Forget what you’ve heard about getting into pretzel-type contortions to enjoy the benefits of yoga. While some master yogis can move their limbs as if their bones were missing, don’t compare yourself to them. Yoga practice offers simple twists the average person can do to experience health benefits. Some poses come with contraindications. Get the OK from your doctor before starting a yoga class and share any health issues with your yoga teacher.
Forward and back bends move the spine out of alignment, according to an article on the “Yoga Journal” website. With age, the disks in your vertebrae also lose fluid, which causes them to press against each other. Yoga twists may counter these negative effects, taking the spine back into alignment as well as elongating it to create more space between the disks. Dr.Timothy McCall, writing for 'Yoga Journal," further explains that these disks can only get nourishment through movement. That’s why it is beneficial to twist the spine.
Twists such as the Side Crane pose could increase digestive function. In an article for the “Yoga Journal,'' Diane Anderson writes that this benefit comes from twisting the lower spine and the region’s soft tissue, where the digestive system is located. For the same reason, twists are also particularly helpful for women, as they might help maintain a healthy reproductive system.
Venous blood is dark red and low in oxygen. Dr. Timothy McCall for "Yoga Journal" says that it's thought that in a twist, this poor-quality blood is potentially flushed out of your organs. As you return to a neutral pose, the same areas are filled with healthy, oxygen-filled blood, promoting healthy heart, organ and tissue function.
Mind and Body Detox
In their home-practice book “Yoga Your Way,” Cindy Dollar and Susanna Mackenzie Euston write that twisting poses squeeze accumulated toxic waste from your tissues and organs, helping your body eliminate them. The authors also suggest that there’s a correlation between twisting your body and relaxing your mind. When you turn your spine, releasing physical stress, you also get rid of emotional tension.
As you twist your spine, you can’t avoid compressing your lower-abdomen. Perform twists on an empty stomach to prevent digestive side effects. Also, protect your lower back by keeping your hips in alignment as you turn. Some twists come with contraindications. The easy floor twist, for example, is not recommended if you are pregnant, menstruating or if you have a herniated disk. Disclose medical conditions to your yoga teacher so she can give you safe guidance.
- Yoga Journal: Get Twisted
- Yoga Journal: Count on Yoga: 38 Ways Yoga Keeps You Fit
- Yoga Journal: Twist to Fly
- Yoga Your Way: Customizing Your Home Practice; Cindy Dollar and Susanna Mackenzie Euston
Emma Watkins writes on finance, fitness and gardening. Her articles and essays have appeared in "Writer's Digest," "The Writer," "From House to Home," "Big Apple Parent" and other online and print venues. Watkins holds a Master of Arts in psychology.