Yoga Twists for Beginners

When many people think of yoga, they often picture flexible bodies twisted into pretzel-like positions. Twisting the body provides a host of benefits, so those yogis may be onto something! If you've ever stretched after a long day of sitting, traveling, or walking, you might have unconsciously added a spinal twist to your stretching simply because it felt good. If you play sports, like tennis, softball, or golf, then you're definitely familiar with the flexibility required to twist gracefully and with power.

Benefits of Yoga Twists

Twisting offers more benefits than just feeling good and increasing your spinal flexibility. When you spiral your torso around your spine, you compress and massage the organs of the abdomen, including all of the digestive organs. This pressure helps to push stagnant blood and toxins from your kidneys, liver, and spleen (to name a few). When the twist (and the pressure) is released, these organs get a fresh, new supply of blood, which stimulates digestion and metabolism. It also helps these organs flush toxins from your body more quickly.

This toxic release can be even deeper than a physical cleanse. Twisting calms the nervous system and quiets the mind, particularly at the end of practice. Your newly serene and focused mind will more easily be able to let go of negative feelings and outdated habits. As you physically "wring out" your body, you may notice that your brain and spirit feel cleansed and purified, as well. Keep reading to learn a short sequence of yoga twists that are suitable for all yoga practitioners, including beginners!

Caution

Those with chronic back pain, back injuries, or degenerative disk disease should approach these poses with caution. They should only attempt to practice them under the guidance of an experienced and knowledgeable instructor.

The Sequence

Practice this sequence a few times a week. It should take about 20 minutes to complete all of the poses. Take it slowly and never force your body into any position. If you feel any sharp, pinching or jarring pain, come out of the pose immediately and rest. Always remember these general guidelines when practicing yoga:

  • Move slowly in and out of the poses.
  • Keep your breath smooth and even throughout the practice.
  • Practice with an empty stomach.
  • Never strain or force yourself beyond your current abilities.

Do not change the arrangement of the poses. Keep the exact order of this sequence, as it has been organized to bring you the most benefits. Be sure to check with your doctor before practicing yoga if you have any injuries, health issues, or concerns.

Warm up with a few rounds of Cat-Cow Pose and Wind-Relieving Pose (Pavanamuktasana). After you have completed the twists, end with Knees-to-Chest Pose (Apanasana) and a 3-5 minute Corpse Pose (Savasana).

 

 

You are taller in the morning than you are at night! This is due to gravity compressing the discs between your vertebrae. Practicing yoga helps to lubricate the discs and keep them filled with fluid, which will help you stand up tall all day long!

 

 

 

1. Easy Pose with Twist

Sometimes called "Simple Cross-Legged Pose with a Twist," Parivrtta Sukhasana (PAH-ruh-VREE-tah soo-KAHS-uh-nuh) stretches the back, knees, and ankles. Sitting upright with your spine properly aligned reduces stress and anxiety.

  1. Sit on the edge of a firm blanket and cross your legs in front of you at the shins. If your hips are very tight, you can sit on a bolster or block.
  2. Balance your weight evenly across your sit bones. Align your head, neck, and spine. Lengthen your spine, but soften your neck. Relax your feet and thighs.
  3. Place your right hand on the floor behind you. Bring your left hand to the outside of your right knee, gently twisting to the right. Inhale to lengthen your spine, and exhale to twist deeper. Gaze over your right shoulder.
  4. Hold for ten breaths.
  5. Come back to center. Change the cross of your legs and twist to the opposite side.
  6. To release, come back to center.

2. Bharadvaja's Twist

This simple seated twist — Bharadvajasana I ((bah-RAHD-vah-JAHS-uh-nuh) — regulates metabolism and calms the mind. It stretches the spine, torso, shoulders, and hips; and is a safe twist for women who are pregnant.

  1. Begin seated on the floor with your legs extended in front of you, arms resting at your sides. This is Staff Pose (Dandasana).
  2. Shift your weight to your right buttock. Bend your knees and bring your lower legs to the left. Rest your legs on the floor, and place your left inner ankle in the arch of your right foot.
  3. On an inhalation, lengthen your spine as long as you can. Exhaling, twist your upper torso to the right. Place your right hand on the floor behind your body, and rest your left hand on your outer right thigh. Turn your left palm up.
  4. Press down through your left sit bone. If your left hip is lifting off the floor, place a folded, firm blanket or folded yoga mat beneath your right sit bone to re-gain balance.
  5. Draw your shoulder blades down your back and in toward your back ribs. There will be a slight backbend in your upper back, but do not force it. Twist around your spine from your tailbone to the crown of your head.
  6. On each inhalation, lengthen your spine; and on each exhalation, twist deeper.
  7. Turn your head to gaze over your right shoulder.
  8. Hold for up to one minute.
  9. To release, exhale and unwind your torso. Come back to center and extend both legs in front of you in Staff Pose again. Repeat the twist for the same length of time on the opposite side.

3. Half Lord of the Fishes

Traditional yoga texts claim this pose — Ardha Matsyendrasana (ARD-uh MAHT-see-ehn-DRAHS-uh-nuh) — destroys deadly diseases and awakens the cosmic energy called "Kundalini." Modern teachers agree to its many benefits, which include relief from fatigue and backache, and stimulated digestion and metabolism. It also stretches the shoulders, hips, neck, and spine.

  1. Begin seated on the floor with your legs extended in front of you, arms resting at your sides. This is Staff Pose (Dandasana).
  2. Bend both knees, placing the soles of your feet flat on the floor. Then, drop your left knee to the floor. Tuck your left foot under your right leg and rest your left foot alongside your right buttock.
  3. On an inhalation, raise your left arm overhead. Exhaling, twist to the right against the inside of your right thigh. Place your left elbow to the outside of your right knee. Keep your forearm raised, fingertips pointing toward the ceiling. To deepen the pose, lower your forearm and clasp your left knee. Reach behind your body and rest your right hand on the floor behind you.
  4. Spiral your torso around your spine from your tailbone to the crown of your head.
  5. With each inhalation, make your spine longer; and with each exhalation, twist a little deeper.
  6. Turn your head to gaze over your right shoulder.
  7. Hold for up to one minute.
  8. To release, exhale and unwind your torso. Come back to center and extend both legs in front of you in Staff Pose again. Repeat the twist for the same length of time on the opposite side.

4. Reclined Spinal Twist

This supine (lying-down) spinal twist — Supta Matsyendrasana (SOOP-tah MAHT-see-ehn-DRAHS-uh-nuh) — adds extra support to your back, calms the mind, and soothes the nervous system. It is a great pose to wind down a yoga practice.

  1. To begin, lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat. You can rest your head on a pillow or blanket if your neck hurts. Extend your arms to the side, with your shoulder blades on the floor.
  2. As you exhale, drop your knees to the left as you gently turn your head to the right. Soften your gaze as you keep your shoulder blades pressing towards the floor and away from your ears. Allow the force of gravity to drop your knees even closer to the floor.
  3. Hold the pose for several breaths. Then on an inhalation, slowly bring your knees to your chest. Exhale, and release your legs to the right.
  4. When you’re finished with the pose, hug your knees to your chest for a few breaths, and then slowly exhale as you extend your legs along the floor.

Twist & Release

Adding twists to your regular yoga routine will tone and cleanse your internal organs. It will also help your spine become long, flexible, and strong! Include a few twists at the beginning and end of your regular practice to help your body release tension, stress, and toxins. Over time, you may notice that your body, mind, and spirit feel refreshed and renewed!