Lightening up in the Spinal Twist: Sivananda Yoga Posture Stories

By Carolyn Uma Berry

Over time, our experience of yoga asanas evolves beyond the physical — the postures become our teachers and companions, showing us our relationship with ourselves and the world. Enjoy this collection of stories submitted by Sivananda Yoga practitioners from around the world, sharing their in-depth connections with each asana of the Sivananda sequence.

One of the first classes, I attended, many, (many) years ago was in a small room above a shop in a small town in Northern England. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the first blooming of my relationship with yoga.

Just as all our lives tend to have ups and downs, I had just been through a particularly difficult period in my life … so my friend suggested this class to help me. Prior to this I had held yoga in the back of my mind but never acted upon the idea of joining a class. So with this offering, I seized the opportunity with anticipation.

I entered the space and peered inside the room. There were 10 - 12 students of varying ages and a teacher positioned in the front. She had a soft, comforting voice, so I was happy to keep attending her class.

One day she guided us into the half spinal twist, ardha matsyendrasana. She joked that it was like being a pretzel. As I squeezed myself into the posture for the first time and turned my neck to complete the twist, I realized I was getting a whole new perspective of the room.

I saw the students behind me, all looking slightly different in their postures. As I came back to my own body’s awareness I realized my shoulders were tight. I relaxed them, but then noticed the tightness in my abdomen. My stomach was squeezed up against my leg, and my whole body felt like a twisted tube of toothpaste.

At that moment, I noticed a small candle at the back of the room. The teacher had initially used it to teach us the practice of tratak. I softened my gaze on the flame, then closed my eyes. It was a powerful and soothing experience — something I desperately needed to help me relax into the moment. Now the twist felt like a calming posture, bringing me relief.

When we released the pose, my whole body felt lighter. The atmosphere of the room felt lighter too. I glanced around the room, realizing I was not the only one feeling light and energized. Now spinal twist always strikes me as a powerful yet humorous pose, and it helps me bring light to the situation I’m in. I now understand why it’s a physically detoxifying posture, but at that time it was also emotionally detoxifying — it helped me let go of the heaviness I’d been carrying.

Now when I practice the half spinal twist, it takes me back to this experience, and to my first yoga teacher. It still reminds me of the Sivananda practice that I have now — the practice that was born out of a tiny seed of yoga.


Every week from January 1 – March 26, 2018, we will be sharing a new story — You can access all of the current ones here.

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