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Welcome back to Day 6 of the Yoga Basics Challenge. It’s pretty amazing that we have been practising together for 6 days already! As the title suggests, today’s theme is all about twisting.
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Twisting Yoga Poses and Detoxification
Many of you would have heard from various teachers that twisting yoga poses help to detox the body. Is that really true?
The answer is.. it depends.
Your body is perfectly capable of detoxing itself through its natural systems. There is no need for additional stimuli to “detox” your body. In fact, there is no concrete scientific evidence that links yoga twists with detoxification.
So why do I still say “twist to detox”? That is because twisting yoga poses are indeed beneficial for your mind and body. Twisting yoga poses
- are challenging, forcing you to focus more on your breathing to hold the asana. We all know that deep breathing help to lower stress levels (which in turn improves the detoxification system you already have)
- ease back pain and improve spinal flexibility and activates your lymphatic system
- stimulate our organs, including those responsible for our bowels. Increased rate of excretion means toxins get out of our bodies faster.
Most importantly, regardless of what science says, we know that doing yoga twists makes us feel great after the class.
So go ahead and twist yourself away – you’ll feel better and know that you are indeed leveling up that natural detoxification process in your body, albeit in a non-direct manner.
How to Twist in Yoga Poses
Yoga twists are great to practise for people with back issues. However, they need to be done safely and correctly, or you could risk injuring yourself.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you twist.
Lengthen Before Twisting
This is possibly the biggest rule I would say you should follow – hence the theme of the day.
Most beginners may think that twists are just about getting into the pose and muscling your way through. That may actually be counter-effective, especially if you are sinking into your lower spine. So try to extend your body upward through the crown of your head before you twist. And notice if your lower spine is rounding. If it is, release the twist, lengthen again, before going into the pose.
Use Your Breath to Guide You
Twists compress the midbody, and this may mean you will have less room to conduct deep breathing. If you feel yourself taking shallow breaths and breathing quickly, this is a cue for you to release your pose first. Take a pause, focus on elongating your spine and giving your belly more space to breathe, and only twist when you are completely lengthened.
Thereafter, use each inhale to lengthen more, and each exhale to deepen the twist. Using this wave of breath can help you get into a twist more safely than forcing your way through.
Use Uddiyana Bandha to Deepen Your Twist
Uddiyana Bandha, also known as the abdominal energy lock, can be engaged to stabilize your lumbar spine and protects your lower back from collapsing while giving your spine more space for the twist.
If you are new to the concept of bandhas, you can get our free guide here, or check out the individual posts of the Bandhas for Beginners Series below:
- Bandhas for Beginners: What is it and why it is important in yoga – Free cheatsheet
- Activate Mula Bandha to find lightness and stability in Yoga
- Activate Uddiyana Bandha to fly into yoga inversions
- How to practise Jalandhara Bandha for neck, spine and thyroid health
Key Twisting Poses for Today
- Seated twist: A gentle way to improve spinal flexibility. You can do this anytime you are seated, even in the office!
- Half Lord of the Fish: A deeper twist that is great for easing into your yoga class
- Thread the Needle: Amazing twist for upper back and shoulder aches. Do this at home after a long day’s work and feel the change in your back.
- Easy Lunge Twist: Learn to square your hips and use your middle and upper back to twist here.
- Revolved High Lunge: An unassisted twist which helps to strengthen the upper back and increasing its range of motion
- Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold Twist: Strengthen your upper back, shoulders and core while stretching your legs and lower back. This is also a gentle heart opener, which we know is great for feeling good.
- Revolved Downward Facing Dog: Improves full body coordination as you will be toning your core, strengthening your arms, and deepening the stretch for your hamstrings.
- Chair Pose Twist: Remember to keep the knees level and the hips in the same line. When this pose is done correctly, you will increase your mid and lower back strength and improve flexibility throughout the spine.
- Reclined Twist variation: We end off with a reclined twist but with figure four legs. This one is amazing for stretching out your ITB, a key tendon responsible for hip extension, abduction, and lateral rotation.
Practice Makes Progress
Twisting poses, like heart openers (or back-bends), may not be the easiest things to do for beginners. What I have done is to provide the commonly practised poses as an introduction to twists. This is by no means an exhaustive list; because twists are so versatile, you can literally create twists from any yoga pose.
In case you find twisting yoga poses difficult, try to go slow on this class and come back to this class even after the challenge is completed.
Just remember to practise safely, and always respect your body.
I’ll leave you here for today, until next time!
The YogaMad is founded by Mila, an avid yogini who is passionate about inspiring others to live their best lives while finding mind-body-soul balance. She has a background in business consulting but has left the corporate world in her quest to live out her dreams as a yoga nomad.