I love to twist - either as part of my own practice, or when I am teaching. And whilst there is truth in the saying that it is the postures you like LEAST that often bring you the most benefit, yoga is of course all about balance.
So what are the benefits of twisting? First of all, they can be wonderfully energising and yet soothing - when we twist, we first lengthen the spine to create space between the verterbrae, decompressing the spine in a safe way. As twists tend also to open the shoulders, chests and back, they can be a fabulous way of releasing stress and tension - known to have a positive effect on mental health and a wonderful way to deal with anxiety. Seated and reclined twists are definitely soothing - whilst not requiring muscular strength, they allow you to focus on the breath and relax the mind. Standing twists require strength in the lower body, stamina and balance - mental strength certainly improves as you learn to master a twisted lunge and a twsiting standing flow has an energising effect!
Our sedentary lifestyles (sitting, driving) and tendency to move in a linear, or sagittal, plane (running, cycling, walking) can lead to the muscles and other tissues surrounding the back to become stiff over time. Twisting the spine helps us to take care of our backs and maintain full mobility of the spine, helping to reduce back pain. Twisting helps to engage all of the muscles in the back, restoring our natural full range of motion. If we don't regularly engage that full range of motion, we do, of course, run the risk of losing it.
There is also a widely held belief that twists can be detoxifying, squeezing the internal organs, and allowing fresh, oxygentated blood to rush in as you release, helping to eliminate waste and improve metabolism. There is a lot of healthy debate around this particular topic, but whatver you believe, try a twist, see how great it feels, and simpy listen to your mind and body.