Twisting is essential to yoga.
We can twist actively or passively, making it appropriate for everyone, and no matter which twisting pose we choose we get the same feeling of release and openness, the detoxifying benefits, the spinal lubrication and alignment…honestly the list goes on and on.
So long ago now that I can’t even remember the teacher who originally gave me the cue, I heard the best bit of advice for deepening twists ever. In fact, I never come into a twist without this popping into my mind—and it helps every time.
Behold: the magic method for deeper twists!
First, get into the basic version of whatever twist you are doing—don’t expect to start deep. Settle in and shift things around so that you are comfortable.
Then, on your next inhale, reach way up through the crown up your head, dropping your shoulders down and back. On your next exhale, use whatever leverage you have (in prayer twist that will be your palms pressing together, in supine twist, that will be your arms or palms pressing against the ground, you can and should use any leverage at your disposal—knees pressing together or feet pressing into the ground are other great places to find it) and push deeper into the pose.
With each inhale and exhale, repeat this process, inching your way forward until you find the deepest expression of the pose. One you get there, your inclination will be to back off a little. Use your breath to stay at the edge, imagining reaching up with every inhale and pushing in with every exhale.
It is honestly amazing to see how far this simple process can take you.
Bonus: two more cues to help keep that twist light and easy.
1) Find face space.
Because twists are so twisty, our faces tend to get gummed up with the effort of tying ourselves in a knot. Once you’ve found your pose, check your face. Relax your eyes, your jaw and your mouth and find as much space as you can. A little smile here is always a good idea.
I swear a relaxed face adds inches onto the length of all our limbs and our spine as well.
2) Find toe space.
It was recently—and accurately—pointed out to me that my toes were getting crunchy in maryciasana C. That happens because we’re trying to maintain our balance and our connection to the earth through our feet.
But just like our face, once our basic pose is established, we can check in with our feet. Lift the toes up and then set them back down, or simply extend through the toes actively. This will release energy and further open open and deepen your pose.
(Actually, those last two tips work for just about any pose in the yoga lexicon.)
Another easy way to describe this method came from my wonderful teacher, Sharon Galindo. She says, “When we inhale, we expand. When we exhale, we contract.”
The next time you are on your mat, consider playing with that idea. Our breath can infuse space and depth into our poses in all sorts of unexpected ways.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman