Thursday, May 8, 2014

Twist and Shout (or Just Breathe)

When you think of twisting poses, what comes to mind? Lying on your back at the tail end of class, hugging one knee across your body? The quintessential seated twist: Half Lord of the Fishes pose? If so, you probably think of twists as very pleasant easeful poses, and if I announced twists would be the theme for our class, you might look forward to a gentle asana sequence.
And you'd be wrong! I made just this mistake years and years ago. I had somehow managed to block poses like seated prayer twist, and prayer twist lunge completely out of my head! Maybe that's not such a surprise. I mean, are those your favorite poses? They're hard.

So a regular student who's been busy moving was in the Zumba class I take on Tuesdays before teaching my class, and she was excited to get back into my yoga class again. When she explained that she'd spent a week drinking beer and moving boxes around and an interest in detoxing, I assured her I had just what the yoga instructor ordered, and her face fell. "You are going to kick my butt!" Apparently she remembered the full repertoire of twisting poses better than I did.

You don't have to be a yoga guru to know that twisting poses are supposed to detoxify the body, but you might think that's an esoteric thing, and not so much a physical reality. And you'd be wrong! It's true that our bodies aren't as simple a washcloth just needing to be wrung out, and while twisting may move peristalsis along a bit, your body's going to keep up its own internal elimination rhythm, but twisting helps us in other ways.

When you move your body into a deep twist, you literally put the squeeze on your organs, particularly the organs in your abdomen: liver, stomach, intestines, etc. Hold that squeeze for a couple breaths, and when you let go, a rush of fresh blood is going to flow into those organs, helping all of them to function a little better.

Another aspect of a detoxing yoga class is just to keep moving. Breathing is a crucial detoxifying system for humans, and so is sweating. The more you heat it up on the mat, the more your body is able to eliminate the toxins that build up in the body.

And remember, this isn't just about that non-organic salad you grabbed for a quick lunch, or the extra drink (or three) that you had last happy hour. Everything you eat and breathe has stuff in it that's good for you (at least hopefully) and stuff that if allowed to build up, would be toxic. The occasional session directed at supporting your body's waste elimination channels is never a bad idea.

If your yoga instructors don't take requests, I'd find some who do, though sometimes it's only a matter of making that request in advance. Mention it at the end of class for next week, instead of at the beginning of class for that day, if your teacher doesn't ask for requests at the beginning of class.

If you're not able to get to a yoga studio, or just prefer at home yoga, then heat it up, sweat it out, and then twist and shout! (Ok, shouting is optional, but who knows, it might be fun!) You can do a series of sun salutations and warrior sequences of course, but if you'd rather crank up the music and dance, go for a run or bike ride, or anything else that gets your heart rate up, that's fine, too. Make sure you twist equally to both sides, and it's best to start with the right, and then twist left.

The deepest twists are the ones that take advantage of the architecture of your body to give you leverage to twist against. Those are, for the most part, those favorite ones we mentioned earlier: Seated prayer twist, and prayer twist lunge. The lunging shape is frequently perceived as a little less burny for the thighs, but why not do both?
After a twisty, sweaty, detoxing yoga class, be extra cognizant of drinking lots of water, to help flush out your system, and for even more detoxing fun, add parsley, cilantro, and/or dandelion greens to your next green smoothie.

Will you add some twisting poses to your next yoga practice? Do you feel comfortable making requests of your yoga teachers? Let's chat in the comments!

Live Omily,

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