What is Supine Spinal Twist?
A wonderful cooling-down asana to practice, Supta Matsyendrasana is a reclined spinal twist that relaxes warmed up muscles, stretches and releases stiffness and has a calming impact on the body. It is also helpful to practice this at the end of a long day as it counters the effects of sitting at a desk for long hours or being on your feet through a hectic day.
Position type: Supine
Posture type: Twist
Ideal for: Flexibility
Targets: Back and abdomen
Pose level: Beginner
How to prepare for the Supine Spinal Twist?
Since the Supine Spinal Twist is a beginner-level posture that is usually practiced at the end of a session, your body is already warmed up and prepared for it. However, to practice this pose at the end of your day and to do this effectively, it is good to build flexibility and core strength.
You can do simple warm-up stretches and exercises to release any tightness and stiffness. Side bends from a seated Sukhasana (Easy pose) position and twisting to the back while sitting or standing are helpful. You can also practice the seated easy spinal twist (Vakrasana). Begin with a few rounds of Surya Namaskar to stretch and loosen up the body. To work on lower body flexibility poses such as the cobra pose, locust pose, camel pose and bow pose are good to practice regularly.
Building core strength is always an added bonus when practicing any yoga asana. It helps you improve alignment and to hold the pose for longer, while also strengthening the back. Practice poses such as the triangle pose, warrior poses, chair pose, boat pose, plank and plank pose variations for core strength.
How to do the Supine Spinal Twist
Getting into the posture
- Lie down on your back. Bend your right knee and place the sole of your foot on the floor, with the knee pointing towards the ceiling.
- Press the foot to lift the hip slightly off the floor and shift it an inch to the right.
- As you exhale, extend your left leg flat on the mat and keep the left foot flexed. Pull the right knee towards the chest.
- Inhale and as you exhale again cross the right knee over the midline to the floor on the left side of your body.
- Now your hip right will be stacked above the left hip. You can also hook the right foot behind your left knee.
- Open the arms on either side such that your body forms a T with the arms. You can also place your left hand on the right knee.
- Turn the head and look towards the right, gazing at the right fingertips.
- Hold the posture for a few minutes or 5-7 deep breaths.
Getting out of the posture
- Inhaling, gently roll onto the back, bringing your right knee towards your chest.
- Release both legs to the floor to neutralize your spine. Relax here for a few deep breaths before doing the same on the other side.
Key alignments in Supine Spinal Twist
There is a tendency for the shoulder of the leg that is on the opposite side to raise up. Ensure this does not happen. Both shoulders should remain on the mat. Also do not allow the hips to roll outwards. They should remain stacked one on top of the other.
What are the benefits of Supine Spinal Twist?
Supta Matsyendrasana stretches the glutes, chest and obliques. It opens up the chest region, activating the Heart Chakra or Anahata Chakra. It relaxes the back, and relieves one from stiffness, tightness and tension. It realigns and lengthens the spine, while also hydrating the spinal discs. It is effective in improving spinal mobility, aiding digestion and counters the effects of sitting hunched at a desk for hours.
What are the contraindications of Supine Spinal Twist?
Anyone suffering from chronic pain or a recent injury to the knees, back or hips should avoid the pose. In case of neck pain, keep the head straight. Those with slip disc and other spinal injuries should also avoid the asana.
Counter poses of Supine Spinal Twist
Ensure you practice the asana on both sides while also neutralizing the spine after completing the pose on each side. Rest in Savasana or the Corpse pose for a few minutes after doing the Supine Spinal Twist.
Variations of Supine Spinal Twist
This is meant to be a relaxing posture so you can deepen the pose or make it more comfortable too. You can also use props to aid the posture further.
- If you cannot bring your right knee to the floor and keep the shoulders flat on the mat, then simply focus on bringing the knee as close to the mat as you can. You can place a blanket or block under the knee to support it.
- If bending one knee and keeping one leg is too intense, you can bend both knees and keep them stacked one on top of the other.
- Try a challenging version. Take your legs up to 90 degrees, wrapping the right leg around the left as you would in the Eagle pose (Garudasana). Twist and bring the right knee over to the left side of the body while keeping the legs intertwined.
Advice for beginners
Avoid forcing the knee to the floor. If you feel like you cannot reach the floor, don’t hesitate to use a blanket or cushion under the knees and feet. There should be no pain in this pose. If you feel any sensitivity or ache in the back or knee, immediately release the pose and relax.
Shvasa tips for Supine Spinal Twist
- Deepen the twist gradually. Avoiding being hasty or forceful in your movements.
- With every exhalation try to twist a little bit more and relax deeper in the posture.
- Do not hold your breath. Keep the breath smooth and rhythmic.