6/7/11 The Benefits of... Twists

by Beth When I began taking yoga classes, I knew the poses made my body feel wonderful and I always left class feeling calm, centered, and grounded, but I didn't know exactly why. As I began to learn more about the practice of yoga, I discovered that the poses could do more than simply stretch my muscles. I became stronger and more flexible and I just felt healthier. In this monthly column, we will look specifically at different types of poses in order to discover their physical, mental, and emotional benefits.

This month's focus is twists. Twists get their benefits by alternately stretching and compressing the sides of the chest, the abdominals, and the muscles along the spine. This results in a stronger and more flexible spine, which will help to maintain the mobility of your spine. Additionally, the asymmetrical nature of the pose allows you to notice if one side of your body is more stiff that the other. If you find this to be the case, spend an extra breath or two on the stiffer side.

Twists are also detoxifying for the internal organs . Think about what happens when you wring out a wet rag. The twisting motion releases water from the rag. This is what happens to your organs when you twist. The organs are compressed by the twisting motion, releasing toxins, impurities, and even tension. When the twist is released, fresh blood, oxygen, and lymph floods into the organs promoting healthy functions.

Use the following gentle twist to stretch and strengthen both sides of the body in order to balance a stiff body, release tension, and promote the general health of your spine and internal organs.

While seated comfortably on a chair or on the floor, inhale and stretch both arms up to the sky. Reach up through your finger tips and lengthen your spine. Exhale, and using your abdominals, gently twist to the right allowing your hands to release down to the ground or to the chair. Enjoy a few breaths. Remember, never use your arms to force yourself deeper into a twist, as this can lead to injury. On an inhale return to center and repeat on the left side. Please note that twists are not recommended for those with herniated discs or sacroiliac pain.