Welcome to Awaken with Yoga's "Featured
Asana" page. This page will always feature a posture to be studied and practiced
following the principles of Vanda Scaravelli's teaching-- which she herself did
not name, but which through general usage has come to be known as Scaravelli
Yoga. Also included will be the benefits;
contraindications; general guidelines for all poses in its classification
(standing poses, inversions, seated poses, forward bends, twists, backbends,
balance poses, and vinyasa/flow movements linked through breath); and specific
focus for the asana of the month (see photo).
About the Pose
If you are pregnant or dealing with back pain or injury,
please see Contraindications and Cautions below before proceeding. It is always
a good idea to preview contraindications to a pose, especially if you are new to
Yoga or are unfamiliar with how your body responds to yoga postures.
This asana, Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose), is a
seated twist and as such arises from the foundational pose, Dandasana, or Stick
Pose. Be sure you can sit easily in Dandasana on the center of your sitting
bones as your base of support before you begin. You may need to either bend your
knees a bit or elevate your sitting bones on a folded blanket (or both) to
position the pelvis in its optimal alignment.
In general it is wise to reserve twisting poses, especially the seated twists,
for a time when the spine has been well lengthened by standing poses, forward
bending, backbends, and/or inversions. Examples include Cat Pose, Standing
Forward Bend, Bridge Pose, Downward Dog, Sun Salutations, and Shoulder Stand.
Breathing into the open side of the body in side bending poses helps prepare the
ribs for this and other seated twists.
It is also helpful to have warmed up your hips with some hip openers, such as
Baddha Konasana Cobbler’s Pose), Parivrtta Vajrasana (Revolved Thunderbolt
Pose), or Gomukasana (Cow Face Pose). Seated Twists are often practiced near the
end of an asana sequence. Follow your seated twists with a gentle seated forward
bend, such as Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) or Balasana (Child’s
Pose), and then finalize the benefits as you relax deeply in Savasana (Corpse
Sit on your mat with both legs extended in front of you;
legs and feet are hip width apart. As you sit in Dandasana (Stick Pose),
initially with bent knees, center your weight on the very bottom of your sitting
bones. Be sure you are not sitting on the rounded back or front of these bones.
Spread the base of your pose (use your hands to draw the flesh beneath the
sitting bones back and outwards away from the bones). Use support as needed to
level the pelvis. (See “Specific Focus”)
Now begin to allow the weight of the upper body to descend
into gravity through the sitting bones. This requires only your intention plus
your attention. Breathe and wait for the sense of weighted heaviness to ground
you. When your pelvis feels heavy, allow the energetic roots of the pose to slip
beneath your mat and the floor, like the roots of a large tree plunge into and
beneath the earth.
As you surrender your weight into gravity, the Earth’s rebound energy will move
in a wave through your pelvis and upward through your spine, bringing your upper
body into effortless vertical alignment and a sense of almost weightlessness.
Allow yourself time to experience this.
Begin to Move into the Pose
With your awareness dropping into the roots of the pose,
sense the weightedness of your sitting bones and the backs of your legs and
heels. Now bend your left knee and bring your heel in toward you; then turn your
leg outward at the hip joint (external rotation), as if moving into Sukhasana
(Easy Pose or simple cross legged sitting). The shape at the base has changed;
notice the new ground connection beneath your sitz bones, back of the right
heel, and the outside of your left foot.
The arch of your left foot now approaches or touches the front of the right
sitting bone, or you can sit on the inside of your left foot. (Note: For an
easier version of the pose, keep your left leg straight.) Spread the base of the
pose on the left side again, and wait again for a breath or two. Then bend your
right knee and move the right leg over the left, positioning the right foot
close to the left knee. The right heel spreads, grows new roots, and connects
solidly to the ground.
Play with the movement created by pressing through the heel of the right leg and
notice how it initiates a natural rotation of the trunk toward the right thigh.
Now, inhale, gently elongate the spine, and press down through the heel of the
right foot; turn your torso gently to the right, and take hold of the outside of
your right knee with your left hand. Place your right hand on the floor next to
your hip (or behind your spine if you are more flexible) for support. Exhaling,
drop your hips down and at the end of your exhalation, sense the willingness of
the spine to rotate more to the right. Allow the slight “give” requested by your
sitting bones to accommodate the rotation without jamming the SI joints.
