By now, most of us have found ourselves holding our breath, gritting our teeth and mentally counting down the moments until we can release poses such as revolved triangle, right?
Smurf yoga—or, holding your breath in a pose until you turn blue—is certainly not the answer.
Revolved triangle pose, in my experience, is on the top of the “we don’t love it” list. Add to that pose revolved extended side angle or revolved lunge and suddenly frowns appear, faces sink and a time clock begins before losing students via the domino effect (exiting from the pose one by one before the 5 breaths are completed).
So what is it about these twisting postures that make us want to bolt? Is it the self-awareness that becomes more apparent as we are forced to face the extra loving in the midsection? Is it the frustration with our body’s inflexibility within the spinal column? Perhaps as we are wringing out our intestines and abdominal organs, we’re also limiting the space the lungs have to take in their maximum breath. Some practitioners may even find themselves caught on the borderline of anxiety or fear that they will not be able to take a deep enough breathe to stay in the pose.
There are a ton of physical benefits to twisting postures. They sculpt the abdomen and obliques (love handles). The compression and stimulation of the abdominal organs such as the liver, pancreas, kidneys, intestines and bladder help with the removal of excretory waste as well as relief from gas pains. Maybe pick a day and skip the coffee and do a twist instead!
Twists also assist with circulation. Limiting and then releasing the flow of blood through the body allows fresh movement of oxygen through the blood stream and assists with tissue healing.
Sounds great, right? Well that’s not all! They also neutralize the spine after back bends and help keep our natural spinal rotation and soft tissues pliable. Rest assured that over time our bodies will remain healthy enough to twist this way and that without losing length or increasing the risk of random injuries.
If you happen to participate in sports like golf, soccer, martial arts, football, baseball, tennis and others that involve twisting for full range of motion, then a yoga practice that involves some of these revolting twisting postures is essential as a complimentary practice to your sport!
So moving away from the physiological let’s explore the other areas in which we stand to gain from twisting like a pretzel!
How we perceive our practice and poses mentally can immediately create a conflict in our minds. In yoga mental conflicts are not necessarily fights going on in our heads. It simply means that we have not found santosha (contentment) with the pose.
Santosha—meaning we neither revel in the posture nor feel any form of aversion to it. We simply do the posture and focus on remaining present and in the moment. By releasing ourselves from the conflict in our minds, and finding contentment in these poses, we will experience a more level and open flow of the mind during our physical practice.
Ujjayai (victorious) breath should be used to take the “Smurf” yoga out of your practice.
In twists, the compression of ribs and lungs can make it impossible to take full big breaths and it can also be a troubling experience to try to breathe using our mouths. Instead focus on the ujjayai breath skills where there is the slightest constriction at the back of the throat. This allows for the elongation of the duration of each inhalation and exhalation.
Allow the breaths to last five counts in and five counts out. This technique mirrors fogging up a window with using the mouth and creating that condensation effect, but instead of using our kissers, we should be using our nose for both the inhalation and the exhalation. Remember, if we are not breathing, we are not practicing.
So instead of revolting the next time we’re faced with a pose that rivals Gumby, by taking the opportunity to breathe, mentally explore the experience of being present in the pose, connecting with santosha, our patience is rewarded—and think about how yummy our bellies, backs, obliques and digestives system will feel.
Instead of thinking how much longer until I get out of this pose think “Viva la Revolution” and bring on the twists!