Kati chakrasana is a standing asana in which the whole vertebral column is rotated on its own axis. It is the simplest of the twisting asanas.
When the soles of the feet are well grounded and the pelvis is steadied and facing forward, the rotational movement is purely in the vertebral joints. Each vertebra rotates about 10 degrees on the adjacent lower vertebra, producing a twist or rotation of the whole spine of about 120–130 degrees. The vertebrae in the neck are responsible for 90 degrees of the rotation and those in the lower back for about 30–40 degrees. Due to the rigidity of the ribcage in the thoracic area the rotation is negligible. When the pelvis is not steadied, then rotational movements in the knee and ankle joints are added. The synchronized movements of the arms facilitate the rotational movement.
Kati chakrasana lubricates all the joints in the vertebral column and alternately contracts and stretches selected muscles of the neck, abdominal wall and back. It stretches and relaxes various ligaments and deeper tissues in the vertebral column, relieving pain and stiffness in the neck, upper back or lower back. This asana is therefore very effective for problems related to the cervical or lumbar areas. Stiffness and fatigue due to stress or overuse of the neck and trunk muscles are released. This effect has earned it a place in ‘office yoga’ and ‘classroom yoga for children’ in combination with tadasana and tiryaka tadasana. It is also effectively used in the management of muscular stiffness in the aged and in diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
In a small number of people with acute inflammation of the small joints of the vertebral column and with problems in the discs and sciatica, the rotational movement may be painful and lead to further complications. In such cases the practice should be stopped at the slightest pain.
The movements of the arms cause internal rotation and adduction at the shoulder joint. This improves the range of movement in the shoulder joint and is very helpful in the management of ‘frozen shoulder’.
The alternate compression and expansion of the chest along with synchronized breathing encourages deep inhalation and full exhalation. It is therefore useful in respiratory ailments and all conditions where improved oxygenation is needed, as in the elderly, in generalized weakness and fatigue, in growing children, to improve concentration and efficiency, and in depression.
Kati chakrasana stimulates peristalsis, encouraging food to move down the digestive tract. Its compressive effect on the stomach, especially after drinking plain or salted warm water, opens the pyloric valve situated between the stomach and small intestine. The contents of the stomach are pushed into the small intestine, which allows food and gases to descend further into the colon. It alternately compresses and releases pressure on the liver, gall bladder and pancreas, along with the other abdominal organs. In this way, it stimulates the release of digestive juices, improving digestion. The combination of tadasana, tiryaka tadasana and kati chakrasana is effective for all digestive problems.
The alternating compression and release of pressure on the abdominal organs improves the circulation of stagnant blood, which is squeezed out and replaced by fresh oxygenated blood full of nutrients. The overall functioning of the organs improves particularly the kidneys, pancreas and adrenals. Kati chakrasana is therefore beneficial for people suffering from kidney disorders and diabetes. Compression of the spleen squeezes out a large volume of blood, increasing the energy level and sense of wellbeing. The same action of squeezing out hormones from the adrenals adds to this effect.
When performed at a moderate to high speed, this asana ushers in a mood of joy, fun and excitement due to the mobilization and release of pranic energy. It elevates the mood in people who are depressive, dull or withdrawn.
Pregnant women find it a very useful practice as it allows correct breathing, removes fatigue and minor aches, provides relief from backache and alleviates heartburn, constipation, indigestion and gas formation.
The repetitive head and neck movements may trigger giddiness and loss of balance in susceptible people due to over-stimulation of the labyrinth, the apparatus for balance. Those with high blood pressure may not be able to compensate for the rapid need to adjust the blood pressure from moment to moment and may feel faint or giddy. People with these conditions must practise this asana slowly and with caution.
Kati chakrasana is one of the most popular asanas. It may be practised either as a warming up practice, as a therapeutic application or as a component of personal sadhana for all age groups and conditions.