The Dynamic Weight-Bearing Spinal Twist

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Sometimes a twist isn’t just a twist…

… if you’re holding a weight at one or both ends of the twist.

The use of the weight is what I call a dynamic twist: you’re not just resting in the twist; you’re muscularly engaged in it. This makes the twist strengthening as well as… well, twisting.

But… where do you find an easily-accessible weight?

In your yoga mat, that’s where.

Here it is, in 5 easy steps.

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1. Lie on your back, bring your knees up to your chest and hold your rolled-up yoga mat in your hands, arms outstretched. Take two slow breaths.

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2. Tip your knees to your left and your arms and the mat to the right. Bring the arms and the legs as close to the floor as you can, but do not let them rest on it.

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3. Extend your left arm out to the left and leave your right hand holding the mat by itself. You’re still floating off the floor with both the arms and the legs. Take two slow breaths here.

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4. Extend your right leg and place your left hand on it. Remember: except for your hip and back, everything else is off the floor.

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5. If your range of motion allows this, grab your right big toe with your left hand, as pictured. If not, stay in step 4. Either way, take five slow breaths. Then, repeat on the other side.

Benefits: This pose is multi-functionally useful: here you have something that involves balance, abdominals, hip stretch, iliotibial (IT) band, low back (lumbar) release, upper back release, shoulder release/stretch, spinal release/stretch and, last but not least, strength. Not bad for a single pose.

Avoid if: If your shoulders, hips or spine hurt in any way in the midst of this pose, try not going quite as far in the twist–that is, twist, but not quite so close to the floor with your arms and legs. If you still encounter pain or discomfort, then you might try some other gentler poses.

Final thoughts: With so many things that this pose does, you could consider it the Swiss Army knife of yoga poses. If so, we can agree that the extended leg is the knife blade, and the mat you’re holding in the opposite hand is the bottle opener. It’s kind of a soft bottle opener, but you shouldn’t be drinking that beer bottle during yoga anyway!

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