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Bending for health: Yogic backbends

February 15, 2008
Backbends, like twists, are unique to yoga. They are potent anti-depressants and seen as instant mood-elevators. They also wring out fatigue, lethargy and lack of enthusiasm. Because these demand strength and focus, they also build muscular and mental stamina.

Again, by correcting subtle postural defects they prop us up both physically and mentally. A yoga practice can be termed incomplete if backbends are neglected.

Though other modern-day exercises have borrowed from them, it would be wise to stick to the technical finesse that yoga gives its many backbends. Amongst all categories, yogic twists and backbends can be termed as difficult. The latter also, unfortunately, have several contraindications: they can strain a weak back.

So, those with back problems must first focus on rectifying the problem before attempting backbends. Since these poses tone the entire back, spinal nerves, the powerful and supportive back muscles, these poses when done regularly, are actually help prevent all back problems.

They release trapped tension from the back muscles. They encourage circulation in this part of the body which is usually neglected. By opening up the chest, they also boost respiration. However, those with acute respiratory problems or severe migraines must learn to do these poses in a phased manner due to their powerful impact on the system. All backbends boost the immune system powerfully by their effect on the thymus gland.

Also, those with heart problems need to start off mildly with these poses. They are contraindicated in all cases of abdominal flare-ups or problems and hyper-thyroidism since these poses apply tremendous pressure on the abdomen and thyroid respectively.

They are powerfully therapeutic in adrenal gland exhaustion and high stress, diabetes and digestive problems like inadequate nutrient absorption, acidity, flatulence, constipation and obesity. They hike the metabolism, helping you lose weight faster. They tone the uro-genital system superbly. They shape your hips and legs superbly.

Shameem Akthar, yoga acharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, Kerala, instructs you in these five de-stress poses.

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

Harmony Foundation recently published Shameem Akthar's book, Yoga for Silvers. To place an order, please write to:

(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: Instant stress relief with yoga!


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