If you’ve taken one of my yoga classes, you probably already know how much I love twists! And if you haven’t, why not? Seriously, though. Do you know why I usually start and end each class with them? Do you know any of the benefits of yoga twists?
Twists have tons of mental and physical benefits.
These are just my favorites. And, yes, just like dessert, I’m saving the best for last!
1. Twists increase range of motion.
Twisting poses help restore the spine’s natural range of motion. As we age our muscles, tendons, ligaments, and facia gradually shorten over time. This shortening leads to an overall decreased range of motion.
Sedentary lifestyles can be a big factor here!
Yoga twists that involve the spine, as well as the shoulders or hips, open up the body. Lengthening the soft tissues around the spine and the surrounding joints a few times a week, will gradually lengthen them. This length increases the range of motion of the spine, shoulders, torso, and hips too.
Example: Stronger standing twists like Revolved Crescent Lunge or Revolved Chair pose are great for getting the whole spine and joints around it involved.
2. Twists provide pain relief.
A great benefit of yoga twists is how they help relieve pain. Just going through our daily lives, especially if we stand or sit for most of the day, puts a lot of pressure on the lower back and hips. This pressure often causes muscle tightness around the torso.
Twisting postures open up the torso by lengthening the sides of the waist, expanding across the front of the chest, and stretching the low back. This movement allows the soft tissues to relax. The result? Increased mobility, improved posture, and reduced pain for the neck, back, shoulders, and hips. The combined effect is a feeling of ease within the body.
Example: Seated twisting poses like Half Lord of the Fishes Pose make it easier to keep the spine long to relieve pain while twisting.
3. Twists stimulate circulation.
Greater range of motion and pain relief are not all that twists help though. That same pressure and tightness throughout the torso that causes pain, also causes a restriction of circulation.
Twisting poses release this accumulation of pressure. This release increases flexibility and improves posture. Ultimately by releasing this block and making space in the torso, circulation throughout the entire body improves. Better circulation allows blood flow to bring cells, muscles, and organs fuel (like nutrients, energy, and oxygen) and remove toxins (like carbon dioxide and metabolic waste.)
Example: I like turning Seated Spinal Twist into a vinyasa (returning to center on each inhale while alternatively twisting left or right on the exhale) to help with circulation.
4. Twists aid in digestion.
Another benefit of yoga twists is that they help digestion. Physiologically, twists stimulate circulation, provide pain relief, and increase our body’s range of motion but they also aid in digestion especially if we twist in the right order. What does that mean? In short, we should always twist right first and then left. When we twist right, we open the ascending colon. When we twist left, we compress the descending colon. In general, when we twist right and then left, it is essentially pushing everything in the correct digestive order to ease digestive issues.
Also, twists stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which enables us to rest and digest.
Example: I like standing wide leg forward fold with a twist for this one because it doesn’t put excessive amounts of pressure on the lower abdominal region while still stimulating digestion with the twist.
5. Twists provide stress relief!
But most importantly in our fast-paced, modern society, twists help us slow down and alleviate stress and anxiety by relaxing the sympathetic nervous system. I like to think of it this way: reclining twists signal our minds and nervous systems that it’s safe to relax and quiet down.
Obviously, twisting poses are great for opening up the chest, shoulders, and back. By opening up everything along the torso, twists help release stored tension in the body. When we hold poses for five breaths, the muscles start to release and lengthen deeper. This lets us relax and our feelings of stress and anxiousness decrease.
I told you I was saving the best for last!
Example: Reclined Spinal Twist is the simplest version of this and can be held for 5 breaths or 5 minutes on each side.
So there you have it! Five of my favorite reasons to incorporate yoga twists into your daily life.
Combine full-body twists with slow, rhythmic breathing and hold them for the same amount of time in each direction to increase spinal mobility, help maintain normal ranges of spinal rotation, and reduce back pain. Digestion and circulation are also aided by twisting through the center of the body.
I start and finish each class with a set of twists. They lengthen, relax, and realign the spine and therefore help calm us down to begin class with a clear mind or allow the body and mind to soften into savasana.
Try taking yoga twists off the mat and into your life.
Start your day with a set of twists to get your body going. (Use any of the examples above.) Then finish your day with another set to quiet your mind before bed.
I hope you feel better.