The two primary functions of twisted postures in yoga practice are:
- to stimulate the internal organs
- to release tension in the spine and areas that are frequently closed off
Results can be disappointing when twists are initially attempted, as it takes time to find space in the body and flexibility in the muscles. Active twists help to build strength in the obliques, which facilitate the coiling.
Improved results are seen when the breath is used wisely. Deep inhalations create length in the spine and limbs, while exhalations encourage a contraction of muscles and hence a tighter twist. Rather than forcing twists, allow your breath to do the work.
The sequence provided here is designed to stoke the digestive system, encouraging the blood to heat and flow faster around the vital organs. It is an invigorating routine, designed for the morning and seeks to beat sluggish digestion and jump start metabolism. With improved digestion comes more energy.
Working in parallel with its evening counterpart, it is designed to detoxify the digestive tract when, like a saturated sponge, it needs wringing out.
Start in an mountain pose. Root down with the feet, stand up tall and tuck the tail bone under. Draw in your stomach and deepen your breathing, finding space in all the nooks and crannies of your sleepy ribcage.
From here, take a slow sun salutation – moving through a forward fold, half lift, chaturanga, upward facing dog and finally downward facing dog.
Place the right leg between the hands, lift the head and lengthen your back. Drop the left knee to the floor and stretch the foot away as far as you can.
Gently stretch out the back by raising the arms to the sky and lifting your gaze.
Once you feel balanced, raise the left knee from the floor pressing the heel towards the ground. Bring your hands into prayer position and press the palms together. Hold for 3 breaths.
Gradually move the left elbow to the outside of the right knee and press the hands together in prayer position. Draw the prayer in towards your sternum and turn to look over your right shoulder. Inhale to find length between the crown of the head and the heel, exhale to twist a little deeper.
Untangle yourself from the twist, placing both hands to the floor to frame the right foot. Straighten the front leg and drag the back foot in until you feel your weight is balanced between the two. Shift the weight forward and place your right hand under your face.
At this point you are perfectly poised to attempt Half Moon Pose. This pose I find particularly difficult, and sometimes have more success if I place my hand on a block. I’ll provide a few versions here, don’t be afraid to start at the beginning and practise against a wall first.
- From this starting position, place your left hand on your left hip and rotate the hip outwards. Concentrate on lengthening the spine and twisting the pelvis open as you raise the left foot off the floor.
- If at this point you seem stable, lift the hand from the hip towards the sky. Be aware of the body’s desire to fold in on itself. Try to keep the hip open, the leg strong and the spine tall.
- Finally, turn to look to the left, opening your chest as well as your hip. At this point I lose my balance and fall on my face. Remember to keep your focal point and never forget to breathe.
Uncoil yourself gradually back to the starting position; hand under the face, staring down, with the back leg placed on the floor and the weight evenly distributed. Ensure your hips are straight and grab hold of your big toe with your right hand.
From here, open up the left arm and thus the chest for the second time. Inhale to create space in the left hand side of the body, stretching up to the ceiling with your hand, and exhale to twist the chest open further. Hold for 3-5 breaths
From this position a revolved triangle pose can also be taken. Replace the right hand with the left and open the chest in the opposite direction, enjoying the relief of the counter twist. Placing the hand the opposite side of the foot will give you a deeper stretch.
Repeat the sequence on both sides.
See part II for the complementary evening sequence.