This week, we are super excited to have Annie Clarke (aka Mind Body Bowl) Guest Edit the Magazine! With the highly-anticipated launch of her book, Mind Body Bowl, this Thursday, we’ve got a week of Annie-fied content! Hooray! Today kicks off with some of Annie’s favourite yoga poses to help ease tension, aid digestion and create clarity in the mind.
Handing it over to Annie!
In a twist, space is created in between the vertebrae, lengthening the spine and stretching the back muscles. This helps to develop and maintain a good range of motion in the spine, and creates space for energy to flow more freely, making twists an instantly energizing asana group.
In addition to what they do for your spine, twists are also brilliant for aiding digestion. They help to stimulate the organs which can improve the function of the digestive system, so try them if you’re feeling bloated or sluggish. For those of you who struggle with digestive issues, or maybe are just having a bit of an off day, twists and forward folds in yoga can be a great way to relieve digestive discomfort.
A really simple exercise that you can do which may help to relieve stomach ache or trapped wind is a gentle lying-down twist. It is really important to listen to your own body and try this only if you feel comfortable in doing so. This works well for me, but it is worth discussing it with someone who knows your medical history if you are unsure of whether or not to try it.
Lie down flat with both shoulders on the ground. Keeping the left leg extended, draw the right knee into the chest, hugging it there for a few breaths. Then, using the left hand, draw the right knee across the body, extending the right arm out to the side and gazing towards the right fingertips. Keep working the right knee down to the left side while the right shoulder grounds down into the mat. Stay here for as long as you like, then inhale to come back to centre and repeat on the other side.
It is worth noting that it is recommended that you engage the core muscles to protect and support the spine when you are twisting. An inhalation is also used to lengthen the spine, and an exhalation to twist, ensuring that you first create space, before rotating.
Back bends, otherwise known as heart-openers, are a really valuable group of asanas from both a physical and emotional perspective. They are a fundamental part of many yoga sequences and their many benefits include strengthening and aligning the spine. Lots of us spend a large part of our days folded or hunched forwards, such as while working at a desk or computer, and so it’s good to counteract this repetitive action and help us to realign the spine.
As you bend the back you also open up the chest, releasing muscular tension and creating openness around the heart and lungs, allowing us the space to breathe more deeply. It is not unusual to feel emotional after completing heart-openers, and in fact I find that they can help to relieve a build-up of anxiety and emotion as a result of this physical release.
In order to deepen a back bend, you need to create length at the front of your body. Stretching the hip flexors, for example, can create additional mobility, which allows you to work into a stronger back-bending practice.
You don’t have to engage in extreme back bends to benefit from them – gentle postures can still have a significant effect on the body and are a really great way to prepare for more powerful back bends as your yoga practice develops.
Back bends can be quite scary, but as you learn to trust yourself and overcome self- imposed limits and expectations, you will develop a strength of mind that can be applied to other areas of your life.
Stay tuned this week for more articles and delicious recipes from Annie’s book, Mind Body Bowl! Click here to pre-order Mind Body Bowl!
Imagery – Philippa Langley
Text – Annie Clarke