Core and Twists (Advanced)

Level: Advanced
Theme: Integrating core and back in revolved poses/core poses, twists and inversions.

Importance of the Theme:

The more you can lengthen the trunk, the more you will bring the spine into a neutral alignment and the more balance your trunk will be as you revolve. It is possible to focus on any number of body actions in your twists, but in this practice we will be looking to organize and integrate them all: lifting the rib cage and opening the chest, connecting the arm and shoulder blade into the back, elongating the waist; revolving from the base, the middle and upper part.

Body Actions:

We will, essentially, be looking at three different actions in this practice.

1) Knit the abdominals inwards and draw them up. Think of your abdominal wall as a girdle supporting the trunk. You will be engaging the abs - front and sides - without shortening them. Pull the lower abs in towards the spine. Wrap the sides of the waist inwards towards the navel. Firm the upper abs. And then take all three of these and draw them up, lengthening them toward the chest.

2) Expand and lift the side ribs. Revolved poses work from the outer extremities to the core, so it becomes necessary to engage and define those extremities. Building on the lift and support of the abdominal wall, expand the rib cage laterally as much as possible and lift the ribs straight up so you get a sense of the full length of the side trunk elongating from pelvis to collarbones.

3) Connect the shoulder blade into the back. The purpose of this is to engage the muscles of the upper back to both lift and open the top chest and to initiate the revolution from the back rather than the front. Initiating from the front will thicken the chest and shoulders and will pull downward, towards the navel, limiting the expansive elongation you have created in the belly and sides.

The Practice:

We begin with Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) to get the whole body working in a synchronized manner. Try not to think of these Sun Salutes as a way to get hot and sweaty. Think of the rather as a way to observe the organs of action, the arms and the legs, as they support, elongate and manipulate the trunk. Instead of whipping through them, take them slowly and follow the transitions with your awareness as much as the poses themselves.

After the Sun Salutes we have a series of abdominal poses. The goal here is to create maximum length in the trunk by using the organs of action once again, in conjunction with the abs. In Makarasana (Crocodile Pose) shift the awareness to the arms and the connection of the shoulder blades into the back. Take that awareness then into Vashisthasana (Vashistha's Pose) to fully integrate the side of the trunk: hip, waist, ribs and back. Take your time as you flow through the core vinyasa, following the transitions once again.

The practice up to this point is really a preparation for the poses that follow. If you do not have time to do the whole practice, pick and choose from these earlier poses to lead you into the inversions and twists. The twisting action is more straightforward in Head Stand and the seated twists. The combined elongation and revolving here will help you integrate the poses in the Shoulder Stand variations. Here the actions become less clear as you manage your center of gravity and balance in these challenging inversions.

Click here for a fully illustrated, printable PDF of the sequence.

The Sequence:

Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation)
Dandasana (Staff Pose)
Paripurna Navasana (Full Boat Pose)
Dandasana (Staff Pose)
Ardha Navasana (Half Boat Pose)
Dandasana (Staff Pose)
Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)
Makarasana (Crocodile Pose)
Vashisthasana (Vashistha's Pose)
Makarasana (Crocodile Pose)
Vashisthasana (Vashistha's Pose)
Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose)
Core Vinyasa
Shirshasana I (Head Stand I) and variations
Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose)
Bharadwajasana I (Bharadwaja's Pose I)
Bharadwajasana II (Bharadwaja's Pose II)
Marichyasana III (Marichi's Pose III)
Ardha Matsyendrasana I (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose I)
Pashasana (Noose Pose)
Salamba Sarvangasana I (Shoulder Stand I) and variations
Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose)
Shavasana (Corpse Pose)

Click here for a fully illustrated, printable PDF of the sequence.