Twist & Shout: The other benefits of twisting.


I’ve been thinking about twists this week.

When I’m teaching a yoga class, I like to talk about alignment, what the body’s doing while it’s in a particular asana. I like to address the nuances of what a student might feel, and how subtle physical shifts can open up big new areas of sensation or satisfaction inside a pose.

When I’m teaching a yoga class, I also like to talk about the “stuff”: the ideas, constructs and concepts that help us embrace a deeper connection to ourselves, or the obstacles that get in the way of that connection.  Breath, energy, acceptance, the present moment, feeling grounded, etc.

What I don’t do enough, I think, is marry the two together. Edge of the Mat is all about how the world of the yoga mat is a microcosm of your entire life, and the movements we take-bending, stretching, reaching, folding, pressing, pulling, dragging, floating-are literally and figuratively the movements of our lives.

So, twists.

As it shows up physically, the twist is a spiraling action of the spine. As teachers we talk about compressing the vertebral discs (in a healthy way!) and we might ascribe to detoxifying benefits of twisting. We look for length in the spine before we twist (unless we don’t, which is sometimes the case).

As metaphor in our lives, we theoretically love twists. Twists are luscious curves, they’re the unexpected journey, they’re an infinite spiral staircase that we ascend to ever-greater heights.

In reality, I think, we mostly long for the illusion that life is a straight line. We want the simplicity of the shortest distance between two points. We want to be able to see B from A, not gently sloping around a corner, but as a clear shot ahead on the horizon.

Twists give us the opportunity, if we’re paying attention, to see not what’s right in front of us, but what’s around us as well. They lend us the sense of our three-dimensionality, that we are not exclusively striving toward something that lies ahead. We are fully entrenched in the space around us as well. To see and recognize that space in which we reside, that’s the connection to the present moment.

To twist, to add some kinks and curves to the smooth furrows of our habits and our patterns, is to gain new perspective.

So next time you reach over to shut off your alarm clock, or look behind you to back your car down the driveway, or take ardha matsyendrasana on your mat, notice the twist. Relish the moment and the space in which your body dwells. Notice the world from a different point of view.