HALF SPINAL TWIST
Ardha Matsyendrasana is the 9th in the sequence of 12 basic postures of Hatha yoga. This pose provides a multitude of benefits for the entire body. It increases flexibility in the spine, calms the mind, relaxes the nervous system, improves digestion, and cleanses the internal organs. The straight leg adaptation of the traditional bent lower leg pose is safer for beginners and for those who have knee problems. Whichever variation you choose it is important to ensure that your form is safe. It is important to keep the back straight and the chest lifted throughout the exercise rather than hunching the shoulders, which could cause the back pain.
The back extensor muscles (predominantly the erector spinae and multifidus muscles) function mainly to provide posterior stability for the vertebral column and to oppose the force of gravity for maintaining erect posture and controlling forward flexion (Glisan & Hochsculer, 1990). Improper vertebral alignment can result from weak erector spinae muscles, leading to incorrect loading on the spine. If the back extensor muscles and associated connective tissues become weak and overstretched, possibly from spending a lot of time in a flexed, seated position, the lumbosacral angle decreases and the discs bulge posteriorly, resulting in low back pain (Calliet, 1988).
Benefits of Seated Twist
• Tones and strengthens the abs and obliques.
• Increases flexibility in each vertebrae of the spine, from the base of the spine through the neck.
• Opens the shoulders, neck, hip rotators and hip.
• Increases flexibility, especially in the hips and spine.
• Expands your chest and shoulders.
• Relieves thoracic or mid back spinal tension.
• Improves digestion and elimination of wastes.
• Relieves symptoms of backache, fatigue, menstrual discomfort and sciatica.
• Traditionally thought to massage your abdominal organs, detoxify your liver and kidneys, and stimulate digestive fire.
• Releases excess heat and toxins from organs and tissues.
• Breathing becomes more rapid, speeding up circulation.
• Brings more blood flow to the spine.
• Increases your spinal flexibility and range of motion.
• Expands your chest and shoulders.
• Ensure your focus is straight ahead with your head centered on your body.
• Knee problems – Practise the straight leg version, avoiding crossing the knee underneath you.
• Should be avoided during pregnancy and menstruation due to the strong twist in the abdomen.
• People with heart or abdominal surgeries should not practise this asana.
• If you have shoulder problems, don’t bind the arms behind the back as this requires inward rotation and extension.
• Care should be taken for those with peptic ulcers or hernias.
• Those with severe spinal problems should avoid, and those with mild slipped disc can benefit but in severe cases it should be avoided.
• Lumbar disc disorders – Keep your natural curve in the lower back and avoid rounding.
How To Perfrom
• Start in Dandasana (Staff Pose) sitting with both legs straight out in front of you, toes pulled toward you. • Bend your right knee to the chest placing the sole of your right foot firmly on the floor.
• Wrap your left arm around your right thigh and twist at the waist, rotating your torso toward your right thigh.
• Place the palm of your right hand against the floor just behind your right buttock and press it firmly into the floor.
• Be mindful of the length of your arms and the height of your torso, which will determine whether your palm is either on the floor or your hand has spider fingers on the mat.
• Keeping your back upright and straight in this posture, and try to keep both sitting bones in contact with the floor.
• Take your gaze out over your right shoulder, but don’t overturn or strain the neck. With every inhale, get a little taller through your spine and with every exhale, twist a little deeper.
• Ensure that your pushing the back of the left leg into the floor with your toes pulled toward you for stability.
• The twist should be felt in the waist, not the neck. Be sure to keep your right foot flat on the floor.
• Hold the pose for 5 deep breaths to exit. Inhale to look forward, and when exhaling release the twist.