Do The Twist – Bharavadjasana – Simple to Complex

Do The Twist!

Bharavadjasana – Simple to Complex


 

Just as important as backbending and forward folding, twisting is an integral part of a balanced yoga practice. A well balanced practice will take the body in all directions available, so that you end feeling balanced and whole.

For some, however, twisting brings up many concerns. If shoulders, low back, or hips are tight, it’s likely a challenge to twist in a way that feels good. And if you’ve ever had a neck or back injury, twisting may down right scare you…

But! The good news is this: Twisting is accessible for almost everyone! 

You don’t need to go into the deepest expression of a pose to reap the rewards. With the use of simple modifications, props and good instruction, you’ll be doing the twist in no time.

Before we jump into posturing, let’s review some of the benefits and fundamentals of twisting:

Twisting the body is a little like ringing out a wet towel- the process of rotation helps to squeeze out toxic fluids and make space for new, fresh fluids to take their place. In this way, twists detoxify the body. Incorporating twists into your daily practice will increase your spinal flexibility and strength, give more dynamic strength to your core muscles, create more space for breath, and will actually help to “ring out” your internal organs (aka: healthier digestion, more regular bowel movements, and easier processing of nutrients).

Twisting postures range from simple to complex. Keep in mind that twisting is all about elongating (2/3 Lengthening, 1/3 Twisting)! As you twist, lengthen gently with your inhales, and then rotate gently with your exhales. Remember that you can’t move into a twist if there is “no room”.

*Please Also Note: Contraindications to twists include bulging or herniated disks, sciatica, severe scoliosis, any back or neck injury that is upset by twisting movements, pregnancy, menstruation. Always listen to your body. If there is any glimpse of pain in a posture, do not practice it in that moment. Consult an experienced yoga teacher, physical therapist or physician should you need further guidance.

One of my favorite twisting postures is Bharavadjasana. This seated twisting pose opens up the low back, hips and shoulders all in one, and acts as a great example of how to modify any twisting pose to suit your ability.

 

 Bharavadjasana, Simple to Complex:

 

 

 

Variation A: Seated on a Block / Front leg in Sukhasana variation / No bind of arms

When you need to focus on gently opening up the back and hips, and elongating the spine, this is the variation for you. Sitting on the block will give space to those with less range in their hips, and will help keep the pelvis in proper alignment. As you twist, take the opposing hand to the thigh of the front leg. The back hand will act as a reminder to lift (hint: do NOT dump your weight onto this hand- this will throw off the alignment of your shoulders and bring unwanted lateral flexion to the spine).

 

 

 

 

Variation B: Seated on Mat / Front leg in Sukhasana / Bind of back arm to front arm

This variation is for those whose hips and low back feel comfortable seated directly on the mat. (hint: both sit-bones will be evenly weighted, and the pelvis in proper alignment). As you twist, the opposing hand will meet the front thigh, while the back arm will gently internally rotate from the shoulder in order to wrap around the mid-back. The back hand will meet the front arm, just above the elbow crease. (hint: keep your shoulders opening gently away from the heart center, and breathe as evenly as possible into both sides of the lungs).

 

 

 

 

Variation C: Seated on Mat / Front leg in ArdhaPadmasana / Full bind of arms

The final variation of Bharavadjasana is for those with open hips and shoulders; whom need a little more intensity from their seated twist. The front leg is bound in ArdhaPadmasana, offering greater opening to the front hip (hint: as in the previous variation, make sure both sit-bones have even placement on your mat). As you twist, the opposing hand will reach to the front knee, while the back hand will reach for the bound foot. Some find this connection at the big toe, and others can reach around the full foot. (hint: use your inhalations to consciously lengthen, while keeping the pelvis weighted, and the exhalations to gently deepen the twist).

 

 


There you have it, yogis.

Get on your mat + Happy Twisting!

With Love + Namaste,

Stacy McCarthy

 

 

 

How Fast Are You Aging?

Do you remember the first time you realized your body was “aging”?

Maybe it started in your thirties with a few more aches and pains in the morning. A tendency to get tired earlier in the day. The first signs of wrinkles around your eyes. A memory not quite as sharp as it used to be.

As the years have progressed, those little twinges have probably gotten more frequent. And if you’re like most people, you brushed it off as a “normal” part of the aging process… just something that happens when we get older.

The thing is, you don’t have to give in to the frailty, disease, and memory issues associated with aging. These symptoms are not “inevitable.” They are signals that your body needs something.

When it comes to aging, we’ve been fed a load of unsubstantiated assumptions our entire lives. But emerging research from top experts suggests that we can have all the advantages of youth, well into our later years.

That means a lean, strong, flexible body….supple, smooth skin….. a brain that is sharp… energy to last all day… and an immune system that provides powerful protection against illness.

We are a body-oriented culture. We judge ourselves by our appearance and our body’s ability to perform. When our bodies change—as they inevitably do—our self-worth goes with them, for better or for worse.

