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HomeHealth articlesyogaWhat Are the Fundamentals and Details of Backbend and Twists?

Fundamentals and Details of Backbend and Twists

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Backbends and twist asanas in yoga can be liberating and thrilling for some people while being somewhat intimidating and anxiety-inducing for others.

Medically reviewed by

Shakti Mishra

Published At December 13, 2022
Reviewed AtDecember 14, 2022

Introduction

Any yoga practice must include backbends. Beginners may experience back discomfort in most back-bending poses throughout the first few years of practice and perceive it as a "natural sensation." In actuality, backbends should be challenging. When users backbend, one could be compressing their lumbar spine rather than widening its range of motion if they cannot fully bend.

What Are the Uses of Backbends and Twists?

  1. Backbends are primarily used to widen the front of the body, which helps expand the rib cage and muscles around it.

  2. As a result, backbends strengthen and revitalize the body.

  3. They help open up the shoulders and chest, where many of us keep tense, and the quads and hip flexors.

  4. They strengthen the back, arms, and legs muscles.

  5. Twists boost circulation and cellular detoxification by increasing blood flow.

  6. Twists ease back discomfort.

  7. The back muscles get more robust and more flexible as the spine is stretched, which reduces pain and makes lifting heavier objects more stable.

Are Yoga Backbends Safe?

When performed correctly, backbends increase the spine's natural movement of extension based on the lumbar vertebrae's physical makeup. The average human's lumbar spine may extend to about 55 degrees. However, due to the form of the thoracic vertebrae, extension is more constrained as it progresses up the spine.

To appropriately support the body weight and avoid low back problems, the lumbar spine should rest in a modest arch (lumbar lordosis) when in ideal alignment. Low back pain, disc problems, and muscular spasms are more likely to occur when the natural curvature is lost due to bad posture or repetitive forward bending.

What Are the Fundamentals of Twists?

One must take three measures to increase the effectiveness of twisting:

  1. Lengthen the spine first. One must first establish a rotational axis before twisting the spine.

  2. Begin the twist from the middle.

  3. Rotate the pelvis and ribcage in two different directions.

Which Asana Is an Example of Backbend?

  1. Bhujangasana [Cobra Pose].

  2. Ushtrasana [Camel Pose].

  3. Chakrasana [Wheel Pose].

BB

1. Bhujangasana [Cobra Pose]

The term for "snake" or "serpent" in Sanskrit is Bhujanga, which gives rise to the name. Let us see the instructions on how to do this asana.

Instructions:

Lie on the stomach with legs pointing out and heels together; place palms on the floor at the side of the chest; lift the head and shoulders backward without pressure on the palms while

inhaling for three seconds. Do not raise the arms above the navel. Instead, maintain the elbows tight to the body throughout the entire asana while breathing normally. In the final position, keep the head held high. Exhale now and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat repetitions for the desired number of times.

Benefits:

  • Stimulates appetite and eliminates constipation.

  • Keeps the spine flexible and supple.

  • It can help reduce belly fat.

  • Stimulates the liver and pancreas and facilitates digestion.

Avoid in Case One Is Suffering From:

2. Ushtrasana [Camel Pose]:

Ushtra means Camel. Ustrasana is a Camel pose, as this asana resembles the neck of the Camel. Let us see the instructions on how to do this asana.

Instructions:

Start by kneeling on the floor. The legs will be hip-width apart. Squat down on the heels with the toes pointing outwards. Place the hands directly behind the toes. Lean back throwing the head as far back as possible, inhale and then slowly raise the hips and lower back, arching the spine. Now hold this position and breathe normally. Then, slowly and carefully, come back to the kneeling starting position. Repeat for reps as desired.

Benefits:

  • Improves digestion.

  • Stretches the thighs, abdomen, thorax, neck, and facial muscles.

  • Stimulates the endocrine and thyroid glands.

  • Improves the spine's flexibility and also improves posture.

Avoid in Case One Is Suffering From:

  • Spinal problems.

  • Cardiac problems.

  • Arthritis.

  • Hernia.

3. Chakrasana [Wheel Pose]:

One must be careful with this asana as it is the most dynamic back-end ever. Let us see the instructions on how to do this asana.

