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Twists

  • Parvrtta Anjaneyasana: Revolved High Lunge Pose

    In almost every class I teach, when I ask what people in class would like to focus on, twists are high on the list. Whether we twist while standing, sitting or lying down, spinal rotation often feels like a remedy for whatever ails us. Why do people love twists so much? I speculate that one reason is that we just don’t have that many opportunities to rotate our spines in daily life. Sure, we turn to look behind us while we’re driving sometimes, but for the most part, we keep our bodies in the sagittal plane. So twisting feels like...

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  • Parvrtta Utkatasana: Revolved Fierce Pose

    Utkatasana is popularly known as “Chair Pose.” But I can’t imagine that ancient yogis—who had never seen, let alone sat in a chair—would have invented a word for “chair” just in case. Truth is, they didn’t. Instead, the root word—utkata—means “fierce.” Utkatasana, a pose that strengthens the legs, feet and abdominals, is a staple in my healthy hips regimen. It strengthens muscles that can help stabilize hypermobile hips. In addition, it strengthens the core. The revolved version, Parvrtta Utkatasana, adds a thoracic spine rotation that can help soften shoulder tension. One of the keys to releasing upper body tension is...

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  • Parvrtta Ardha Padmasana: Lotus with a Twist

    Lotus Pose (Padmasana) may be yoga asana’s most recognizable pose. This is a bit odd, since many Westerners do not have hip joints that will perform the pose safely. Lotus Pose requires a whole lot of external rotation, more than many Western hip joints can muster. Perhaps Lotus Pose became an asana icon because of the practice’s East Indian origins. My own completely anecdotal observation from time spent in India revealed that Indian hip joints appear to externally rotate much more easily and universally than those of my students in the U.S. Poses such as Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose...

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  • Parvrtta Parsvakonasana: Rotated Side-Angle Pose

    If I had to pick yoga’s most complicated yoga asana—among the more commonly practiced poses—Parvrtta Parsvakonasana (Rotated Side-Angle Pose) would get my vote. Parvrtta Parsvakonasana is a Warrior Pose, a twist and a balance pose. Its benefits are many. According to Yoga Journal, practicing Rotated Side-Angle Pose: Strengthens and stretches the legs, knees, and ankles Stretches the groins, spine, chest and lungs, and shoulders Stimulates abdominal organs Increases stamina Improves digestion and aids elimination Improves balance Parvrtta Parsvakonasana is commonly practiced in many popular classes, including fast-paced vinyasa classes. Even if you prefer moving quickly through sequences, it can be...

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  • Cool Down: Restorative Twist

    Spinal twists may be the most-often-requested type of asana in my classes. Not only do they feel good, but they also help keep your core muscles supple and your spine mobile. While the lumbar spine is only capable of twisting about five degrees, the thoracic spine—the section of the spine connected to the rib cage—loves to twist. The thoracic spine also happens to be an area that tends to become less mobile as we age. So twisting helps that more stable area of the spine maintain its range of motion. In yoga, we practice spinal twists in standing, sitting and...

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  • Ardha Matsyendrasana: Lengthen Your Spine

    Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes) is one of yoga’s ancient poses. Named for the sage, Matsyendra, it is one of the relatively few yoga asanas written about in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. It is said to have been Matsyendra’s favorite yoga asana. In the article “Heroes, Saints, and Sages” at yogajournal.com, Colleen Morton Busch writes about the pose’s namesake: “Matsyendra appears to have been an actual historical person, not just a figure of myth. Born in Bengal around the 10th century c.e., he is venerated by Buddhists in Nepal as an incarnation of the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteshvara...

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  • Revolved Lunge - Settle In

    revolved lunge Revolved Lunge aka Chaise Lounge Pose Born to Anjana (a supernatural woman) and Kesari (king of the monkeys), Anjaneya had magical powers and royalty in his genetic inheritance. His godfather was Vayu, the wind god. Anjaneya was considered to be the reincarnation of Lord Shiva. His auspicious pedigree made him a bit of a star among mortals. According to legend, Anjaneya once mistook the sun for a glowing piece of fruit. In an effort to grab it for himself, Anjaneya leapt repeatedly, much to the annoyance of Indra, the sun god. After all, even the Koch brothers...

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  • Parvrtta Sukhasana: Ease with a Twist

    Parvrtta Sukhasana: Ease with a Twist I recently had the good fortune to sit a 10-day silent Insight Meditation retreat. A friend once compared these sitting marathons to extreme sports, calling them “extreme sitting.” It’s kind of true. All in all, at this particular retreat, we sat for almost eight hours every day, alternating with five hours of walking meditation, in 45-minute increments. In 1988, when I first started going to silent retreats, I was surprised by how rigorous it was for my body to sit that long. There were burning, stabbing, pulsating, vibrating, piercing sensations pretty much everywhere in...

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  • Jathara Parivartanasana: Expand your Elixir Field

    Revolved Belly Pose If you plant a garden, you know that August is your garden’s most bounteous month. Squash, eggplant, potatoes, onions, sweet corn, peppers, and of course, succulent tomatoes—an altogether different fruit from the mealy, pinkish orbs in the grocery store—are plentiful and at their juicy best. Late summer is the time we harvest and assimilate Earth’s bounty, the fruits of our labors. It’s likely no coincidence then that Chinese medicine designates late summer as the time when the Earth element is predominant. It is also fitting that Earth is the element that governs the stomach and spleen—organs...

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  • Janu Sirsasana: Moving Inward

    Janu Sirsasana The end of the year inspires reflection: What has transpired over the past year? What haven’t we completed? Where do we intend to go in the next year? Forward bending poses express introspection. I like to practice them toward the end of a yoga session—and the end of a year. As we fold our bodies forward, we internalize and integrate the benefits of whatever poses came before. Their cooling and calming effects prepare your body/mind for Savasana (final relaxation). Forward bends calm the brain and nervous system; relieve anxiety, headaches and fatigue; lower blood pressure; improve digestion...

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