Yoga Close-up: Benefits of Yoga Twists

If you practice yoga, you’ve probably noticed that yoga twists feel very rejuvenating. If you haven’t tried a yoga twist, you may want to check out Yoga Journal’s overview of twisting poses. Much like the motion of wringing out a towel, they compress and then release the muscles and organs of our body and leave us feeling cleansed and looser. Twists can be completed standing, seated or even while lying down. Here are two big benefits of incorporating yoga twists into your practice:

  1. Stretch and Elongate your Spine

Our spines are part of the axial skeleton, which also includes the ribcage and skull. The other bones in our bodies make up the appendicular skeleton: the shoulder girdle, which is made of the collar bones and shoulder blades, and connects the arms and axial skeleton; and the pelvic girdle, which connects the legs to the spine; and the arms and legs themselves. Many twists involve moving the shoulder girdle in a revolving motion in one direction while the pelvis stays put or vice versa and some incorporate leg and arm movement as well to deepen the revolution.

When we are inactive for too long, the muscles that line our spines can become tense and sometimes experience pain. Surrounding tissue can stiffen as well and our joints can become less supple. When we rotate the spine, our back muscles get to mobilize and lengthen and our vertebrates – which may have become crunched together – can decompress. When one side of the back opens in a twist, the other contracts. This helps to realign any imbalance in our backs. Olga Kabel of Sequence Wiz explains, “Since the body is a weight-bearing mechanism within gravitational field, proper balance between front and back, as well as right and left is essential in keeping it pain-free and functioning properly.”

  1. Aid Digestive Function

Our bodies’ digestive systems are complex, intricate and individually unique. Yoga twists contract and release the digestive organs, much as they do the muscles and tissue in our torso and abdomen. When a twist occurs, the organs are temporarily squeezed and when the body releases from the twist, fresh blood flows into the organs, bringing fresh oxygen and nutrients along with it. In this way, twists are often said to flush or cleanse the digestive system. Ali Washington of Do You Yoga shares that the “re-introduction of fresh blood can help to cleanse the cells of any built up waste because with increased circulation comes increased cellular detoxification,” and that impurities and gas are encouraged along their way through the digestive tract by the twisting motion.

As with any exercise practice, consult your doctor before beginning. Be especially careful with twists if you have back or digestive issues and don’t twist your body into painful positions. If you are interested in trying an introductory twist, a simple Seated Twist Pose (Parivrtta Sukhasana) is a great place to start and Yogic Way of Life offers a straightforward and helpful tutorial. May your twists be refreshing!