Continue to gently lengthen the spine as you inhale, and then rotate more to
your right during and especially at the end of each exhalation. Observe how the
twist spirals upward beginning from the pelvis, sequencing through your waist
into the lower ribs and middle back. When you are ready, place your left elbow
outside your right knee, bending the elbow and raising your hand or
straightening the elbow and resting your left hand on the left knee or ankle.
Press the right knee into the left elbow (or lower arm if arm is wrapped around
the knee) to assist the rotation to the right. Continue to press down with the
right foot at the end of each exhalation to deepen and continue the lengthening
and turning. Doing this deepens the hip joint and elongates the spine. The turn
continues of its own volition as your spine thus lengthens.
Completing and Being the Pose
Once the twist is fully developed, having rotated through
middle and upper back, and shoulders, allow the neck muscles to lengthen on the side
you are turning toward, and relax your shoulders. Remember to stay soft
enough to allow the wave of each breath to move through your body, taking you
very slightly “out” of the twist on each inhalation and back into deepening on
Release from the top down, de-rotating stage by stage. Slowly move your arms and
legs out of the pose and sit comfortably. Pause for a brief time to observe the
intriguing differences between the two sides of the body.
Then repeat on the other side.
Note: Photo illustrates 2nd side (rotation of trunk to the
General Guidelines for Twisting Poses
Begin by grounding yourself through the part of the body
that connects with the Earth. Wait long enough to sense your weightedness and
Maintain breath awareness and allow each exhalation to move waves of
expansiveness through the spine. Pause and gently elongate the spine on each
Feel the body’s willingness to move into an ascending spiral—from the bottom
of the spine up, like ascending a spiral staircase. This willingness occurs
naturally near the end of each exhalation.
Allow a little counter rotation during each inhalation, like a little rebound.
It is part of the body’s wisdom and will take the torso into greater spiral
expansion on the next exhalation.
Stay centered in your spine, maintaining the integrity of this central axis.
Initiate twists from the inside of the body—the organs and the soft front of
the spine—rather than forcing or pulling the body into a spiral by using
muscular force. Engage your organs to suggest pace and patience in the degree of
movement during each exhalation.
Remember—the spine must elongate before it rotates. Anchor the body downward
with legs or sitting bones and wait for the resulting upward release of the
spine. Maintaining meticulous attention to your groundedness—through the parts
or the body that are in contact with the surface—is required for the easy and
fluid release of the spine upwards.
Allow the spine to receive directional suggestions from the limbs and hips.
Sacroiliac joints (SI joints) DO NOT rotate. Movement must come from the hips.
Degrees of rotation: lumbar = 60 degrees; thoracic = 120 degrees; cervical =
Specific Focus for Seated Twists
Breathing into open side of side bending poses prepares
ribs for seated twists
Allow sitting bone to glide or move along the floor to prevent jamming of SI
joint(s). Wood floors are best for providing the combination of both non-slip
and smooth surface for seated twists.
Elongate the spine before each rotation that carries you into a more complete
Turn on the exhalation, releasing into the twist rather than forcing the body.
Keep limbs, head and neck free from rigidity.
Rotation is around the axis, so stay aware of your spine—your vertical axis.
The movement or flow of Energy sequences from the ground through the pelvis,
then through the chest and then into the neck.
Lengthen neck muscles on the side you are turning towards. Stay soft.
Keep pelvis level in seated twists. Use blankets, cushions, small pillows, or
small, soft under-inflated balls.
Benefits of Twisting Poses
Freeing, balancing, energizing
Increase range of motion and flexibility, esp. hips & upper back
Tone and strengthen abdominal organs and oblique muscles
Energize and purify internal organs by bringing fresh, oxygenated blood supply
Stimulates liver, spleen, heart and lungs
Release excess heat and toxins from organs and tissues
Offer benefits to spine, pelvis, hips, digestive system and elimination
More challenging to those with shorter limbs, so remember not to force the
Contraindications and Cautions
Take care if you have any back or neck problems. During
pregnancy, practice only gentle twisting in poses that are open and allow space
for the fetus.
Back (or neck) problems: especially those with clinically diagnosed disc
herniation should avoid twists until you can do back stretches (forward bends),
gentle back bends, and standing poses without pain. Then begin with standing
twists, followed by reclining twists. When comfortable with these, try seated
Other intervertebral disc problems
History of hip dislocation or prostheses—be cautious
Bruised, broken or dislocated ribs
Irritation or inflammation of internal organs, ex. Cystitis, irritable bowel,