A Sequence for Learning Seated Twists
Most teachers will sequence these poses near the end of a class, and a home practitioner should follow this lead. Perhaps start on your back by moving in and out of Setu Bandhu Sarvangasana, or Bridge Pose, to warm up the muscles. When ready, take Apanasana, or Knees to Chest Pose. Vary this posture by working one leg at a time with the other bent. Then, if your back is up to it, try straightening the nonworking leg onto the floor. Don’t push – your lower back needs to strengthen slowly. If it hurts, continue to practice with bent legs.
From here, come to a standing position and fold into Uttanasana or Standing Forward Bend. Keep your knees bent and your belly pressing your thighs. After a few breaths, straighten one leg while keeping the other bent. Then change sides. Finally, try straightening both legs, remembering not to lift the stomach. This is important – if the back rounds, you will be using the upper back rather than the hips.
Come up to Mountain and then into Virabhadrasana I or Proud Warrior and then into Parsvotasana, or Pyramid. Remember to bring the belly to the thighs to keep the back straight. While bending forward, think again about bringing the belly to the thighs to keep the movement in the hips. Practice on each side, perhaps again moving dynamically in and out before holding the pose.
You’ve moved your legs to your torso first while on your back and then while standing. From here, you will perform the same movement while sitting up by moving to the floor to take Dandasana, or Staff Pose. This is the most challenging for your lower back, and it’s worth your time to break down the pose into preparatory movements. Bend the right knee and pull it towards the torso. Note the tendency of the knee to bend outwards rather than pull back; you will need to counteract this to stay in alignment. Circle the knee with your arms and remain here. Straighten your back slowly on an inhale and pull the knee closer to the body on the exhale. Release and practice on the other side of the body. You are prepping for both Marichyasana and for Ardha Matsyendrasana with this key motion, and it’s worth taking the time to practice just this much for a few months.
In the Marichyasana variations, your arm will circle your bent leg and reach around your back to perhaps grasp the other hand. This bind is extremely challenging for many of us, and using a strap to extend your reach is a smart variation. Again, you might stay here, practicing this on each leg, for some time, before moving on to either one of the twists or the forward bend.
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, or Ardha Matsyendrasana, involves an interlacing of the legs as if they are two ends of a shoelace. Wrap one leg over the other, pulling the knee back towards the chest. Then lean forward and bind the arms. The final challenge requires the bottom leg to bend so that the knees are stacked before pulling the top leg back to the torso.
You will not complete this entire sequence the first time you practice; it will probably take you years to fully work through the process. Try to restrain your impatience – even the preparation poses will move your body towards greater flexibility and ease. And remember that yoga is about the people rather than the finished pose – if you find that one point or another along the continuum is an end result for your body, that’s truly fine.
1) Setu Bandhu Sarvangasana -- Rolling Bridges
2) Apanasana - Knees to Chest, with variations
3) Uttanasana - Standing Forward Bend
4) Parsvotanasa - Pyramid
5) Dandasana - Staff Pose
6) Marichyasana - Sage’s Twist, Prep
7) Marichyasana I (forward fold) or III (twist)
8) Ardha Matsyendrasana - Half Lord of the Fishes Pose
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