I spent this past weekend at Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, ME. It was the first time I’d been to Maine and the furthest East I’ve ever travelled in the US. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it.

While I’ve vacationed on beaches and lived 25% of my life in the mountains, I’d never really had the experience of being on top of a mountain looking out at the ocean horizon. I waved to England…at least that’s what I think is on the other side in the particular direction I happened to be facing.

That experience of looking out at the vastness around you surrounded by so much diverse nature is humbling, peaceful, and thought-provoking. I craved expansion. To expand into your greatest potential is the best work you can do on this Earth.

Expanding on the mat

Since this is a yoga blog, let’s take that concept into the studio. I know my own personal teaching style favors a well-rounded class with all types of movement. Admittedly, I focus the least on backbends because I personally don’t love them. Backbends are typically referred to as your heart-openers and opportunities to naturally expand. On the contrary, twists are all about constricting in the anticipation of an expansion upon release of the twist.

I want to offer up the possibility of expanding in your twists.

No matter what way you’re twisting, I always want you to think about expanding. In fact, I want you to think about expanding in every posture regardless of where you’re going. If you’re not expanding, you’re not growing and if you’re not growing you’re either stagnant or shrinking, neither of which is an intentional benefit of the practice of yoga.

But back to the twists. You know that time in one of your first yoga classes when the teacher cued you to twist and you twisted and suddenly you were the only one in the room facing in the opposite direction as everyone else? Either you realized it and switched your twist to match everyone else or the teacher came over and told you to twist to your other right, in which case you looked around confused and then realized that you had a sudden lapse in remembrance of your lefts and rights. It’s okay — it happens to the best of us.

For the purposes of what we’re exploring today, I want you to STAY in the opposite direction. I want you to relish being the contrarian. I want you to release the shame and the confusion and instead feel empowered because when the teacher comes around to tell you you’re twisting the wrong way, now you can say, “Nope, I am doing this on purpose and here’s why.”

Open your twists

When we twist in the traditional direction we constrict the torso. There are plenty of benefits to this and it feels nice. When we twist in the opposite direction, we are not WRONG, instead the focus leaves the torso and moves to the upper back. I don’t know about you, but I know a whole lotta people, myself included, who have some tightness going on in the upper back between the shoulder blades. Taking an open twist feels really nice for that area of the body.

Open twisting also happens to be a fabulous modification for pregnancy. In fact, I sequenced my entire class this morning for my one dedicated pregnant student — all open twists — and no one was any the wiser. Everyone had a great experience and enjoyed creating more space during a time when we can get really bogged down in the whole going-back-to-busy seasonal hoopla.

I encourage you to explore open twists in your practice the next couple weeks and see how that helps you access new sensations in the upper back. For more alignment tips and how-to’s, and the specific postures you can take open twists in, watch today’s video!