One of my favorite categories of poses is twists. I always joke with my students that I’ve never met a twist I didn’t like. They leave me feeling, well, simply yummy.
When my students ask me what the benefits of twists are, I usually tick off 2-3 reasons and then add “and so much more”. I was recently asked on Facebook what the benefits of twists are. I think it might be time to list all! (I am sure there are more, though, these are off the top of my head.)
Please note: These benefits are not research-based (although many are), I am simply listing the many benefits I have experienced myself and what I have seen experienced by my thousands of students over the past 25 years of teaching.
Benefits of Yogic Twists:
- Release tension around the spine: We all carry tension around the spine for a myriad of reasons. Twists help alleviate that tension.
- Relax the nervous system to help us relax: Because twists relieve tension around the spine, they help relax the central nervous system (the spine), relieving stress. That is why we feel relaxed after we twist.
- Wakes up the nervous system: This idea is one I learned from my chiropractor years ago. Our body has a natural drive to heal itself. When our spine is out of alignment, it feels uncomfortable. If the brain can’t help naturally align the spine due to excessively tight muscles, the brain will short circuit around that spot in the spine, seeing the mal-alignment as “normal”. We experience the short circuiting as feeling less uncomfortable. That part of the spine is sort of written off by the brain, it goes quiet. When we twist, we bring the brain’s attention back to where we need work. (One of my favorite twist partner work exercises with my students helps wake those spots up. You can read more here.)
- Helps us let go: I use twists in my Manifesting on the Mat™ series to help my students let go, to release something that is no longer serving them. Realize that for everything that we are holding onto, we grab on many levels, not just mentally and emotionally. So, if we are stuck someplace in our life, we can use the physical body to help us release it on the mental and emotional level, as well.
- Detoxes the organs: While this one is a bit controversial in the yoga world, I am not sure why. It makes sense! Twists literally squeeze out stagnant blood from our abdominal organs and muscles to allow fresh blood to enter, cleansing the organs.
- New perspective: Need a new perspective? Twists ask us to look behind us.
- Helps you sleep: Due to the calming effect on the nervous system, twists help you get a good night’s sleep so you can rest deeply. My class loves a twist class!
When in doubt – twist!