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Yoga 101: Seated Twist, Ardha Matsyendrasana

Twists are a great tool to help you on your journey of letting go.

A good counterpose to last week’s backbend sphinx posture is the seated twist. 

Half fish, or seated spinal twist, works not only the physical mechanics to strengthen and keep your back healthy, but helps you connect and understand the subtle body and the ability to wring out self-imposed miseries.

When we hold onto negative feelings, disappointment, resentment, loss, expectation, judgment or anger, they build up in the body like plaque on your teeth. Over time, the body will take these negative patterns and basically rot the body, mind and spirit.

Yoga is like brushing your teeth. A daily yoga practice that includes twists and binds helps clean, massage and strengthen the body, mind and spirit from the inside out. As we deepen our practice, we also deepen our awareness of the cleaning of our psychological and spiritual bodies. When we begin to truly yolk body mind and spirit, the buildup of years of tension and holdings begins to release, and we become more open physically and spiritually.

As always, please get clearance from your physician or wellness provider before starting any type of physical activity. 

Warming up for your twist:

Begin finding your pranayama, through three-part breathing in tadasana. Give yourself a few rounds of arm vinyasas. Inhale, bringing your arms up, and exhale, bringing them down. Do this five or six times. Give yourself a forward fold, or uttanasana. Plant your hands, and step back into plank. Hold your plank for five or six breaths. 

Bring your knees down, and find child's pose, then come back into table. Inhale, crossing your ankles behind you. Then exhale, rolling over your ankles and bringing your feet out in front of you.

Let’s twist!

Seated twist:

Find dandasana. In your spine, search for the foundation of tadasana as you root your sitz bones into the earth. Let the crown of your head rise up towards the sky as you inhale.

As you exhale, root the bottom of the body down into the earth. As you inhale, feel the top of the head lengthen.

Lengthen your left leg, flexing your ankle so your toes are to the sky.

Bring your right foot over your left knee, flat on the earth right beside your right knee. If this feels good, bend your left leg so that your foot comes in and close to your right hip. (You can put a pillow, block or blanket under the left hip if it rises off the ground.)

This twist is for the upper thoracic spine and cervical spine. You should not turn from your waist or lower back.

As you exhale, turn to your right, stopping halfway and taking another inhale to lengthen. Then exhale, looking to your right. Your right hand should be flat behind your back with the heel of your hand pressing down to help you root and support the lower back. Your left arm can wrap around your right knee, or you can bring your left elbow to the outside of your right knee. Keep your right hand behind you to keep your spine straight and supported.

Look over your right shoulder, keeping your chin horizontal, parallel to the earth, bringing your breath in slow and deep. Make sure your right foot stays grounded. (If this is too intense, you can keep the left leg long and engaged.)

It’s important as you exhale to pull the navel in toward your spine to support your lower back and protect it.

As you are looking to the right, take your awareness to your belly and imagine yourself as a wet towel. With the twist, there is an opportunity for stillness and a place to find your own personal strength within the third chakra, manipurna chakra (vital energy channels that balance the physical and subtle bodies). It’s located right around the solar plexus.

With every inhale, imagine soaking your body in clean water. With every exhale, you wring the body out: wring out the old thoughts and patterns that don’t serve you in a positive way. When you are done, allow your body, mind and spirit to connect with the space created. Allow yourself to let go so that you can fined a renewed energy and new prospects.

After you do both sides, counter the twist with sphinx pose if you like. Take savasana for at least 5-10 minutes.

Namaste!

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