Instructions:

Lie down on the floor, completely relaxed, with hands by the side. Bend the knees and place the legs near the sitting bones. Place the hands beside the head, so the forearms are perpendicular to the floor. Palms will be on the floor. Inhale for a few seconds and push with their legs, hips, and hand while arching the spine. Hold this elevated position for a few breaths or as comfortably as possible. Moreover, now, exhale and come back to the starting position. Repeat for desired repetitions.

Benefits:

  • Exercises the spine anteriorly and posteriorly.

  • Massages the internal organs.

  • Increases flexibility of posterior muscles like hamstrings.

  • In addition, it strengthens the lower body and aids as a hip opener.

Avoid in Case One Is Suffering From:

  • High blood pressure.

  • Vertigo.

  • Spinal problems.

Which Asana Is an Example of Spinal Twist?

  1. Ardha Matsyendrasana or the spinal twist.

  2. Konasana [angle pose].

  3. Vakrasana-1 [standing half-spinal twist pose].

ST

1. Ardha Matsyendrasana [Half-Spinal Twist Pose]:

This pose is another variation of Vakrasana, although this variation is slightly tricky. The half-Spinal Twist position was the favorite meditation pose of the Sage Matsyendranath, so this pose is named after him. Here is how to do Ardha Matsyendrasana.

Instructions:

Sit erect with knees folded and feet on the mat. Grab the right ankle with the left hand and fold it. Then grab the left ankle with the right hand and fold it on top of the right leg. Now, place the right elbow on top of the left knee. Next, erect the upper torso, take a deep breath, and twist towards the left side. Keep the spine straight and firm. Take the support of the left arm to complete the twist. Hold this position for a few breaths.

Benefits:

  • Excellent for the overall health of the spine.

  • Increases spine flexibility.

  • Massages and exercises the superficial muscles of the spine.

  • Realigns the spinal nerves that get displaced due to incorrect posture.

  • Poor and chronic sitting habits.

Avoid in Case One Is Suffering From:

  • Spinal injuries.

  • Cardiac issues.

  • Hernia.

  • Abdominal injury.

2. Konasana [Angle Pose]

This pose is a standing spinal twist asana.

Instructions:

Stand tall, feet 30 inches apart, slightly pointing outwards, and with both hands resting on the side with palms inside. Inhale for three seconds while extending the arms wide apart at shoulder level. Bend down and touch the left foot toe with the fingers of the right hand while exhaling for three seconds. Remain for six seconds while the spine and head are twisted, and the face is turned upwards to look at the left arm, which is extended straight above the head, in line with the ear. Inhale for three seconds and revert to the original position. Repeat the same as above, touching the right toe with the left hand.

Benefits:

  • Stretches the lateral side of the body and the spine.

  • Helps gently massage the organs like the liver, stomach, and spleen.

  • Helpful in relieving back pain.

  • Increases the flexibility of the spine.

  • In addition to the first two variations, this variation corrects the contracted chest.

  • Weak back and dropping shoulders.

Avoid in Case One Is Suffering From:

  • Suffering from spinal problems.

  • Hypertension.

  • Severe cardiac problems.

  • Vertigo.

  • Acute back pain.

3. Vakrasana-1 [Standing Half-Spinal Twist Pose]:

There are two variations of this asana. One is standing; the other one is done while sitting down. In this, let us see how to do the standing variation.

Instructions:

While inhaling, raise arms at shoulder level, palms facing inwards. Exhaling, twist the body from the waist above, hands and head to the right. Hold this position for a few breaths, then inhale and return to the original position. Do the same exercise, twisting on the left side.

Benefits:

  • Exercises spine, neck, and hand.

  • Gently massages the abdominal organs.

Avoid in Case One Is Suffering From:

  • A slipped disk.

Conclusion

Ensure that backbends are a standard component of the daily physical yoga practice because when our prana flows smoothly, we feel healthy, happy, and vibrant. The significance of each backbend variation is that "getting deeper" does not equate to exerting too much energy. Instead, one should understand that "getting deeper" in yoga refers to becoming more aware, gentle, and frequently doing less. After backbends, practicing a supine twist is advisable to relax the lower back and balance the spine. Desk jobs, individuals, and drivers should incorporate simple backbends and twist asanas to avoid back pain due to work.

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Shakti Mishra
Shakti Mishra

Nutritionist

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