By Shameem Akhtar
Spinal twists exercise important organs and wring out negativity
The challenging spinal twists – in Sanskrit these take the prefix parivritti – are among the most exquisitely designed poses in yoga. They have been crafted on a solid scientific basis too.
Spiritually, parivritti twists are named after Goddess Parvati. It is said that once a devotee, keen on seeing Lord Shiva, refused to acknowledge Shakti as his manifested other half. Parvati teased him by showing her face and her husband’s, since they are one and the same. Thus, these difficult spirals are a good way to remind ourselves that each of us also have yin-yang, or masculine-feminine sides.
All such spirals give a powerful transverse twist to the spine. This means, your spine is literally being wrung out like a wet towel. This, in turn, gives a sympathetic twist to the organs stacked along the spine. As you are aware, these include the body’s most important organs such as the heart, lungs, stomach, liver, all glands such as pancreas, thymus, thyroid, parathyroid, genital glands, etc. This wringing effect squeezes these parts, so there is an outward rush of venous blood. Fresh blood gushes into these squeezed parts. Even parts which do not enjoy such an irrigation (because gravity tends to pool the blood in the lower parts of the organs) get a fresh flow of blood which carries nutrients, oxygen and energy to these neglected parts.
No other physical culture includes spiral twist to the spine as does yoga. The most difficult parts to tone – inside of the waist, inner arms, inner thighs, buttocks – get a powerful workout in such twists. The spinal nerves are also toned due to this motion. In yoga, you are only as young as your spine is. And spiral twists are a good way to reclaim the youth that we are fast losing to a sedentary lifestyle that runs parallel to a rat-race work culture.
Since the liver is also enjoying a squeeze-release massage, it responds by releasing stored fat cells, leading to weight loss. In ancient healing systems, the liver was respected as the sponge which drew in our emotions. The concept of body humors and doshas revolve around this. On a physical level, it stores fat and nutrients (vitamin B, iron, vitamins A, D). On an emotional level, the ancients believed it was a repository of our emotions, good or bad. When the emotions were good, the liver thrived. When our emotions reflected guilt, anger, low self-esteem, hurt, the liver turned toxic. Hence the word bilious, with its negative connotation. This ill-will from within, in turn, the ancients believed, affected all systems negatively. The yogic twists, then, work on our negativities. No wonder then, that they are seen as great detox poses – of the mind, through the body.
Parivritti Konasana (Twisted angle) : Stand up straight. Spread feet a metre apart. Inhale, raising your right hand so it touches your ear. Your left foot should be spread outwards. Your right foot should be slightly fanned towards the left. Exhaling, push your left hand along the left thigh, lowering it as much as you can towards the left foot. Keep breathing. Remember not to tilt your body forward. Now inhale and exhale a few times. As you exhale, twist your head to look up at the ceiling. This is an extreme stretch, and must always be done after some warm-up. Avoid bending the legs at the knee in the final pose. Inhaling, release to return to starting position. Take a few breaths. Repeat for opposite side.
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