Advanced Yoga Practice: Creating Length to Twist (Twists)
Advanced practices are for those who have been attending classes regularly for five years or more, who have a consistent and regular home practice, who are able to balance comfortably and safely in Head Stand in the middle of the room for 5 minutes or more, who are able to kick up safely into Hand Stand against the wall on their own and/or who are able to straighten their arms in Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose). In these practices, the information is more technical and begins to incorporate themes of a more esoteric nature. Always seek out the guidance of a qualified teacher before you attempt new or challenging poses, especially inversions and Head Stand, so that they may instruct you in the safest way to approach them. There is no substitute for instruction from a seasoned teacher.
About The Practice
This advanced twisting practice begins with standing poses to open up the backs of the legs and the back of the torso and follows with twisted variations in inversions. After some floor poses to reintegrate the limbs into the torso and to allow the spine to lengthen in the horizontal, Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose) is introduced to restablish the twisting of the torso. This is then taken into seated twists and Parshva Bakasana (Side Crow Pose).
A long spine with balanced curves is essential for a safe and effective twist, but knowing the spine can be a very difficult thing, even when doing something as simple as standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). In order to play with this idea in your poses, consider the following points:
- Allow your neck to be free so that your whole head can ease up off the top of your spine rather than be pulled down, compressing your vertebrae.
- Allow your sacrum to ease evenly away from your head as your head eases evenly away from your sacrum.
- In asymmetrical poses, look and see what is happening to your sacrum, if it is being pulled out of balance in the head/tail plane by the positioning of your limbs or the actions of the pose. If one side of your sacrum is being pulled up towards your head, lengthen that side away from your head as you also draw the other side towards your head. By dealing with the sacrum as a whole, rather than just the side you perceive to be being pulled out of balance, you can work more gently and put less stress on your sacroiliac joints. Similarly, if you perceive that one side of your sacrum is being pulled up towards your head, lengthen that side away from your head as you draw the other towards it to create the desired balance.
- Look for any part of your torso that are narrowing and pushing forward. If you find this to be the case, soften and widen them back into the space behind your to integrate the back.
To take the twist, divide your abdomen at the level of your navel and activate the twist by turning your lower abdomen away from your upper and your upper away from your lower. Take care not to activate the twist from your limbs so as not to over-twist and place undue stress on your spinal joints.
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) on ropes, head on bolster/blankets [5 min]
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) head and hands on blocks
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Prasarita Padottanasana (Widespread Feet Pose) arms and torso reaching forward
Parivrtta Prasarita Padottanasana (Revolved Widespread Feet Pose) torso parallel to floor, one hand centered under chest, turn ribcage to ceiling
Prasarita Padottanasana (Widespread Feet Pose) holding ankles
Shirshasana (Head Stand) Cycle:
- Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
- Virasana (Hero Pose)
- Parshva Virasana (Side Hero Pose)
- Parshva Shirshasana (Side Head Stand)
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) Cycle
- Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
- Halasana (Plough Pose)
- Karnapidasana (Pressure on the Ears Pose)
- Supta Konasana (Reclined Angle Pose)
- Parshva Halasana (Side Plough Pose)
- Eka Pada Sarvangasana (SIngle Leg Shoulder Stand)
- Parshvaikapada Sarvangasana (Single Leg to the Side Shoulder Stand)
Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)
Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)
Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose) legs resting on bolster [2 times]
Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Poe 1)
Pashasana (Noose Pose)
Parshva Bakasana (Side Crow Pose) [2 times]
Shavasana (Corpse Pose) head on blanket, legs on chair
About Yoga: Art+Science
This post originally appeared on my former blog, Yoga: Art+Science, a passion project that I ran from 2004 to 2014 that accumulated more than 1000 posts and articles. It appears here as part of a project to revisit all that material and update it to make it fresh and relevant to a modern yoga practice.
If you enjoyed this practice, I’d love to share my approach to yoga with you. I hold weekly classes online and new students are very welcome. Hope to see you there!