I almost always include a twist at the end of my yoga practice. They feel really good and give you an instant sense of relief (kind of like when you crack your knuckles). Twists release tension along your spine and leave relaxed and soft.
My favourite variation is a reclined twist where you are lying on your back with your legs in a crossed position. This pose is great at the end of a long day.
- To do this pose, start by lying back comfortably. Bend your knees and put your feet flat on the floor. Then bring your heels as close to your hips as you find comfortable.
- Cross your right leg over your left just above the knee. If you are quite flexible, you can hook the toes of your right foot underneath your left calf.
- Press into the floor with your left foot and move your hips an inch or two to the right.
- Stretch your arms out to your sides at about shoulder height so they make a T-shape. Your palms are facing the ceiling. If it feels ok for your neck, turn your head to look toward your right hand. Otherwise just keep your head in a neutral position looking up.
- Inhale deeply. Feel your chest open and expand and keep your shoulders pressing against the floor.
- Patiently begin to let your breath out. As you exhale, slowly lower your knees to the left. It doesn’t matter if your knee touches the floor or not, but try to keep your right shoulder on the floor. Sometimes I put a yoga block or cushion underneath my knees for support.
- Keep focusing on your breath. As you inhale, feel your chest opening. As you exhale, feel your knees and shoulders sinking more deeply into the floor.
- I like to hold this pose for about five breaths or so. But twists can feel really intense. The idea here is to relieve tension not to create it so feel free to come out sooner.
- When you are ready to get out of the twist, inhale and slowly bring your knees and head back toward center. Uncross your legs and get ready to do the other side.
The reclined twist is great for cooling down and relaxing at night. It’s a nice gentle stretch for your spine and really makes it more flexible over time. It also stretches your lower back muscles and hips. And if you work at a desk for long periods of time, you know these areas can become quite tight.
How about trying a reclined twist tonight before bed? I think you’ll notice a difference in how you feel and hopefully in how you sleep.
Photo courtesy of Yoga Mama