April is Twist Month in the Badlands and that means we're working with breath, mind and body to let go of anything we no longer need. For twists to have integrity, they have to proceed from stability: Stability allows for revolution. <-click to tweet that!
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Stability comes from the core, so twists are really all about core. One of the biggest mistakes people make in twists is to generate the feeling from their arms and legs. Once you've supported and revolved the spine, your arms and legs can add interesting support to twists. But starting from the arms and legs is a recipe for sidelining your practice.
Stability is usually created from either the hip girdle (pelvis) or shoulder girdle. When one or the other of these structures hugs midline (usually the one connected to the body part on the ground - hands or feet), this creates the base for the rest of the core to begin revolving around midline. This both requires and creates "cross body activation."
Twists require what I'm terming "cross body activation" and create a different set of conditions on one side of the body to the other. Because of this pattern, twists compress and release our digestive organs, our spine, our lungs and heart and even our joints.
To understand cross body activation in this context, think of everything from your pelvic floor to your low ribs as your belly and imagine it divided into quadrants at your navel. Lie on the floor facing the ceiling with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Take a few belly breaths, exhaling by pressing your belly as far back to the floor and as far up toward your heart as you're comfortable, relax the entire belly and allow the breath to rush in like a gift. Repeat a few times.
Now, on your next exhale, press back everything from the navel down. Release, relax and allow the inhale to happen. Repeat a few times.
Next, on an exhale, press back and up everything above the navel. Don't worry, other things will come along for the ride, and isolation will grow over time, but likely not be complete - that's not the point (unless you're belly dancing, but that's a different class). You're creating connections here. Release, relax and allow the inhale to happen. Repeat a few times.
Next, on an exhale, press back everything to the right of your navel. Release, relax and allow the inhale to happen. Repeat a few times.
And then, press back everything to the left of your navel - on an exhale, of course. Release, relax and allow the inhale to happen. Repeat a few times.
Now, you've created some regions of connection. For your next set, focus on the Right Lower Quadrant of your belly drawing back and up. Yes, just that quarter. Release, relax and allow the inhale to happen. Repeat a few times.
And then, Right Upper Quadrant. Release, relax and allow the inhale to happen. Repeat a few times.
Then, Left Upper. Release, relax and allow the inhale to happen. Repeat a few times.
Finally Left Lower. Release, relax and allow the inhale to happen. Repeat a few times.
Go back around another time if you'd like. (The order follows the pathway of final digestion, helping to keep it moving along.)
Next, come to all fours in a table top position. Reach right arm out parallel to the ground, and left leg; right hand faces inward, left foot is flexed, toes pointed to ground, hips are level. Notice which quadrants are working the most: I'm going to guess its RUQ and LLQ, but you tell me - it's your experience, and yoga poses are just opportunities to have an experience. <-That's kinda tweetable, too, don't you think?
Now, if you want to feel it even more, on an exhale, slide your entire body forward until you feel that pattern "catch." I call this the core catch. Repeat about 5 times. If just maintaining the "Bird Dog" position with right arm and left leg up is challenge, wait to add this on.
Now you're ready to put what you've sensed into practice and begin to use core activation to build your poses from the inside out. This takes time. So if it's not crystal clear after one practice, don't worry about that. Practice and all is coming, said the master (Pattabhi Jois).
Now that you've created this connection, take it into standing poses like Warrior I and II.
Then, use it to supercharge your Revolved Side Angle, Revolved Triangle and so on by noticing and emphasizing cross body activation patterns in all your poses.
One exception to the description above about arms and legs creating the twist are the poses where your limbs are doing the twisting, independent of the torso: Cow faced and Eagle. But once in the pose, with the limbs creating midline by isometric contraction, investigate how the core activates differently in each quadrant due to the unequal forces.
These different patterns of left-right, upper-lower, front-back activation and stabilization, compression and opening are central to creating balance in the body, emotions and mind. To accentuate this effect, practice 6 rounds of alternate nostril breathing before or after your Final Relaxation.
What's your favorite twist? Or are twists your least favorite kind of poses? Leave your thoughts about twists below!
And here's your special invite to our Home Yoga Practice Support Live! Video call this Saturday, 4/15/17 at 10am MDT. Join via zoom.us link below at 10am MDT this Saturday, April 15th. If you haven't joined us before, click the link right now to download the client and be ready - it's super easy and fast!
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