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Yoga poses for a flexible spine

August 19, 2008

Yoga fusses a lot about spinal health because it is where man, by standing up and defying gravity and his animal instincts, slowly tries to reach the divine. Apart from the psychic symbology invested in the spine, it also has several practices exclusively to keep it healthy, youthful, supple and flexible because it is through the spine that the rest of the body connects, through nerves, to the brain.

The spine is also the basic and most important frame on which the rest of the body, including its most important organ systems, hang. But this evolutionary move, to shift from being a four-legged creature to a two-legged one has taken its own toll on the spine: it also suffers the burden of this through pain when it is neglected or when we are stressed. It is a common belief that huge a percentage of spinal problems are a result of stress, while the rest (barring in extreme cases of accident) are caused by its neglect.

Unlike other forms of exercise which can actually stress the spine (like running or jogging), yoga uses several natural stretches which give the spine a powerful traction. With the twists this traction reaches new highs because here the spine gets a rare transverse twist. The twists work out more than the spine: all the internal organs and glands, hanging in the torso experience a powerful squeeze-release massage that renews the flow of blood, removes toxic build-up, rejuvenates cob-webbed parts of these organs/glands that have been in a comatose state. This is why yogic twists are regarded as its detoxifying and anti-aging practices.

Shameem Akthar, yogacharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, shows you five classic yogic twists.

Caution: Though twists are taught as preventive in spinal problems, it must be avoided in extreme lower back problem. It may be learnt in a phased manner under expert guidance only, in case of any spinal problem.

Photographs: Jahnavi Sheriff
Catch more of Shameem's yoga writings and about her upcoming workshops at

This article only attempts to enthuse readers towards yoga practice and complement your existing practice. Yoga is best learnt under the personal guidance of a teacher.
Also read: Have fun with these yogic hand balancers

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