~ awake in this moment, at home in the world ~

Relief With a Twist

November 28, 2010
Are you, by chance, feeling stressed? Have you spent a long day trying to juggle more than you can handle? Does it feel like a storm of worries is spiraling through you? Are you barely breathing? Do your shoulders ache? Is your spirit sagging?

Instead of heading for the snacks or the television, consider settling into the restorative twist Salamba Bharadvajasana (supported Bharadvaja’s twist). This sweet and soothing posture stretches the back, cleanses the abdominal organs, and nudges the breath toward a state of calm. It also has the power to melt anxieties and generate a profound state of ease in your being.

Because it is a forward-bending twist, Salamba Bharadvajasana is not appropriate for pregnant women and may not be a good pick for those with lower back ailments. As with any yoga posture, if practicing it brings discomfort rather than relief, seek the guidance of an experienced yoga instructor.

Are you ready to give this soothing twist a try? Here’s how:

1. Fold and stack two blankets so they are long and wide enough to support your torso and head. (A bolster or a few firm pillows will work, too.) Sit on your shins with your hips on your heels in Vajrasana (thunderbolt pose). Position the narrow end of the blankets a few inches beside your right ankle. Root the sitting bones downward, and lengthen the spine upward.

2. With an uplifted heart, twist to the right, toward the blankets. Place your hands on the ground on either side of the support, as you lengthen your spine and settle your torso onto the blankets. Let your hips follow along, so that the left thigh rises away from the heels, and the right hip slides onto the ground in between your right heel and the blankets. Rest your arms on the ground on either side of the blankets, and settle your head onto the support with your nose pointing in the same direction as your knees.

3. Readjust the body until you feel a deep sense of comfort and ease. Experiment with repositioning your legs just a bit -stretching them out or folding them toward your hips - so they settle into a shape that feels soothing. You might also consider repositioning the blankets closer to or farther away from your hips until your midsection feels completely relaxed. (Some students prefer to have the belly well supported in this pose, while others like to shift the bolster farther away from the hips so the belly can hang freely.)

4. Once you’ve found a comfortable resting position, let go completely. Welcome the embrace of gravity, relax your muscles, and allow your body to grow heavy. Invite the back body to grow broad and soft. Unclench your jaw and encourage your exhalations to lengthen. You might even invite a soft, soothing sigh of relief to pour out of you, as you practice the fine art of surrender. Rest here from 2 to 10 minutes.

5. When you are ready to emerge from the pose, press your hands into the ground to support your torso as you return to a seated position. Sit quietly for a few breaths in Vajrasana, noticing how the experience has changed your breath, your body, and your mood. And then reposition the bolsters to your left, and settle into this beautiful restorative twist on the other side.


This article was originally published in Yoga International (Winter 2011)