Ardhamatsyendrasana, Half Spine Twist Pose
“Next is spine twist pose, last pose, and we only do it once so you better get it right,” says the teacher. AND FINALLY – a look of relief, maybe even a smirk or smile at the fact that our time together is coming to an end, and the torture chamber, aka hot yoga class, is over. But stay enthusiastic because this last posture is therapeutic for the hips and lower back unlike any other in the sequence.
All postures – but especially this one – work best when entered in a step by step sequence. So take your time setting it up. Meditate on your lefts and rights. It’s easy to confuse them here.
Now let’s begin. Start seated with your both legs out in front of you. Bend your left knee on the floor in front of you. Beginners have already probably started to fall backward. The trick here is to KEEP BOTH HIPS ON THE FLOOR. Fight for it. Put that left foot a few inches away from the right buttock so you can drop that right hip down to have a seat.
Next, put your right foot over that left knee corner. Here we go again with that bodily urge to fall backward. Fight it. Put your right hand behind you like a kickstand. And guess what? GET BOTH HIPS ON THE FLOOR. The tendency will be to tilt backward, or into the left hip, but actually lean a little bit into the right hip. To what? KEEP BOTH HIPS ON THE FLOOR. You’re learning!
Bring your left arm up and over that right knee corner. Use the tricep to push that right knee out of the way and as leverage to push that chest forward. Resist the urge to let your back hunch. Turn your hand to grab your knee, or even your towel if necessary.
Keep leaning into that right hip. Rock forward repeatedly if necessary. Grab your knee or towel like your life depends on it.
Now if you can, bring that right arm around the body and grab the thigh from behind, hand facing out. Even if you still have that right arm straight behind you, it’s all good. Press into that right hand like a kickstand. Roll that left side rib cage around the spine. Stretch the spine all the way up. Like natural human traction. Last thing…look over your right shoulder, keeping the head in line with the spine. Drop the chin to avoid feeding into “forward head syndrome-” a whole nother article coming about that.
Spine Twisting Pose is the only time we twist the spine from top to bottom, bringing nutrition to the spinal nerves, veins, and tissues. NO BIG DEAL. This not only brings flexibility and elasticity to the vertebrae, but it actually helps cure lumbago and rheumatism of the spine. Remember….as senior teacher, inspirational motivator Mary Jarvis puts it, “When your spine is injured or hurt, all bets are off, all appointments are canceled.” So you might want to take care of that.
This pose also improves digestion, removing flatulence, and firms the butt and thighs.
Choudhury, Bikram 1978. Bikrams’s Beginning Yoga Class. Penguin Putnam Inc, NY, NY.