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your neck hurts when you turn your head, or if turning your head causes you to lose balance, gaze at the floor and focus on grounding your feet and steadying your belly. Over time, revisit turning the head. Once your chest is free and you've established a strong base, you will be able to rotate your neck and gaze comfortably at your right hand. Keep both arms active to give the upper body a strong surge of energy that may rotate the spine even more. Hold the pose for several steady breaths, keeping the body active and alert.

When you feel as though the twist is at its maximum, make a small counteraction in the back leg: Exhale, surrendering your upper back into the twist while slightly turning your left thigh out. You may find that this small move realigns the pelvis and makes it level, affirms a nicely grounded left heel, and lets the twist give the spine a final hug.

Once your body has adjusted to the instruction and principles of the pose, let your focus turn away from the form; accept the pose as it is. Stay aware of it, but use it as a vehicle to turn your attention inward. If you can, create a sense of expansion by letting your awareness drench the pose with space and fullness.

Dwell in the sensations; inhabit the form. Stay as long as you have clarity and steadiness, then exhale fully to release the twist. Breathe in as you stand up, then root your legs into the earth with a solid exhalation. Turn your feet parallel again for a few breaths to reestablish stability before practicing the pose to the left.

Twists do not come easily to many of us. Because they wind you up so snugly; they can seem more stuck than liberated. However, with patience you will fall in love with twists. They will teach you to appreciate that less is often more. You will find that your effort is well repaid by the final sweet gift that comes as you unwind the spine, sigh deeply, and feel your whole body radiate lightness and well-being. *

Based in Boston, Barbara Benagh has shared her passion for hatha yoga for more than 35 years. Information about her workshops, DVDs, recordings, and articles is available at

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