Ah twists. Exactly what the spine needs, but often avoided out of fear of aggravating back pain. However a gentle twist, when done correctly and safely, might just be the perfect remedy to achy backs. Twists also work on so many levels that they really should be part of our daily routine.
I go through phases with my own practice. What I lean towards is a curious combination of time of year, my psychological state, what is happening in my life at the time, what I’m teaching and what my body craves as a result.
Establishing a home practice has slowly helped me to drop expectations of what that should look like and start paying attention to cues my body is giving me. It can be quite tricky sometimes to differentiate between habit and intention, between laziness and genuine need to slow down. But that is what it’s all about; practice.
So I have recently reintroduced myself to one of my all time favourite spinal twists, Ardha Matsyendrasana. For a while it seems to have been misplaced in the asana dictionary in my head, probably as in the summer months I opted for more active/sweaty twists for some reason. In the past few weeks, I have noticed this simple little miracle twist manifesting in my body before my mind had any time to react and dictate. And once I’m in it, there is no room for debate. The positive effect is instant and I find myself staying in the twist for at least 8-10 blissful breaths. Here, I wanted to introduce you to this month’s yoga posture, with a few tips on how to start adding it to your practice.
Yoga posture of the month::
Ardha Matsyendrasana (half Lord of the Fishes pose)
How to get into Ardha Matsyendrasana::
Make sure you have warmed your body up before going into the twist.
- Sit with your sitting bones on a blanket or foam yoga block with your legs straight in front of you and the spine long.
- Bend your right knee, placing the foot on the floor on the outside of the left knee.
- Bend your left knee and bring the heel towards your right buttock, placing the outside of the foot to the floor.
Beginner tip: Start with placing the right foot on the inside of the left knee for a gentler variation, keeping the left leg straight and move gradually if it feels comfortable for your body.
- Hug your left arm around your right leg and place the fingertips of your right hand behind you about a palm distance from your buttocks.
- Inhale slowly and fully to lengthen the spine upwards.
- As you exhale start to gently move your abdomen, then your chest and your shoulders towards your right. Your head should move last.
- Move slowly in the space of 3-4 breaths without forcing the movement.
Improver tip: If you have the space, try bringing the left elbow to the outside of the right thigh to encourage you to twist a bit further, but this is not necessary.
- Make sure that your right sitting bone is still on the floor and you are not leaning on the back hand.
- Close your eyes and take a further 3-4 slow breaths.
- To come out, move on an exhalation.
Caution: Do not practice Ardha Matsyendrasana if you are pregnant. If you have a back injury, practice under the supervision of a qualified teacher.
Stretches the back muscles, the hips and the shoulders.
Strengthens the back and relieves tension.
Massages the abdomen and internal organs, stimulating digestion.
Stimulates the liver and kidneys.
Energetically it lifts mood and is calming for anxiety.
Why I love Ardha Matsyendrasana::
It makes my back feel loved.
I feel I am creating space between the vertebrae of the spine.
If I combine it with deep breathing, I feel I am creating movement throughout the whole of the torso.
It eases tension in my lower back and shoulders.
It makes me happy.
++ Do you practice Ardha Matsyendrasana? Which is your favourite yoga posture at the moment and why? Leave me a comment below + tell me which posture you’d like me to include in the monthly yoga posture series.
Much love + twisted belly happiness xx