Cat Pose, Mountain Pose, the "ten core poses" (Standing Forward Fold, Standing Side Stretch, Dog Pose, Spread Leg Forward Fold, Bridge Pose, Reclining Leg Stretch, Locust Pose, Sage Twist, Hero Pose, Shoulder Stretches) and the Lotus are presented here. The other thirty-two poses I recommend can be found in my book.
Sage Twist (Marichyasana)
1 Sit on the floor with both legs straight. Bend the right leg, lift the right foot over the left leg, and place your right foot on the floor adjacent to the left knee. Wriggle the buttocks backward so you are on the tips of the sitting bones, sit tall, and check that both sitting bones are pressed equally into the floor.
2 There will be a tendency for the right buttock to lift from the floor as you deepen the twist and move through the following stages. Minimize this. Keep both sitting bones pressed down throughout the pose so the pelvis remains level. Only then can the spine be pulled up straight.
3 Wrap the left arm around the right knee, positioning the knee in the crook of the left elbow. Clasp hold of your wrists or elbows (photo 1). Gaze forward in the direction of your left foot.
4 Roll the left leg inward until the kneecap faces the ceiling and the inner edge of the left foot is vertical, then spread your toes and press the ball of the foot away from you. Flow energy through your leg.
5 Sit tall. Align your torso and elongate your core. First, pull the abdominals in. Then press downward through both sitting bones, especially the right one, bring your lower back in and up, and elongate your core upward through the crown of your head. Lift the chest away from the waist and pull inward with your arms, squeezing the right leg toward your chest as you gently thrust your chest toward the leg. You'll, probably feel the stretch in your right hip. Relax the shoulders down, and remind yourself that if you want one part of your body to rise upward, you press another part downward - whatever is on the floor. Here, press the right foot, left leg, and sitting hones downward in order to elongate your core upward. Tremendous spinal strength is required to do this, as well as flexibility in the right hip and buttock.
6 Breathe smoothly. Let the stretch penetrate. Wait for the sensations of intensity to diminish before proceeding. As you are waiting, feel your way through the pose. Let your awareness roam around and through your body. Endeavor to release every hint of strain. Expand, relax where you can, yet maintain the action of the pose.
7 Emphasize the upward spinal elongation during each inhalation actually using the breath to coax the spine and rib cage upward; and gently squeeze inward with your arms during each exhalation. Inhale lift, exhale squeeze - back and forth with the breath. Feel the rhythm. Do not be in a rush. Immerse yourself in the flow. Be here until your body asks for more.
8 Bring the back of the left upper arm to the outside of the right knee and place both hands on the floor (photo 2). Be aware of the tendency for the right sitting bone to float away from the floor. Keep the right sitting bone grounded.
9 Twist: Inhale as you press both hands downward into the floor and bring the lower back in and up to elongate the spine, thus achieving maximum spinal extension; exhale as you press the back of your left arm into the leg and rotate your rib cage to the right. First your belly turns, then your chest, then your head. Walk the right hand around behind you more, twist deeper, and gaze straight backward.
10 The perineum and sitting bones go down, the hands press down, the fontanel goes up, and both shoulders pull backward as you lift and rotate the chest. This feels exquisite. Proceed slowly. Do not be in a rush to get to the deeper stages. You can twist your spine fully here. Savor the way this feels.
11 Breathe smoothly, emphasizing the upward action as you inhale and deepening the twist as you exhale, even subtly. Gently spin your rib cage around your spine. Close your eyes and experience yourself as a strong curve of energy spiraling up and down and around. Feel the curve, become one with the curve, follow it deeper. Rotate. Be here until your body asks for a change.
12 Clasp the left knee or right foot with your left hand (photo 3). This will lock you into place. The ease with which you can clasp your knee or foot depends on how much you were able to rotate your rib cage in Stage Two. The deeper you twist, the easier this will be - because the right knee and left upper arm will contact one another closer to the shoulder and armpit, rather than the elbow. If the contact point is nearer the elbow, you'll have a more difficult time with this stage. Try, therefore, to have the contact point of your arm and leg as high toward the shoulder as possible. The closer it is to the armpit and shoulder, the easier it will be for you to catch hold of the left knee and, ultimately, the right foot.
13 Breathe smoothly, acclimatize to the stretch, then ease your way deeper. A fraction of an inch is a lot. Elongate your core as you inhale, rotate as you exhale. Have your right hand on the floor behind you for support, and use both the inhale and exhale to ease your way deeper into the pose. Relax as you deepen the twist, but do so without losing the action of the pose. Do and not-do at the same time.
14 Check your alignment and take stock of where you are. The left arm is straight, with the hand holding either the left knee or right foot. The plane through your shoulders is on the same line as the left leg, and your chest is therefore facing sideways. The right hand is on the floor behind you, your gaze is straight backward, and because of this positioning, your spine and core will naturally spiral upward. He here until you are ready for more.
15 Slip your left hand and arm through the triangular opening formed by your right knee. Clasp your hands behind you (photo 4). The left hand does the clasping. Eventually, slide your right arm deeper and clasp hold of the right wrist. Pull the spine and chest upward and tighten the twist by rolling both shoulders backward.
16 Breathe smoothly, with feeling. Expand the shape from inside, using the breath. Gaze backward some of the time, forward some of the time. Be here half a minute to one minute.
17 Remember, you can only fully enjoy something when you give your full attention to that thing; and the more you pay attention, the more you'll find to interest you. Therefore, now, immerse yourself in the rhythm of your breathing, the sensations of stretch, and the feeling-tone of the pose. Enjoy the way this feels. Learn to be guided from within.
18 Reverse the legs and do the pose on the other side. Take your time. Give each stage its due.
Benefits: Sage Twist or Marichyasana
Strengthens back, rotates spine fully, erases backache, stretches hip. Tones and massages the abdominal area, especially liver, spleen, intestines. Relieves lower back pain caused by muscular tension. Frees chest, makes shoulders elastic.
Cat Pose, Mountain Pose, Standing Forward Fold, Standing Side Stretch, Dog Pose, Spread Leg Forward Fold, Bridge Pose, Reclining Leg Stretch, Locust Pose, Sage Twist, Hero Pose, Shoulder Stretches, Lotus