Could Spine Twisting Pose be the pinnacle of the practice?
Answering that question is certainly a matter of opinion. And my opinion is that yes, it could very well be the pinnacle of the hot yoga practice. Well, except perhaps for Corpse Pose. But I digress.
Spine Twisting Pose is the only pose in the practice which twists the entire spine from top to bottom. As far as physical benefits go, it helps to improve spinal flexibility and aids in digestion. Of course, there are mental benefits as well. It can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve mental focus, and increase overall relaxation.
The mental benefits make it clear why this pose is practiced at the end of the class. It prepares you for Corpse Pose, which is the final pose where you lie on your back and completely surrender. Spine Twisting Pose is experienced while sitting up, and it is part of that transition to surrendering to the earth.
Before we prepare, here is what you’ll find in this article:
How do you Prepare for Spine Twisting Pose?
Before diving into the details about how to perform Spine Twisting Pose, let’s talk about what it takes to finally arrive at this glorious stage.
In general, practicing hot yoga feels very much like a deep cleanse of my entire mind, body and spirit. That formula of pranayama (breath control) and asana (poses) in a heated room requires extreme presence to journey all the way to Spine Twisting Pose. The idea has certainly occurred to me that I could leave the room because of the heat. Noticing those thoughts are part of the experience.
The asanas often feel challenging. I might find myself noticing what those around me are doing before coming back to the realization that this is my own experience on my mat, and I should try to journey within instead of looking outside of myself. Staying focused on the breath through everything else is a whole other topic. If you’d like to learn more about the power of pranayama, read our article “Pranayama: How Breath Control Changes Your Mind and Body.”
The first half of the class is when all standing poses are practiced. I love the feeling of power and strength in those poses. But I must admit that there’s always a flood of relief when I can finally lie in that first Corpse pose!
Next come all the mat poses. And then finally it’s time for Spine Twisting Pose.
By the time you reach this point in class, your body is well prepared physically to experience a full twist of the spine. By practicing the correct pranayama of equal breath (inhale being equal to the exhale) and focusing on the present moment during the class, you are also prepared mentally.
How do you perform Spine Twisting Pose?
Begin by sitting on your mat and bending your left knee in front of you. Your outer left leg will be resting on the mat so your left hip is open. Then, bend your right knee and bring your right foot so it’s planted on the mat to the outside of your left knee. Make sure both hips stay planted on the mat throughout the entire pose, resisting any urge to lean more to the left.
The right ankle and the left knee or upper thigh will be touching. This is best for beginners. As you begin to progress in your practice, the right foot will move further up the left thigh or towards the left hip where the two legs will connect. Pay attention to how the knee and hip feels as you find the best place to plant your foot. It’s always important to listen to the body and avoid going too far too fast.
Bring your left arm up and begin to press into the outside of your right thigh. This will open up your right hip. For beginners, it’s best for your left hand to grab your towel for leverage as you twist. Eventually, as you progress, your left hand can hold your left knee.
Point your toes and touch your left heel to your right hip.
Now it’s time to place the right hand appropriately. As a beginner, keep the right arm straight as the right hand is planted just behind the right hip. Using your right arm like this props up the spine and provides support needed for beginners. However, you should continue to lift up through the spine even as you have that extra support. Now, you’re in position to twist your upper body to the right as you look over your right shoulder behind you.
As your strength and flexibility improve, you can progress by bending the right elbow and bringing your right forearm behind you along your back. This removes the support of the right arm but allows you to use your strength to hold your spine upright (no slumping!) as you twist.
Hold the position as instructed, then release.
Repeat the pose on the other side.
Benefits of Spine Twisting Pose
Just some of the benefits of Spine Twisting Pose include improved spinal flexibility, improved digestion, reduced anxiety, and increased overall relaxation.
It’s important to maintain flexibility in all parts of the body, but spinal flexibility is a huge indicator of a person’s overall wellness on many levels, according to Ideal Spine Health Center. Because the spine is part of all areas of the body, keeping it flexible is key to overall wellness. Spine Twisting Pose is the only hot yoga pose in the 26 & 2 classes which twists all parts of the spine. A flexible spine quite simply means you can most easily and most comfortably move in whatever way you wish. Which is an important way to stay as healthy as possible while aging.
Aids in Digestion
Yogigo writes about how efficient blood flow in the digestive region of the body is necessary to improve that process, and twists facilitate exactly that. Also, the twisting action happening in this pose quite literally massages internal organs which improves the digestive process. And what about the pranayama you’re practicing while twisting? That helps with the organ massage and therefore improved digestion too.
Reduced Stress and Anxiety
Our friends at doyou explain how a good twist helps to open the chest, shoulders and back and how it helps decrease anxious feelings. Allowing the body to release stored tension, which has a positive effect on your mental state. They go on to explain that the benefit increases with slow, rhythmic breathing (there’s that pranayama again!).
Improved Mental Focus
Reducing stress and anxiety is often a precursor to improving mental focus. Clearing the mind of unnecessary clutter will allow it to better focus on what’s present in that moment. The gift of less stress will often lead to a better mental state.
In practicing the Spine Twisting Pose, I’m aware of this improved mental focus. My mind is free and my body feels amazing. There’s a strong sense of awareness of the fruits of my practice, and I’m feeling grateful for it.
After all, I’m sitting up fully alert while twisting which in a sense feels like I’m giving myself a hug. I’m aware that my body will soon be surrendering, but I’m still enjoying the present moment. This, to me, is the pinnacle of the practice.
Increases Overall Relaxation
Once the stress and anxiety are lessened and focus is improved, we are more able to give in to true relaxation. Because Spinal Twisting Pose has facilitated this increased relaxation, we are well prepared to relax into Corpe Pose.
This is when I tend to lean into a deep gratitude that I’ve renewed my mind, body and spirit.
Want to experience the journey to Spine Twisting Pose for yourself? Book a class today, and we will see you on your mat!
FAQs About Spine Twisting Pose
What if I become too fatigued during class?
You know your body best! If you get tired and need to take a break, we encourage you to do so.
What if I am not flexible enough to do this pose?
Flexibility doesn’t happen over night. It take practice and persistence. If you are not where you want to be right now, there are modifications the instructor can recommend to make the pose easier. We encourage everyone to go at their own pace.
Will I be able to stay hydrated enough in class?
We recommend that you keep water with you at all times during your session. Hydrating is important for all exercise practices, especially hot yoga. Our instructors make sure to encourage hydrating throughout class. We also advocate for hydration before and after class.