Breathing in Yoga Poses with Twists
Updated: Mar 27
During any yoga poses with twists our breath naturally gets shorter as the rib cage becomes more contracted. This makes twists in yoga some of the most difficult poses to breathe fully in.
To help counteract the natural tendency to breathe shorter and shallower it can be helpful to actively focus on allowing your breath to slow down and deepen when practicing any yoga sequence with twists.
YouTube Yoga Twists Video
Want to jump straight into a guided practice? Practice along with my YouTube yoga twists video: focus on your breath in twists.
In this video you’ll be guided through a longer 30 minute vinyasa yoga practice with lots of different twisted variations of yoga postures. Giving you plenty of time to focus on your breathing pattern in these vinyasa yoga twists.
If you’ve got a bit longer to practice you might want to start with focusing on your breath during sun salutations to work on setting a regular rhythm for your breath before moving into these twists.
You can learn more about the importance of the breath in yoga in my blog: how important is breathing in yoga.
5 Yoga Poses with Twists
(1) Revolved Chair Pose | Parivritta Utkatasana
The Revolved Chair Pose—also known as Parivritta Utkatasana—is a great yoga standing twist to start your practice with.
You can bring your feet together, or slightly apart, and draw the weight back towards your heels as you sink your hips down and back. From here use your inhale to lengthen up through your spine and exhale to bring the palms together and twist to one side.
You can choose how deep you want to twist, while still being able to maintain a soft and steady breath. Bottom elbow could hover when twisting less deeply, or you could drop the elbow to the opposite thigh to deepen the twist.
Stay a few steady breaths on one side. And then use your next inhale to lengthen and come back through the center, and then exhale as you twist to the opposite side.
(2) Reverse Side Angle Pose | Parivritta Parsvakonasana
The beauty with the Reverse Side Angle Pose is that you can choose how deep you want the twist to be. This allows you to tailor the posture to what feels good for your body and breath on a given day.
Start with your back knee on the ground to get the best position in the twist. Use your inhale to lengthen through your spine, and exhale to twist deeply to the side.
Like in the Revolved Chair Pose you can bring your palm together and either have your bottom elbow hovering above your leg or resting on your thigh.
See if you can actively press your palms together and elbows apart, as you keep breathing in slowly through your nose. Focusing as best as you can particularly on lengthening the start of your inhale to allow both the inhale and exhale to be long and deep.
(3) Revolved Wide Legged Forward Fold | Parivrtta Prasarita Padottanasana
The Revolved Wide Legged Forward Fold Pose allows you to work on flexibility of your hamstrings, hips and shoulders while strengthening your core in the twist. The focus here on lengthening the spine is a good habit to build and use for other yoga twists.
Start by having the legs wide to the side and folding half way forward from the hips. Engage your abdomen and legs as you reach your head and spine forward.
When you’re ready to add the twist, place the fingertips of one hand on the ground and twist to the other side reaching the opposite arm up. Keep spinning your chest up and stacking your shoulders as you do your best to keep your hips square.
Pause in the pose for a few long and steady breaths. Then on your exhale lower the top arm down and change sides, twisting in the opposite direction.
(4) Sitting Half Spinal Twist Pose | Ardha Matsyendrasana
For the Sitting Half Spinal Twist Pose your hips stay heavy in the ground. This can allow you to potentially twist a little deeper in the pose if that feels ok for your hips and back.
Ground down through your hips and foot of the bent leg as you lengthen up through your upper body. Using the exhale to rotate and twist to one side.
See if you can keep breathing in the seated twist. Using each inhale to lengthen and create a bit more space, and each exhale to twist a little deeper. After a few breaths you can gently release the twist and then repeat the same on the other side.
(5) Lying Spinal Twist Pose | Supta Matsyendrasana
This final Lying Spinal Twist Pose is a great way to finish off a yoga sequence with twists. You can start by bending the knees and allowing your knees to hover above your hips. At the same time drop your lower back down towards the ground to engage your belly.
From here you can drop the knees over to one side and if you like turn your head to the opposite side. Pause here for a few slower and deep breaths, allowing one side of your torso to lengthen in this passive twist.
You can experiment with how close you bring your knees up to your belly and the placing of your arms to help you relax into the pose. After staying for some slow breaths on one side you can bring the knees through the center and over to the other side.
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