Twisting to Find Unity

I love twisting poses.  Love them, love them, love them.

Weird, I know.  But really, I do.  And I’m starting to get a handle on why.

Everyone who does yoga has heard that twisting poses are “cleansing.”  By squeezing your organs in postures such as ardha matseyandrasana (“half lord of the fishes pose”) or parvritta trikonasana (“revolved triangle”), you force toxins and old fluids out of your system and allow fresh breath and liquids to infuse your tissues with life.  Many yogis say they feel refreshed after twisting poses because of this “wringing out” process that’s a lot like an oil change for your inner body.

That’s a part of it for me.  But I think there’s more too…

I just got back from a week of study in Park City, Utah with John Friend, founder of Anusara Yoga.  During our asana practices, he repeatedly said that twisting poses help us to foster stronger connections between the hemispheres of our brains.  As most people know, the left side of the brain controls movement on the right side, and the right side of the brain controls movement on the left side of the body.  In addition, numerous brain studies have shown that the two halves of our brain are responsible for two distinctly different types of thinking.  The left side of the brain is associated more with logical and sequential thinking as well as with analysis, mathematical processes and the structure of language (grammar, syntax).  The right brain is considered to be the more creative half, which deals with spatial relations, aesthetics, and the more interpretive aspects of language (intonation, inflection).  These two halves need to work together to do a myriad of daily life tasks, including getting from your house to the supermarket and engaging in meaningful conversation.

Most people tend to consider themselves more right-brained or more left-brained.  (If you’re not sure which one you tend toward, you can take a simple quiz here.) To be honest, these quizzes drive me nuts.  I struggle with the yes or no questions because my answers are “sometimes one and sometimes the other” and my score always comes out split down the middle.  I am a yoga teacher who flows creatively through practices weaving words, feelings, and sensations into an artistic expression…but I also sequence the poses very logically, from a scientific understanding of anatomy, and I use a very structured vocabulary and sentence structure to do so.  I coach and counsel and converse with students and teachers at the yoga studio (right brain), but I do the Quickbooks and scheduling (left brain) as well.  As a mountain biker, I flow down curvy singletrack with music and colors in my mind, but I also calculate how much speed I need to clear a rock ledge and the angle necessary to lift my front tire over a log. I love the balance between these different types of efforts, and can’t really say that I prefer one type of thinking over the other.

Perhaps then, my love of working both sides of my brain in harmony in any given activity is reflected in my love of twisting poses.  As I anchor my hips and legs in a seated twist, lengthen my spine and twist myself all the way around towards the back of the room – belly first, then lungs, shoulders, neck, head, and eyes – I can imagine the communication between the hemispheres increasing, with electrical impulses bouncing back and forth between the left and right sides of my brain and my body, making all of me hum with an intelligent and unified energy.  Then, instead of being a creature with divided halves and divided thoughts, I become an expression of the whole – of left and right, sun and moon, Shiva and Shakti – coming together to dance.  And then deep, full breath follows, into the back body, the part that connects most deeply to the universal.

"Twisted Child's Pose" - an easy and yummy twist that nearly everyone can perform.

Not bad for a yoga pose, huh?

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~ by bridgetannlyons on August 29, 2011.

4 Responses to “Twisting to Find Unity”

  1. And this morning in class you encouraged us to understand the duality in yoga in terms of partnership – not that the left is opposing the right – the tricep opposes the bicep, but that the left enables the right to grow and stretch through relationship – they are unified as one and there is no struggle.

    • Excellent connection, Joe…I am not sure I was aware of that link until just now! If you think of the left and right hemispheres as “co-creators” rather than competitors for dominance, there’s even more reason to strengthen their communication. Thanks for coming to class and checking into my writing – I’m going to try to do a lot more this week as I have a plethora of material from the week in Park City with John!

  2. I knew where my brain was, but I had to take the test just to be sure (sucker for the tiny quizzes!). Thanks for the reminder to challenge both sides of my brain often. Even if it does involve math.

  3. Thank you for this thrilling information! I think Im going to do some yoga!

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