There are a number of reasons why you should include a twisting posture in your home practice sessions. Even the simplest of twists such as Kati Chakrasana or the waist rotating pose can provide excellent benefits such as the toning of abdominal muscles, massage of abdominal organs and stimulation of the digestive system.
According to Bhaktipoornananda, ” When we twist the body it is the thoracic spine that twists most, not the lumbar spine. When we have one leg shorter than the other we get a lot of wear and tear on the junction between the 12th thoracic and the 1st lumbar vertebrae because the twist on the pelvis is imbalanced as we walk. The lumbar spine does not turn much so this lob-sidedness increases wear and tear on the first vertebra designed to twist (i.e. 12th thoracic).
Meru wakrasana (spinal twist) and ardha matsyendrasana (half spinal twist) are important twisting practices which keep the whole spine supple without straining ligaments. They should be practised initially with one hand resting close to the sacrum and the arm straight so that it lifts the back upright and supports it.” (Swami Bhaktipoornananda Saraswati 2000)
Many of the twists are actually practiced from a sitting position you need to prepare sufficiently by strengthening the trunk and developing flexibility in the legs and back…so having a good sitting posture is important. Often beginners will need to raise the buttocks slightly by sitting on a folded blanket or firm cushion.
Twisting practices help to improve the flexibility of spinal joints and muscles and stimulate the spinal nerves. They encourage digestion and energy flow in the abdomen. Twists also promote strength and flexibility in the trunk muscles.
On a psychic or mental level practising twists and learning to relax into these positions will help you to realise that you can breathe through the more “knotty”or difficult parts of life. That these “kinks” in life merely serve to strengthen our core if we remain centred and move with the flow of breath.
Often people find a great sense of relief after practising twists ….as if the twist itself has allowed something on a deeper level to be released.
As with all asana practice awareness of where your body is at and it’s limitations is important. Beginners need to be careful not to twist the trunk more than flexibility will allow and those people with serious back complaints would need to consult with their health professional prior to practising.