I’m a good starter. I get excited about a new subject or hobby, and I am all in. I get the books, take the lessons, get fully immersed. As time passes and I see and feel all that my investment adds to my life, the balancing process begins. How much of THIS do I want in my life?
With knitting, I quickly realized the number of steps, the time needed to make something, intricacies of the thread, the needle size, the sizing of whatever I was making—the combination was beyond the mental energy I was willing to spend. I like choosing colors and the feel of the yarn in my hands. My knitting shifted to simple, random stitch scarfs. When I get to the end of the ball of yarn, the scarf is complete.
I expected my interest in yoga to be similar. Yet, even after almost twenty years, I am still discovering nuances of this practice that make me smile. With each chapter of life, yoga threads through my life in new ways. In each chapter, a few poses emerge as beautiful friends. Lying twist (also called reclined, abdominal or supine twist) is one of those.
First, I love being on the ground. We all spend much of our day in a vertical, upright and ready-for-action position. I love surrendering into the safe steadiness of gravity. In lying twist, you lie on your back with your arms out in a T shape. Your palms can be facing down, or up. Check in with your shoulders to see which allows your shoulders to most easily soften and relax.
Most of our work, whether we are at a keyboard, styling hair or working with our hands in any way, our body forms into a hunched shape with the head forward and a rounded upper back. With time, it begins to feel like a rigid turtle shell. In this position of lying twist, with the arms out, gravity is working with us to soften that rounded upper back.
The second sweetness about this pose is the gentle twist of the spine. Here you have quite a few choices. In the photo above you see that one leg remains expended and the other bends and twists over the extended straight leg. Another option is to bring both knees in toward your body and let them fall to one side, take a few breaths and then let them fall to the opposite side. My favorite variation is to bend both knees and widen my feet to the edge of my yoga mat then let both knees fall to one side.
When you are in this version, and the legs are to the right, your left knee lands close to your right heel. You can lift the right foot up and place it on top of the left knee for a nice quad stretch. Enjoy each side for about 8-12 breaths, inhale and exhale with your Ocean Breath.
The pose feels so good, though there is one more reason for my fondness of this pose. In Sanskrit, this pose is called Jatara Parivartasana. When I was in yoga teacher training, I was having a hard time remembering this name.
Each Monday I went to a class in West Philadelphia with my teacher and friend Victoria. She knew I was struggling to remember the name of this pose. Each time we did the pose, she would whisper it to me, nice and slow. And I would whisper it back. Monday after Monday for a few years I enjoyed these classes with Victoria.
This pose, and the shared whispers of these ancient words became the series of doors that opened and allowed the real treasures of this practice to seep in.
Like reuniting with a beloved friend, each time my body takes this shape, I hear those sweet whispers. And I smile.
I hope you will try this one at home. It’s a great end of the day pose. Put on your favorite soft music and enjoy.