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Develop a healthy spine with Konasana edit button Edit

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A.D Pradeep Kumar | calendar 18 February 2024 | 95

The vertebral column occupies great importance in Hatha Yoga texts. In the Siva Samhita the spine is referred as the Mount Meru round which all the beings in the three words revolve. The Siva Samhita also explains that only a yogi has this knowledge.

Coming to more every-day matters, the spine does play a significant role in our health. Yet we pay very little attention to it. Some of the ways we damage our spine are by doing inadequate exercise or adopting faulty postures, like slouching while sitting. The ageing process, too is accompanied by stiffness and lack of flexibility of the vertebral column. This itself can lead to many physical disorders.

The small deep extensor muscles of the vertebral column which together form the big mass of muscles tissues need to be cared for as one advances in age. Hence, it is necessary to exercise the supporting muscles of the spine so that they can hold the trunk and other parts of the body in its natural disorders.

With this in view, yogic asanas lay special emphasis on the spinal column, and prescribe vertical lateral, anterior, posterior and torsional stretches for it.

Konasana or the angle pose and its variations help to exercise the spine and is also good for maintaining muscle elasticity and suppleness of the body, both of which contribute largely to the health of the internal organs.

The Konasana complements the full-body-stretch of the Talasana, which we discussed last fortnight, through the extreme but alternate lateral stretching and contraction of the body.

Konasana I

• Stand erect with the feet about 24 inches apart. Keep the feet parallel.

• Keeping the legs fixed, bend only the upper part of the body above the waist to each side alternately. Breathe in till the arm (to the side towards which the body is bent) slides below the knee.

• Also bring the thorax, the neck and the head to a right angle with the base, simultaneously sliding the other hand up to the armpit. Maintain the position, retaining your breath for four seconds.

• Reverse to normal while exhaling. Repeat by changing the inhalation and exhalation alternately, while bending to one side and then to the other. Pause for at least two seconds before repeating another round.

Konasana II

Follow the same rules, but instead of sliding the hand under the armpit, stretch the arm out at full length and keep it close to the ear, palms inward. This is another variation of the angle pose. During both these exercise, the oblique upper part of the body should be held precisely in a vertical plane, i.e., any tendency to incline either forward or backward, to complete the pose, should be carefully avoided.

In these two dynamic variants of Konasana, adjust the movements to breathing time as follows:

• Sidewise body-bend with inhalation: 2 seconds.

• Static pose with retention of breath: 4 seconds

• Reverse to normal with exhalation: 2 seconds

• Pause, before alternate use of the other arm, during suspension of breath: 2 seconds.

Repeat thrice in one minute with training in six breaths to a minute.

Both these exercises are good for stretching and developing the lesser used muscles of the side; plus, they also strengthen the abdominal and pelvic muscles.

Limitations

Spinal problems, ptosis, hypertension, cervical spondylosis.

Konasana III

This third dynamic variant of the Konasana is a fine, all-round exercise, which combines in one act the rhythmic movements of the various parts of the body except the legs. It helps to strengthen the supporting muscles of the back and provides better circulation to the area.

• Stand erect with the feet about 24 inches apart. Stretch out the arms to the sides with the palms up.

• Bend back slightly the upper part of the body-i.e. above the waist-while inhaling. When the breath is complete, lower the left arm and raise the right one (keeping them fully stretched) while exhaling.

• Now swing the arms in front of the body, like the arms of a windmill, simultaneously rotating the waist and turning the upper part of the body towards the right side (all the while exhaling).

• Keep turning, giving the body a half-twist and bend downward till the left hand touches the right toe. Hold this position for four seconds while suspending your breath.

• Retaining the body-twist laterally, begin inhaling while raising the body sidewise (right side), erect to side first and then to front (normal).

• When the inhalation is complete and the body back to the starting position again, repeat alternately on the other side i.e. the left side.

The coordination of the movements to breath and time should be as follows :

• Erect body slightly backward, full inhalation, abdomen relaxed: 3 seconds.

• Lower arm sidewise during forced exhalation, abdomen fully compressed:3 seconds

• Static pose during absolute suspension of breath: 6 seconds

• Return to erect position sidewise first and then to front, during inhalation:3 seconds

Repeat alternately doing four complete rounds to a minute, with no pause and no retention of breath. The exercise provides for training in four breaths to a minute.

The lateral twists greatly add to the intra-abdominal compression, which is further aided by the forced exhalation, both in turn effecting also the spine. As a hygienic measure, this version of the Konasana is extremely valuable in the case of abdominal disorders, contracted chest, weak back and round or drooping shoulders.

The movements in this asana develops the upper shoulder muscles and improves lung power by compressing the air in the downward bending movement.

Konasana III is a great posture for all those who suffer from sinusitis, cold, cough and ear, nose and throat problems since it helps in the drainage of these areas.

Limitations

Spinal injuries, cardiac problems, hernia, ulcers, colitis.

(This article is based on the principles advocated by The Yoga Institute, Santacruz)