In Siddhartha, a novel about enlightenment and self-discovery the prince, Siddhartha, ventured out of his palace for the first time, he was shaken by his first glimpses of a person bent with age, a person wracked with illness and the body of a person who had died. Seeing the inevitable path of all our bodies to our final demise caused him to inquire into how he might transcend the suffering he had witnessed. This led him to realize that in order to transcend suffering, he had to transcend his attachment to and identification with the body. He had to look deeper, beyond the pleasures and suffering of the body, for lasting happiness.

This is what our yoga practice teaches us. Any person in a body who is practicing Yoga is living in a yoga body, regardless of age, build, gender or flexibility. And the deeper practices at the heart of Yoga—meditation—require a body simply as an anchor for awareness. 

I think most people when coming upon my age may scour, but I’m truly looking forward to the unfolding lessons, increasing self awareness and growing self love that comes with aging. I’m reminded that this is the start of a brand new year- and that there are still infinite opportunities for growth along my journey. Within every moment lies a miracle. And within every burden lies a blessing. 

Namaste~

Hands On Love

Many years ago, I became inspired to teach yoga adjustments to others when a student came to me after class to tell me how much she enjoyed my teaching. Her deep gratitude enlightened me when she said, “Stacy, I live alone and sometimes you’re the only one who touches me for weeks at a time.” It was then I realized the transformative power of a safe, effective yoga adjustment. I came to the conclusion it is really a form of hands-on- love assisting psychologically and spiritually by creating connection. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way writing about a Valentine’s Day, romantic connection, quite the contrary. I’m writing about a connection that fosters trust, creates a gateway to really understand a pose, and dissolves self-imposed boundaries within a yoga practice.dvd-cat-book-600

One of the greatest opportunities yoga has to offer is the lesson of strength and surrender in a posture, combined with breath and focus. Sometimes a verbal cue just won’t hit the mark that a skillful adjustment can provide.

I’ve seen some amazing transformations. Students with hips that feel like cement in Baddha Konasana (Cobbler’s Pose) or Upavistha Konasana (wide angle seated forward bend) find space and ease with the right adjustment. Students who thought they would never rise up into a full backbend (Urdhva Dhanurasana), asking me to take a picture so they can show their friends their breakthrough. The Type A, go-getter who could never relax in savasana (corpse pose) gets a full assist from feet, to hips, to shoulders and can finally completely let go and find the first deep relaxation they’ve ever experienced in this pose.

Whether you are an inspired student or a teacher, we are all here to connect. Giving and receiving the perfect adjustment is probably the best way to do that physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It can be the first step to a real understanding of yoga and a catalyst for connection that many students long for much more than mastering a handstand.

If you’d like to transform your practice, sharpen your skills and make a connection, register now for my immersion Adjust Me Puhleeze! Early Bird ends, Wednesday February 17th. Registration includes my book and digital videos to take home with you.

Sticky: Beginners Yoga Tips

Once the kid’s are back at school & the days get shorter, I see a surge of new students asking me advice about yoga & how to get started, so I thought I’d share three quick transformational tips to get your practice off to the right start.

Transformational Tip #1: Get Nich’d ~ There are many styles of yoga & there’s a style that’s perfect for you.  Your personality, your fitness level & your schedule will help determine what style of yoga & what type of teacher is the best fit for your needs. There’s lots of good yoga, but not every teacher or style will be good for you. Explore different styles & philosophies. When you find a teacher with the experience & education that connects with you become a devoted student & learn all you can from your teacher. A good teacher will take a devoted student from where they are to where they need to go.

Read more

“The Payoff of Discipline in your Yoga Practice”

August tends to be the month when I see a drop in the number of students attending classes & slacking off on the discipline that it takes to get the desired results they want.
You may have notice how quickly the body becomes stiff or weak from a lack of balanced movement that you benefit from in your yoga practie. When you become stiff or weak from a lack of balanced movement the long term result can be a body that starts to store fear & no longer moves freely & without pain.  An unbalanced body can create a cascade of problems from weight gain to no longer having the confidence to do the things you once did.
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Sticky: What is Yoga?

To the beginning student of yoga in America it usually starts with getting out of pain in the body, creating strength where the body is weak & flexibility where the body is tight.
There is much more to yoga than twisting your body into a pretzel. Yoga also stretches your mind by asking you to challenge your beliefs about yourself, your body & your consciousness. In doing so yoga creates real and lasting change in the lives of its many practitioners. An added side effect the physical postures produce is shedding unwanted pounds, healing old injuries, detoxifying the body and creating muscular balance. But make no mistake yoga is not an exercise. It is a body awareness technique aimed at liberating your consciousness from old, habitual was of thinking, being and acting. The lean, strong, flexible yoga body is merely a seductive by-product of the work of awakening your consciousness.

Yogi’s have pursued their practice with commitment & devotion for centuries. It’s not a fad or the latest fitness craze. Those who commit themselves to this ancient technique purposefully, intentionally & with passionate devotion know that yoga’s secret & it’s real power doesn’t lie in the youthful vitality & a body free from fear, but in it’s ability to connect to the deepest part of ourselves and create lasting peace.