconstruct but we all belong to the same system.
Physical Effects and Benefits
When we twist the body, we rotate the spine and move it in a spiral. The following are the mainly physical effects and benefits that we can experience from twisting:
- Stretch the muscles of the back
- Open the Chest area
- Restore the range of motion of our spine, realising tensions between the vertebrae
- Promote flexibility of the vertebras
- Massage the abdominal organs and kidneys increasing digestions (Agni) and healthy bowel movement
The secret to be aligned in any Yoga position begins with our foundations.
Where the foundations – the part of the body connected to the floor – are strong and stable, then we can practice in safety. Here’s some essential and quick tips to remember when you twist:
- Lengthen first – before you twist, bring your navel in and lengthen the spine
- Keep your neck free of any tensions – imagine that your cervical vertebrae are a continuation of the spiral movement of the spine
- Make sure your foundations are strong – in a standing twist ground your legs, in a seated twist make sure your hips (and seatbones) stay parallel. In a reclined twist, make sure both shoulders are on the mat.
When to avoid it
- Disk injuries
- Ernia iatale
- Chronic digestive issues
Emotional/Mental Effects and Benefits
Imagine that the physical alignment is like the foundations of your pose: when your body is safe, then you can focus on different levels or aspects of yourselves.
My first question to you is: how do you feel when you twist in your Yoga Practice?
- Are there specific emotions that come up?
- Are there specific thoughts that come up?
The main emotional and mental effects and benefits are:
- As we release tension in the back, shoulders and open the chest we can lower stress and anxiety (especially in the reclined twist).
- It helps to digest and process different emotions, as we stimulate the center of the body, a place where not only digest and assimilate food, but also emotions, experience and thoughts.
- Clarity of the mind.
Tip: try a reclining twist on your back before savasana, it’s a nice prep for the last relaxation pose.
Energetic Effects and Benefits
For the Hatha Yoga Tradition, there are 5 main different Prana Vayus (winds), 5 different energies, in our body with of course different effects.
When we twist, we stimulate 1 Prana Vayus: Samana (and indirectly Apana – in the lower part of the body and Pran, in the upper body).
Samana runs in a spiral way at the level of our navel and it’s connected to digestion and assimilations of food and nutrients.
The spine is the main highway for our energy: when we release tension between the vertebrae, we create space for our energy to travel towards higher energetic centres like the heart and head.
Your next step
You know already, that I am an action taker :)
I love to see and feel immediate results, I love to give tools to my students because I want to empower them – to build a regular, inspiring and personal Yoga Practice.
Said that, what is your next step?
#1 Practice the 30′ Yoga Flow focused on Twists, that you can find at the end of this blog post.
#2 Share your experience with me, using the comment section below, Facebook or with a direct email.
And of course, if you have questions, desires, needs – please reach out, I am here for you!