Any fanatical yogi will tell you that twists are among the most delicious, juicy, wonderful and sublime poses of a yoga practice. Newbies are not always so taken with the Twist. But come on, baby, let’s do the twist!
Twists are the chief nourishers at life’s feast. They are energizing. When done well, twists invigorate the core: essentially abs and obliques (the muscles that support suppleness and movement of the spine), shoulders, pelvis, and neck.
Twists detoxify the body and improve digestion. BKS Iyengar (the Yoga Wall is based on alignment principles of the Iyengar style of yoga) claimed that twists detoxify because they squeeze the organs that when release are reinvigorated with fresh blood flow. There is some debate about the veracity of this sponge-like action, but all agree that twists stimulate the organs of digestion and thus improve elimination and detoxification.
Like a woodstove that warms your whole house, twists create heat, improve circulation, and release tension in the muscles of the spine, abdomen and rib cage. These benefits move outward throughout the entire body. Double your bennies by combining deep twists with pranayama (breath work); it’s like using a bellows on that woodstove.
Twists are also known to increase spine mobility and improve overall back health. By stretching and strengthening the muscles surrounding the spine, twists can provide sweet relief from the general back pain caused by things like working at a desk, driving a car, playing a musical instrument, or slouching on the couch.
Twists also relieve stress and anxiety. They open the chest, shoulders and back—all areas in the body where we hold tension and stress. This will boost your mood and generally help your mental state.
Twists are also good for us mythically. We’re kidding, but only just a little bit. Look at it this way: Janus. Janus is the Roman god of beginnings and transitions. The month of January is named for him. According to myth, he presided over the beginnings and endings of conflict (read: war and peace). Gates, doors, doorways, passages, and endings were his bailiwick.
Twists are the embodiment of this guy, or at least of some of the concepts he represents. The body looks one way, the face the other. When practiced mindfully twists are gates, doors, doorways to deeper experiences both physically and emotionally.
Like forward folds, they can lengthen the spine, making room for mobility and  introspection. Like back bends, they broaden the chest, thus “opening” the heart and making room for the vulnerability of gratitude and gregariousness.
Spine, belly, shoulders, neck, heart, mind, mythology…you name it. Twists are good for it. Check out Andrea’s Yoga Wall with a Twist workshop on November 20. You’ll see what I mean.

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