//Supta Matsyendrasana: Reclined Twist
Spring is upon us. I am not sure about the rest of you, but winter seemed to linger a bit longer than was welcome in this household. The stagnant air hanging about the hallways and the clouds from the Pacific lingering close to the dampened earth, perpetuating a state of grey and creating a sense of staleness. I am ready for beginnings again, and just in time, they are here. I sense them as I take my morning walks. The birds are in full chorus and the perennials are bravely popping out of the chilled soil sprinkled from the rain. It feels fresh, clean, and full of possibilities.
Nonetheless, beginnings are a fragile business. We can see this truth in the world around us. Seedlings hang close to the warm blanket of the earth and take comfort in her nutrients while trying desperately to root and create a system of sustaining and maintaining its growth in collaboration with its surroundings. All the while, facing the inevitable digressions of bad weather, other creatures invasions, and lack of sustenance. If not for the haven of earth’s soil, the miracle of rain, and the power of the sun, life and progress would not be possible for this little plant. Just like the seedling, our beginnings are just as fragile, not just the beginning of our life, but all the little beginnings we take through our life. It is essential that we create a suitable place in our body, mind, and environment to nurture our becoming. There are two essential elements to this movement: a sense of grounding and a sense of release. With these two pieces in place we can create a confident space for transformation and possibility.
The featured pose for this month, supta matsyendrasana, reclined twist, is a posture that does just that: grounds and releases. From the mere fact that this is a reclined position, where most of our body is in connection with the earth, it is rooting. When we physically connect to the earth, it allows for a mindful moment to recognize where we came from, what sustains us, who we are, and where we are going. This is rooting. In our beginnings, we need this confidence and security to thrive.
Reclined twist is also purifying and cleansing, and in this way it allows us to release all that no longer serves us or our growth. Like a sponge, it wrings us out, making it challenging for negative thoughts, old beliefs, and fears to stay intact. A true quieting of the mind. When we unwind there is a feeling of lightness, a fresh and clean feeling like the first day of Spring.
The physical benefits of this posture are numerous. It promotes spinal flexibility, digestion, strengthening of the abdominal muscles, and opening of tight shoulders. To learn how to do this posture, continue reading.
Begin on the floor lying on your back with your legs extended out in front of you and your hands by your sides. Take a nice big inhale. As you exhale, begin to engage your core and pull your right knee into your chest. Allow your shoulder blades to relax down and back along the mat. Take an inhale here.
As you exhale, bring your right knee into your left hand and guide your knee over to the left side of your body, allowing your spine to twist. The bent right knee is moving towards the ground with your right thigh in line with your right hip.
On the inhale, guide your right arm out to the right side, in line with your shoulder and perpendicular to your body with your palm facing up or down. Ground your right shoulder down into the mat. Turn your gaze out over your right fingertips.
Hold in this position for 5-10 deep breaths. To release, inhale your right leg back to center, and exhale to extend your right leg down along the mat. Repeat with the left leg.
An alternative pose for supta matsyendrasana is supta jathara parivartanasana, belly revolving pose. Typically in this variation, both knees are bent and twisted to one side, instead of one. A deeper variation would be both legs twisted and fully extended.
There are several variations to help make this posture more supportive and relaxing. Here are some ideas:
- Place a bolster or a firm pillow below the knee and leg that are twisting.
- If you are twisting with both knees bent, place a blanket in between your knees.
- Rest both your top knee and foot on a block.
To intensify the stretch throughout your hips, here is an options:
- Cross your top leg over your bottom leg at the knee. If you have greater flexibility also wrap your top foot around the calf of the bottom leg to form “eagle legs.” Drop your knees over to the side of the bottom leg. Hold for at least 5 breaths, return to center, uncross legs, and repeat on the second side.
There should be no pain in reclined twist. If you are experiencing pain, be sure to check in with a medical professional and only practice this posture in front of an experienced instructor.
Avoid this posture if you are experiencing:
- Degenerated discs, back pain, or back injuries.
- Arthritis of the hips or spine.
- Inner organ surgery.