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Twists

  • Parvrtta Trikonasana: Revolved Triangle

    If I had to pick the most complicated asana that’s regularly practiced, Parvrtta Trikonasana would be among the top few. Parvrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle) is a balance pose, a spinal rotation, a forward bend, and even contains an element of backbending. One of the trickiest things about this pose is that it’s really easy to sacrifice the length of your torso in order to place your hand closer to the floor. Breathing is always more important than forcing your body into the “full expression” of any pose. Make sure that your bottom hand is always high enough up that you...

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  • Bharadvajasana: A Sage’s Twist

    The heroes of yoga’s ancient texts appear in many of its asanas. Most of these heroes (and heroines) take the form of gods and goddesses. Revered sages have also been honored with poses all their own. The pose I’d like to feature today, Bharadvajasana, is named in honor of Bharadvaja, a famous sage in the Ramayana. Here’s how Zo Newell, author of Downward Dogs and Warriors: Wisdom Tales for Modern Yogis, tells the story of Bharadvaja: “Bharadvaja was a rishi, an ancient sage—one of the famous Seven Sages of Vedic times, who are immortalized in the constellation known in India as...

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  • Parvrtta Ardha Padmasana: Revolved Half Lotus Pose

      It used to be that when people in the mainstream thought of yoga, Padmasana (Lotus Pose) came to mind. Now that yoga has entered the mainstream, Padmasana may still be emblematic of practice, but the asana field has become much more crowded. Photos of yoga practitioners in all manner of pretzelish poses dominate social media. But Padmasana remains a goal for lots of practitioners. While Padmasana may be symbolic of yoga, it’s not necessarily a pose everyone can do, no matter how much they practice. Whether you can practice this pose depends more on genetic skeletal structure than it does...

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  • 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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  • Yoga for Gardening: Poses to Practice in the Dirt

    Wall Dog Yoga for Gardening: Relief for Your Achin’ Back Springtime signals blooming bulbs, veggie planting and for me, lots of requests from students for yoga poses to counteract the effects of gardening. Shoveling, squatting, kneeling and bending over—the forms your body has to assume to get your garden ready for planting—all take a toll, especially when we likely haven’t been doing these things much over the winter. Here are some tips on how to minimize the effects of some of gardening’s most popular positions: • Shoveling: One of the problems with shoveling is that it’s asymmetrical. Most of...

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