This is an important series of poses for spinal health, increasing flexibility and strength in the back and spinal muscles.

During a twist, the spine is activated and the flow of nutrients carried to the inter-vertebral disks rise. This action accelerates circulation to the spinal nerves, blood vessels and tissues. Also, as the torso twists, one side of the back and abdomen stretches while the other side contracts. While holding the twist, by-products and toxins leave the organs. When the twist is released, fresh blood flows in, bringing with it oxygen and other building blocks for tissue healing.

Thus, we can say that twists have a strong influence not only on the spine but on total health and vitality.

Spiralled head to knee pose

Parivritti Janu Sirshasana

  • Sit in the Seated Base Position (Prarambhik Sthiti).
  • Bend the left knee and place the foot on the inside of the right thigh.
  • Lean to the right, and lay the right forearm on the floor inside the right leg with the palm facing up.
  • Lengthen the right side of the torso along the inside of the right thigh.
  • Take hold of the inside edge of the foot with the thumb on the top, fingers on the sole.
  • Raise the left arm straight up toward the ceiling, then slowly lower the arm behind the left ear to take hold of the outside edge of the right foot.
  • Press the elbows away from each other, using them to help twist the upper torso further.
  • If comfortable in the neck, turn the head and look towards the ceiling.
  • Hold for as long as comfortable then release the hands, raise the left arm over the head and slowly return to the upright position.
  • Repeat these steps to the other side and hold for the same duration.

Breathing

  • Exhale while lowering and twisting to the side.
  • Breathe slowly and deeply in the position.
  • Inhale to release and return upright.

Awareness

  • The twist and stretch in the body.
  • The breath.
  • Manipura chakra.

Contraindications

  • Pregnancy.
  • Back conditions.
  • Hernia.

Benefits

  • Stretches the spine, shoulders, and hamstrings.
  • Stimulates abdominal organs such as the liver and kidneys.
  • Improves digestion.

Practice note

  • Use the breath to deepen twist. While in the pose, inhale to lengthen the spine and exhale to twist further.

Half spinal twist

Ardha matsyendrasana

  • Sit in the Seated Base Position (Prarambhik Sthiti).
  • Bend the right knee and place the sole of the right foot on the floor to the outside of the left knee.
  • Bend the left leg and bring the foot around to rest beside the right buttock.
  • Twist around to the right and take the right arm along the outside of the raised leg, hold the ankle.
  • Sit up straight and elongate the spine.
  • Raise the left arm, slowly twist to the left and look over the left shoulder.
  • Rest the left hand on the floor behind the body or bend at the elbow wrapping the arm around the back of the waist.
  • Hold for as long as comfortable, then release the arms, re-centre the torso, neck and head and twist to the right for an equal length of time.

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Spinal twist

Meru Wakrasana

  • Sit in the Seated Base Position (Prarambhik Sthiti).
  • Bend the right knee and place the sole of the right foot on the floor to the outside of the left thigh.
  • Turn the torso to the left and place the left hand on the floor behind the body towards the right buttock and have the fingers pointing backwards.
  • Place the right hand behind and slightly to the side of the left buttock, as close to the left hand as possible.
  • Using the arms as levers, twist the head and torso to the left as far as comfortable while maintaining integrity in the spine.
  • Hold for some time then release the hands and re-centre the torso, returning to the Seated Base Position.
  • Practice up to 5 times and then repeat to the other side.

Breathing

  • Inhale to prepare.
  • Exhale while twisting.
  • Retain the breath out, or breath naturally if holding the pose.
  • Inhale to re-centre.

Awareness

  • The twist and rotation of the hip joint.
  • Relaxation of the spine.
  • The breath.
  • Manipura chakra.

Benefits

  • Stimulates the liver and kidneys.
  • Stretches the shoulders, hips, and neck.
  • Energizes the spine.
  • Alleviates back pain.
  • Activates the digestive system.

Practice note

  • Ensure both buttocks remain on the floor.