Twists and core strength
In this section, you’ll learn five twisting poses. Many muscle groups are involved in twists, contracting and shortening or stretching and lengthening, the most important probably being the abdominal obliques. They support the lower back, pelvis, and internal organs; they also give strong leverage in rotating and lengthening the torso. The obliques have a big part to play in yoga poses, and sometimes that role can be extremely demanding; the poses you’ll learn here will help strengthen your obliques and other core muscles to give you needed support and balance on your mat.
Once you understand the five twisting poses, then you can practice them on their own and by using our 16-minute video that weaves the poses together into one powerful sequence.
Revolved Abdomen Pose, variation
Sanskrit name: Jathara Parivartanasana, variation
Translation: jathara = abdomen or belly • parivrtta = to turn around, revolve • asana = pose
Recline on your mat with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Extend your arms into a T shape, palms turned down. Lift your knees, and stack them over your hips, shins parallel to the floor. Pull your knees slightly toward your chest, engaging your low belly and core.
Inhale, then exhale and pull the lowest part of your belly in more and begin to lower your legs to the left, engaging your transversus abdominis and oblique muscles and lifting your pelvic floor muscles. Stop as soon as your right shoulder begins to lift off the mat. Pause here, inhale, and press actively into your right hand. Keep your legs active by flexing the feet as you lift them back to center, and imagine pushing your right lower ribs toward the mat.
Repeat on the other side.
Pose Dedicated to the Sage Marichi III
Sanskrit name: Marichyasana III
Translation: marichi = a ray of light • asana = pose
Extend the legs in Staff Pose (Dandasana). Bend your right knee and place the heel near your sitting bone. Bend your left elbow, and put it on the outside of your right knee. Press the left elbow and right knee against each other. Press the right fingertips down on the floor, and lift the chest up.
Work to close the space between your inner thigh and abdomen by bringing the back of your left armpit to the outside of your right knee. Move the left side of your back in and start to twist the abdomen deeper from left to right. As you inhale, press down more with your right arm, and engage your erector muscles to help lift the torso up. Move the shoulders back and the shoulder blades in.
As the twist becomes more compact, use a stronger exhalation to squeeze the abdomen. On the inhalation, lengthen the front of your body from the pubic bone to the sternum, and on the exhalation, turn the left side of your torso to the right. Turn the abdomen first, then the chest, shoulders, and head, feeling your obliques and multifidi engage and your pelvic floor slightly lift. Stay in the pose for 5–8 breaths, until your breathing evens out. Exhale to release. Repeat on the left.
Sanskrit name: Bharadvajasana
Translation: Bharadvaja = one of seven legendary seers • asana = pose
Sit in Staff Pose (Dandasana). Fold the left leg back, placing the shin on the floor alongside the left thigh. Point your toes straight back and feel both sitting bones on the floor.
Hold the right ankle with both hands and guide your right foot into Half Lotus (Ardha Padmasana), placing the top of your foot into the nook of the top of your left thigh.
Exhale and put your right hand on the floor behind you, inhale and put your left hand on your right knee to twist, growing tall in the spine. Exhale, pulling your low belly in. Exhale as you wrap your right hand behind your back, palm facing up, and grab the toes of your right foot to help twist from the low belly. Inhale, then exhale pulling the low belly in, feeling the transversus abdominis engage, the pelvic floor lift, and the multifidi and obliques twist and engage.
Sit up tall. Gaze over your right shoulder or as far right as possible. Take several breaths here, holding a steady gaze. Exhale to gently release the twist and your legs to Staff Pose (Dandasana) before switching sides.
Revolved Chair Pose
Sanskrit name: Parivrtta Utkatasana
Translation: parivrtta = to turn around, revolve • utkata = powerful, fierce • asana = pose
Stand with your feet together, then inhale, drop the hips, and bend your knees. Bring the arms above your head. Squeeze the ankles, knees, and thighs together using the adductors (a group of muscles on the inner thighs that help draw the thighs together when they contract). Lengthen your tailbone toward your heels and lift the chest. Maintain an even breath.
Press the palms together at the heart center. From here, inhale and engage the multifidi and erector spinae to lengthen the spine, and exhale to twist to the right, hooking the left elbow on the outside of the right knee. To make sure one knee doesn’t creep out in front of the other, shift the left hip back. To deepen the twist, press your left elbow into your knee to draw your heart open, and on an exhale, bring your low belly in. Transversus abdominis is engaged and your obliques are working to maintain the twist.
Exhale back to center and repeat on the left side. If you need a break, come to Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) in between sides.
Revolved Side Angle Pose
Sanskrit name: Parivrtta Parsvakonasana
Translation: parivrtta = to turn around, revolve • parsva = side, flank • kona = angle • asana = pose
From Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana), step your left foot back into a deep lunge, keeping your right knee over your right ankle. Inhale as you use your transversus abdominis to sweep your arms up and lift your chest upright. Lift your low belly and scissor your inner thighs in toward your centerline. Keep the gluteus maximus of the right leg firm to support the hip.
On an exhalation, bring your hands together in prayer position at your heart and twist your torso to the right. Hook your left tricep over your right thigh, pressing your arm into your leg and your leg into your arm to help you lengthen your spine and spin your heart up.
Exhale to unwind, return to Uttanasana, and practice the pose on the other side.
This yoga video incorporates all five twisting poses, plus some transitions and counter poses, into one smooth, easy-to-follow sequence. Follow along on your own mat to practice the poses you just learned, get a better feel for and understanding of your obliques and other essential core muscles, and continue building core strength and ability. Before you start, take a few slow breaths to settle in, then warm up with 2-3 rounds of Sun Salutations.
In this section, you learned about twisting poses and why the muscles they engage are so key for core strength and support in other yoga poses. You also learned how to do five twists that enable you to work and strengthen vital core muscles, especially the obliques.
Practice the twisting poses individually when you have a few minutes, or by mindfully inserting them into your regular yoga practice. Or, for more sustained core work, practice the full video sequence. Either way, aim to practice every day for the next week.