As we move into the colder months of the year when schedules can get busy with the holidays and wrapping things up for the year, it’s important to take time for oneself and for self-care. One easy thing to incorporate to a daily or weekly routine are some twists. Twists have many benefits not just in yoga, but in every day life.
In Ayurveda, winter is the vata time of year when it is cold, windy, and dry. Our digestive fire is working hard to keep our body warm as well as at its strongest to aid in digestion of fats and proteins. With our digestive fire working so hard, it can lead to irregular digestion. Our body begins to feel the effects with chapped skin and lips, dry and cracking joints, etc. Gentle twists are one great way to help keep the digestive fire kindled to help aid digestion and keep the synovial fluid flowing to the joints, especially those of the spine, without over working seasonally tensile muscles.
Spring is the kapha time of year when things are still cool but are beginning to melt creating damp and sticky conditions. Our digestive fire will begin to slow down and our body will begin to become more lubricated, but have sluggish digestion. Moving into deeper twists in the spring time utilizes the lubrication of the joints to really pump the digestive organs to keep things moving while allowing access to the warmer and more sturdy muscles.
Although the benefits of twisting the body are numerous and useful all times of year, this article will focus how twists benefit us in the colder months of the year with digestion and joint health.
Here are some of the benefits you might experience this winter by adding more gentle twists into your day.
- Aids Digestion
When the torso twists, the abdominal and digestive organs are compressed. This causes a lack of circulation to the affected organs and when released allows fresh blood flow rich with oxygen and nutrients to flush the organs. This increase in blood flow aids in optimal organ function which may lead to increased absorption of nutrients from food and their distribution throughout the body.
- Eases Constipation
When the air around us is dry, our body becomes dry. This isn’t just the external part of our body in the skin, or the noticeable parts like the joints, but also our bowels. Dry bowels can lead to constipation and twists, as mentioned above, bring nutrients and blood flow into the digestive organs.
- Increases Circulation
As mentioned above, twists increase the blood flow through the body through contraction and release of the muscles and organs. In addition, as mentioned below, twists help maintain a healthy spine, which maintains healthy posture, which allows the chest and rib cage to expand and contract fully using optimal lung capacity. When we can breathe fully and with ease, our circulation is greatly improved by releasing more CO2 and taking in more O2.
- Boosts Immunity
More research has shown that most of our immunity comes from a healthy digestive system. Because twists support our body’s ability to digest and assimilate our foods, and help increase overall circulation, our body’s response to colds and other winter ailments is bolstered. Also, because our circulation is improved, the lymph system is able to flow more easily with fewer blockages and can drain more easily when necessary.
- Soothes Stress and Anxiety
Because twists help open the chest, rib cage, and shoulder girdle, they can help reduce effects of stress and anxiety by allowing for better circulation, release of the muscles where most people hold tension in their body, and can help calm the mind by gently stimulating the vagus nerve to calm the body and mind.
- Supports Spinal Health
Many people sit for most of their day. When our body isn’t moved in it’s full range of motion regularly, the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia all begin to shorten. When they shorten, they limit our range of motion and this can cause stiffness in the joints and muscles and can lead to pain when trying to accomplish regular tasks that require more mobility. When our spine is healthy, it is possible to greatly reduce back pain and the risk of a back injury. This is extra important in the colder months since we tend to be a little more dry, so we can keep the joints of the spine lubricated and healthy.
- Energy Boost
As mentioned above, twists align our spine and shoulder girdle toward proper alignment. With the spine aligned, circulation flowing with ease, energy, or prana in yoga, can move more freely through the body. You can just feel the difference when you are slouching forward and when you sit upright. In the winter when the days are shorter and darker, we can really benefit from a little extra energy boost.