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Relax and Energize: A Quick Yoga Twist in a Chair
When something feels as good as a deep twist, how is it we forget to do it when we need it most?
We sit at desks, shoulders tense and upper backs gripping, then get up and walk away, carrying our tension with us, when we could, with a few minutes of twisting, leave them behind with all those unanswered emails.
Set an intention to work at least one refreshing, back-freeing twist into your day.
How do you twist well? Two things:
The longer your spine, the deeper your twist. Find length before you twist, keep it as you twist and maintain it as you come out of the twist.
Don’t let your head go first. It will want to but restrain it. Instead, keep your chin lined up with the center of your chest until your last few breaths in the pose.
How to Practice the Seated Twist
Sit sideways at the edge of a chair, with your left side close to the chair back. Check that your feet are parallel and your knees are directly above your ankles. (using a chair helps you find a straight spine in your twist)
Tall? You may have to sit on blocks to achieve this alignment. If you’re short, you may need to put a block under your feet.
If you have a yoga brick handy, put it between your knees and squeeze it, or use a thick paperback. You can also imagine a block there. If it’s working, you’ll feel a pressure at the inner knees that transfers up your inner thighs and firms your core.
Now make space in your spine. Lengthen the back of your waist toward your buttocks. As you press your sitting bones down into the chair, bring your body to an upright position, with the crown of your head directly over your spinal column.
Exhale and release your shoulder blades down your back. Lift the crown of your head toward the ceiling.
Lift the sides of your navel as you inhale. Exhale and bring your navel toward your spine.
Turn to your left and bring your hands to the back of the chair. Rotate your ribcage.
Check that your shoulders have not tensed. Move the bottom of your left shoulder blade toward your spine. Move your right shoulder blade away from your spine.
When you have rotated as far as you think you can, turn your head toward the right, and lengthen your left collarbone toward your left shoulder.
Turn a little more, and then let your head turn again to look over your left shoulder.
Repeat on the right side. Then do each side once more. The second twist will be even deeper and more delicious than the first.
Benefits: Seated twists ease tight backs and tone, massage and rejuvenate the abdominal organs. Do a seated twist in a chair, and you’ll have more freedom of movement and twist more deeply than when you sit on the floor.
Sequence: This Bharadvajasana (Bharadvaja’s Twist) variation is a great pose to do any time of the day, especially if you’re stuck at a desk.
In a longer practice, use this variation as the first in a series of seated twists, so your body feels a sensation of freedom in twisting first and imprints a correct sensation to work toward.
Ouch: If you feel squeezed and breathless at the end of your twist, you’ve gone too far. This gentle twist is safe for almost everyone. If you feel pain in the pose, consult your teacher.
Reprinted with permission from My Five-Minute Yoga Challenge.
More yoga basics and helpful practice tips from Eve Johnson - Yoga Strap Magic: Use a Long Strap to Put Your Shoulders in Place.
Are you interested in developing greater interoception? A course from James Knight and YogaUOnline - Developing Interoception: Creating Embodiment Through Somatic Awakening.
Eve Johnson is a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher with 18 years of teaching experience. Since 2016, she has been exploring Spinefulness, a postural system based on the work of Noelle Perez-Christiaens, one of BKS Iyengar’s first western students and the author of Sparks Of Divinity. Eve especially values Spinefulness for the presence and ease it brings to yoga postures and to everyday life. She teaches at Yoga on 7th, in the South Main neighborhood of Vancouver, Canada.