Parivrtta = ‘Revolved’ Ashta = ‘Eight’ Chandra = ‘Moon’ Asana = ‘Posture’
Physically, twists are thought to be ‘detoxifying’ – they help to ‘get things moving’ if you know what I mean … by stimulating the digestive process and improving circulation. At this time of year, the cold weather and change in diet also means our digestion begins to suffer a little. Especially if you’re a predominantly vata dosha (click here if you’re thinking, ‘vata what??’), you’ll notice the irregularity in your digestion as we find ourselves in the height of the very vata season of Autumn.
Twists can bring a little heat and fireiness back to the body, and moving through a practice focussing on twists is likely to leave you feeling lighter and brighter inside and out.
Energetically, twists serve as a way to ‘detox’ the mind too. As we focus on keeping the breath steady and observing the sensations of the practice, our often ‘toxic’ thoughts (i.e. our negative self-talk, judgements and resentments held against others, or unnecessary fears) melt away and we realise just how unnecessary a lot of the rubbish we think about is….
As always in our practice, twists are best approached from the inside-out. Instead of focussing on how the posture looks, feel the twist originating in the middle of the spine and expanding outwards, and really feeling what’s going on.
To prepare the body for parivrtta ashta chandrasana:
Begin in a comfortable seated position and take a seated twist such as ardha matsyendrasana (half lord of the fishes pose). Focus on maintaining openness through the chest and the natural length of the spine as you gently twist. Repeat to both sides before coming on to all-fours, and then into adho mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog).
From here, make your way to the front of the mat and move through one round of surya namaskar A, one of surya namaskar B, and two rounds of the classical sun salutation, which uses lunges.
Finish your preparation by moving from downward facing dog into anjaneyasana (low lunge) and taking this variation if it’s available to you. (If not, then omit the holding of the back leg and stay in an open twist with one arm lifted), before returning to downward facing dog, and walking back to the front of the mat.
- From tadasasana, take a big step back with the [left] foot, so your front knee is directly over the front ankle, and the back leg is straight.
- Stay on the ball of the back foot, and take your legs as wide as you need in order to maintain balance here. (It’s also a little healthier for the knees and hips to have the feet so they’re not on a tightrope….)
- As you inhale, bring the palms to the heart center and focus on opening the chest and lengthening the spine.
- As you exhale, lengthen forwards with the chest, keeping the spine long.
- Now here comes the twist – take your [left] elbow to hook over the [right] knee and focus on keeping the chest open as you draw the [right] shoulder back to twist.
- Keep the legs strong and grounded, and the breath steady and full. If you notice your breath starts to strain, then back off or come out of the posture.
- Stay here for 5-10 breaths, or however long feels good for you.
- To transition out of the asana, bring both hands down to the floor either side of your front foot, and step forwards to the front of the mat, before practicing on the other side.
- To take some of the pressure off the legs, bring the back knee down to the floor.
- To deepen the twist slightly, expand the arms out, and use the bottom arm pressing against the leg to help you to twist a little more.
- To open the chest and shoulders while deepening the twist (and testing your balance… lots), take a bind by bringing the bottom hand between the legs and the top hand behind the back and clasping the hands together. The hands may not clasp, and if they don’t you could use a belt if you use props in your practice, or you could keep the hands wherever they are and focus on opening the collarbones and chest with the breath.
To counterpose this asana: Make your way into downward facing dog to lengthen the spine, and then bring the knees down to the floor. I find that a gentle backbend is a great way to feel the spaciousness that twists can create in the body, so maybe choose to move into cobra before resting on your front.
Use this twist to help release any physical and energetic tension, making room to receive whatever it is you need in life right now!