Benefits: Strengthens and stretches the legs, stretches the hips and spine, opens the chest to improve breathing, relieves mild back pain, stimulates the abdominal organs and improves sense of balance. You will find that the farther you bend and twist, the more challenging the position becomes.
Contraindications (cautions): Back or spine injury. Perform this pose only with the supervision of an experienced teacher or avoid it altogether. Also avoid this pose if you have: Low blood pressure, migraine, diarrhoea or insomnia.
Beginner’s Tip: This pose is slightly easier with a narrower stance. Beginners should also bring their hand to the inner foot, whether on the floor or on a support like a block or folding chair.
Step by Step
1. From Tadasana, Mountain Pose, step the feet wide apart and turn the right foot out so that the heel points toward the inner arch of the left foot. Turn the toes of the left foot well in toward the right foot. Square the hips to the front, tuck the tailbone under, and lengthen the spine toward the crown of the head. Inhale, raise the arms to shoulder height, and open the chest.
2. As you exhale, swing the chest toward the right leg and bring the palm of the left hand to the floor outside the right foot. Keep spiraling upward through the upper body as you twist the left ribs toward the right thigh. Lift the right hand toward the ceiling, extending through the fingertips, palm facing forward.
3. Turn the head and gaze upward in the direction of the right hand, keeping the back of the head in line with the spine and the length along the back of the neck. Press the right sitting bone backward and up, keeping the sacrum level. Press strongly into the outer edge of the back foot.
4. Lengthen the right side waist by moving the right hip and armpit away from each other. As you inhale, create space in the spine, extending back through the sitting bones and forward through the crown of the head at the same time. Feel the chest expand.
5. As you exhale, gently draw the abdominal muscles in toward the spine and spiral deeper into the skyward twist. Breathe here for five breaths. Inhale and untwist the same way you came into the pose. Repeat on the other side.
6. Counterpose: Utkatasana (Chair Pose), Tadasana (Mountain Pose).