Yoga Bites appears every four weeks.
For many people, the word yoga conjures up the image of a human pretzel.
It's true, yogis do often enjoy a stretch with a twist. When practiced with care and mindfulness, twisting feels invigorating and calming at the same time. Rotating the spine helps to maintain its length, resiliency, health and suppleness. By squeezing and stretching the entire torso and its contents, including organs, muscles, glands and nerves, we wring toxins and tension out of the body.
Imagine squeezing dirty water from a sponge. The poetic irony here is that as we twist and wind up our outer bodies, the inner body and mind unwind more easily.
Bharadvajasana ("bah-ROD-va-JAHS-anna") is a Simple Seated Twist that
can be practiced on the ground, in a chair, or even a parked car.
Sitting in a comfortable position, inhale as you float your arms
overhead. Exhale as you twist to the right, opening arms out to the
sides, gazing over the back hand. Pause and soften. Relax your mind. As
you inhale wave the spine ever taller. As you exhale press into your
foundation and spiral around a little deeper.
Allow these waves of breath to wash over and through you, bringing an
easy quality to your effort. Imagine that you are suspended by a golden
thread from the crown of your head up to the sky.
Wrap your shoulder blades more onto your back ribs. Now place left
hand on right knee, and right hand on the floor behind your right hip.
Gently use the arms to help you lengthen up and spin more. Intelligently
work to your edge, and not past it. The head and neck may want to lead
here. Don't let them. They are simply passengers.
When you feel challenged allow yourself to be curious. Feel free to
experiment and explore what works for you at any given moment. If it
feels good, go for it. If it feels yucky, change it or skip it. Breathe
here for 15 seconds to one minute, and gently unwind on an exhale. Rest
at center before switching sides.
Seated in a chair you can hold onto the backrest as you twist for
support and gentle leverage. Broaden into both your upper back and
chest. Turn your head over the right shoulder. Include your eyes in the
twist by taking them to the upper and lower right corners of your eyes.
Hold for at least five full breaths in and out.
Slowly unwind and repeat on the opposite side. Rest, re-center, and
breathe into the sensations that arise as all of the tissues in your
torso are flushed and flooded with fresh, oxygenated, nutrient-rich
Twisting the torso squeezes and compresses the breathing diaphragm
muscle, which can lead to a feeling of suffocation in beginners. Remain
mindful and tall as you soften, relax, and slowly drink in deep,
healing breaths. Elongate your exhalations.
By breathing as fully as possible while twisting (even untwisting
slightly on inhalations to create space) we are resistance-training our
lungs for increased strength and capacity, which enhances all things on
and off the mat. Let your energy be easy. There is no need to push or
rush. Here we practice staying present with the breath, and simply
observe the mind's reactions to uncomfortable or unfamiliar sensations
without attachment or aversion. The trick is to simply be your breath
and watch as the knots untie themselves.
(Note: If you have a spinal disc injury, consult your health-care
provider before practicing twists of any kind.)
Sarah Hundley, a certified yoga instructor and massage therapist,
owns Shambala Studio in Crescent City. Email her at