THE PHILOSOPHER René Descartes gave us the famous notion "I think, therefore I am." He also gave us the far more practical but limiting concept of Cartesian coordinates, which lays a theoretical grid on the universe and describes everything in it as interlocking at right angles. Sometimes this rectangular mode of thinking creeps into the yogasphere, leading to declarations of absolutes about the "best" way to practice. One example of such group-think is the belief that when you do twists, you must always square your pelvis and preserve that alignment as you turn your trunk. Like Cartesian analysis, this way of looking at twists is useful but often limiting.

The truth is that twists are not one-size-fits-all poses. Like so many other things in yoga, no single prescription will suit every body. To find the optimal pelvic alignment for your body, first experiment with different approaches to see how they feel, and second, learn the mechanics behind twists and figure out what type of alignment is best for you.

Try this: Sit sideways on a sturdy armless chair, with the right side of your body closest to the chair back. Lift your chest, turn to hold the back of the chair with both hands and, exhaling softly, use your arms to twist as far to the right as you comfortably can. Don't deliberately move your pelvis, but if it moves by itself, don't stop it. Remain in the pose, noticing how far you've rotated your trunk and shoulders, and how the posture makes your back and sacrum feel. Now look at your knees. Most likely your left knee is ahead of your right, indicating that your pelvis naturally turned along with your twist.

Untwist and do the same posture again, but this time, take meticulous care to keep your knees even with each other and your

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