Meru Vakrasana (Spinal Twist)

Continued from: Sarpasana (Snake Pose). Part II

An important though small group of asanas are those that twist the spine. Meru vakrasana is one of the simplest of this group. It supplements the backward and forward bending asanas that we have already described.

The Sanskrit word meru means ‘mountain’. In India the spine is known as the merudand, which means ‘mountainous stick’, for the vertebrae of the spine jut out like a range of mountains. The word vakra means ‘curved’. The asana is so called because it twists the spine while accentuating its curvature.

Technique

Sit on the floor with the legs stretched out in front of the body. Place your hands slightly behind and to the side of the buttocks. Adjust the fingers so that they point outwards. Lean on your arms for support. Lift your left foot off the floor and place it on the outside of the right knee. Pivot the body so that the weight is supported by the right arm. Twist the trunk and place the left arm on the right side of the body. The left hand should be placed beside the right hand with the fingers pointing outwards. Face backwards on the same side as the hands. Relax the whole body. Make sure that the spine is straight throughout the asana though you can lean backwards as desired. Gently twist the spine and place the right hand further behind the back. Don’t strain but try to place your right hand as far as possible to the left side of the body. The right arm can be bent if desired. Twist the head further backwards. Again relax the spine. Then using the right arm as a lever, gently twist the spine a little further. This leverage of the right arm allows the spine to be twisted passively. Relaxation of the spine allows the best possible twist. If necessary the left arm can be adjusted to provide balance. Stay in the final pose for a short period of time, breathing normally. Then return to the starting position. Repeat on the left side of the body. If you have a stiff spine don’t strain by trying to twist further than its flexibility will allow.

Awareness and duration

In the final pose be aware of breath, relaxation of the spine and the application of torsion to the spine.

Do two or three times on each side of the body. Stay in the final position for as long as you wish.

Benefits

This asana twists the whole spine from top to bottom. As such it loosens up all the vertebrae, helps to relocate displaced vertebrae and tones all the nerves within and surrounding the spine.

The massage of the abdomen applied by this asana helps to keep all the internal organs in good shape and it has been found to be useful for relieving backache, neckache, lumbago and mild forms of sciatica. It is also a useful preliminary asana to prepare the back for the more difficult spinal twist asanas.

Continue to: Pranayama

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