Article originally appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press (co-authored by Helen Maupin, Candace Propp, Stacy Schroder)
After a long, hardy Winnipeg winter, the promise of spring brings on a desire to air out our physical spaces and to rejuvenate our bodies. Twisting the torso is noted for its ability to release accumulated toxins, move stagnate energy (gas) and return mobility to your spine.
If poor digestion is something you are challenged by, twisting actions in yoga wring out the digestive organs and muscles. When released, this squeezing action reintroduces fresh blood, nutrients and space-giving breath to body parts in much need of an overhaul. For instance, if your lower back is compromised from slumping and slouching, twisting actions stretch and strengthen back muscles.
If stress and anxiety are your nemesis, twists open the chest, shoulders and back allowing soothing breath to enter your body and restore movement in these often restricted areas. Releasing this stored tension in the body elevates your mental state, staving off depression.
The three poses illustrated below are a simple spring-cleaning practice for all levels of yoga practitioners. Use the following twisting action in each of the poses.
Action: As you inhale, lengthen your spine up through the crown of your head and down into your sit bones. As you exhale, maintain this length in the spine and turn the torso to the right.
For more advanced yogis, lift and lengthen the spine on the inhale and on the exhale create the twist in the torso by leading with the centre of your breastbone.
Marichyasana III (Standing Chair Twist)
Although the torso and spine twist toward the wall, the hips and pelvis do not follow. You can do this by keeping the right bent leg parallel to the wall. Hold the pose for five to 10 breaths and repeat the pose to the other side.
Marichyasana III (Seated Twist)
Use the press of your hand into the floor to maintain a lifted spine. If your bent-leg foot does not comfortably rest along the outer thigh of the extended leg, then place it along the inner thigh. Hold the pose for five to 10 breaths and repeat the pose to the other side.
Ardha Jathara Parvartanasana (Supine Bent Knee Twist)
Place a raised support (such as a pillow, blanket, stack of books) under your bent knees if the opposite shoulder is lifting off the mat. Hold the pose for 10 to 20 breaths and repeat the pose to the other side.
For more yoga actions, refer to Creating Space: Yoga Actions for Pelvis & Psoas.