5 twists from Forrest Yoga to invigorate your back
Let’s twist again. Here are 5 twists from Forrest Yoga that will invigorate your back. By Laurel Stuart
Whether we are reaching to grab something behind us or turning our head and shoulders to face someone while seated, spinal twists are a part of our daily lives.
Spinal twists in yoga help nourish the discs that cushion the vertebra of our spines. They increase circulation and flexibility in our core and massage our internal organs and help keep our backs healthy.
Forrest Yoga twists were designed by master teacher Ana Forrest, creatrix of Forrest Yoga. This is an intense yet compassionately taught style of yoga that helps us connect deeply with our core.
Here, you will find five twists from Forrest Yoga. Practice them as a sequence or add one or two of them to your regular practice. Let’s dive in!
1. Elbow To Knee
Forrest Yoga is renowned for its intense abdominal yoga postures that strengthen and enliven the core. All Forrest Yoga classes include abdominal exercises. Elbow to Knee is a staple core strengthening exercise in Forrest Yoga. Start with your back flat on the mat (pad the back if that feels more comfortable). Lift your feet off the floor. Have your feet lower than your knees, your knees aligned over your pelvis. Inhale curl your head and shoulders up (elbows reaching towards the ceiling), press your lower back down, curl your tailbone up. Exhale reach both elbows towards your left knee, straighten your right leg (right heel approximately three feet from the floor) pull your belly down. Inhale come back to centre, bend both legs, press your lower back body down, curl your tailbone up. Exhale reach both elbows towards your right knee, straighten your left leg. Pull your belly in. That’s one round. Beginners can practice this exercise with their feet on the floor. Lift one leg up at a time as you alternate sides. Keep your head up in between reps. Do 3 to 8 reps.
2. Twisting Lunge
Twisting lunge in Forrest Yoga is similar to Parivrtta Anjaneyasana in other yoga styles. From downward dog or hands and knees step your left leg forward. Your left foot is active, your left toes are lifted away from the mat. Place your right knee down on padding. Your knees are bent at 90-degree angles. On your inhale reach your right hand up to the ceiling, as you exhale place your right elbow on your left thigh. Make a fist with your right hand. Rest your left hand on top of your right fist. Beginners can practice easy twisting lunge if that is more accessible, with the right hand on the floor or on a block, approximately 12 inches to the right of the inner left foot. Inhale arch your chest and ribs towards your left. Exhale pull your belly in and away from your left thigh. Inhale and lift your ribs away from your diaphragm. Exhale pull your shoulder blades down your back and relax your neck. Stay 3 to 5 more breaths in the pose. Repeat on the opposite side.
3. Lounge Lunge
Lounge Lunge helps release tightness in the lower back while stretching the hips. Come into a lunge with your left foot forward, your right knee on extra padding. You may need more padding than what is shown pictured. Do what feels best for your body. Place your right hand on the floor, under your right shoulder. Then move your right hand approximately four inches in front of your right shoulder. Wrap your left fingers around your left shin just below your left knee. Your left forearm rests on your outer left thigh. On your inhale lift your ribs away from your hips, on your exhale turn your ribs towards your left thigh. Snuggle your left thigh into your ribs and relax your neck either to the right shoulder or down towards your chin. Breathe into the right side of your ribs, moving them towards your right armpit. Breathe into your lower back and hips. Stay 3 to 8 breaths in the pose. Repeat on the opposite side.
4. Twisting Pigeon Towards The Foot
Start in pigeon pose with your left leg forward. Sit on your left hip and move your left leg into a right angle. Depending on your flexibility the right leg may be bent or straight. Your knees should be comfortable. Twist your chest towards your left foot and hook your left arm over your left foot if you can, eventually working your left elbow or left armpit over your left foot. Beginners you can use your hands to help pull your chest towards your left foot. If your left elbow is hooked over your foot, make a fist with your left hand, and rest your right hand on top of your left fist. Inhale open your chest, roll your right shoulder back. Exhale, relax your neck. Breathe into where you feel the most sensation in the pose. Stay from 5 to 8 breaths.
5. Classical Spinal Twist with a Strap
Classical Spinal Twist with a Strap is a modification of Classical Spinal Twist that helps create greater flexibility in the upper back and shoulders. Start in a seated position. Pad your hips if necessary. Make a small loop with your strap. Place the strap over your left ankle. Bend your right knee and place your right knee by your left hip, your right outer thigh is on the floor. If this is too intense you can practice with your right leg straight. Bring your left foot over your right thigh, your left knee is up. Your left foot is flat on the floor. Wrap the strap around your back and around your outer left thigh. Inhale lift your chest away from your belly. Exhale twist to your left, wrap your right arm around your left shin and grab hold of the strap. Your left arm is behind your back, also holding on to the strap, as close to the left foot as you comfortably can. Inhale lengthen your spine towards the ceiling. Your hips are firmly grounded. Exhale keep lifting the spine while relaxing your shoulders down. Stay 5 to 8 breaths. Repeat on the opposite side. Move into Savasana.
Laurel Stuart is a doctor of acupuncture, massage therapist and yoga therapist. She has taught Forrest Yoga for more than 15 years and is the founder of Vibrational Yin, a form of Yin Yoga. Find her on Instagram @dr.acumassage