The Reflectory Mechanism of Stretching Asanas’ Action

The golden rule of yoga-therapy applied in scope of correct work with one’s spine is that any asana shall be accompanied by spinal traction. The basic set of exercises is aimed at mastering this skill while all subsequent, more complex exercises are as if “beaded” upon it.

This is necessary for reduction of neurothlipsia (compression of the nerve roots), normalization of paravertebral muscles’ tone and performance of an adequate load upon the spine ligaments.

Besides, there is another interesting mechanism that works in favour of spine improvement. In order to understand it we shall consider the innervation of the spinal body. In so doing we shall be interested in the receptors of joints and ligaments. They can be divided into 4 main groups:

The 1st type is represented by receptors of the external layers of the intervertebral joints’ capsules that adapt them to continuous load imposed through stretching.

The 2nd type are the receptors of the internal layers of the intervertebral joints’ capsules that adapt them to slow load imposed through stretching.

The 3rd type are the receptors of ligaments and tendons (the places of muscles’ affixion to the bone).

The 4th type are the receptors that unlike those in previous groups can be found both in the ligaments tissue and in joints’ capsules. These receptors have one more difference — in response to mechanical and chemical stimuli they cause the sense of pain (they are also called the nociceptors), and after that — the reflexive muscle contraction.

It is interesting here that activation of receptors of the 1st and 2nd type causes inhibition of the receptors of the 4th type. Therefore one can stimulate the anesthetic effect by means of correct stretching. Besides, the receptors of the 1st and 2nd types have a reflexive-relaxing effect on the muscles of the whole body that also contributes to reflexive workup of paravertebral muscles subjected to spasm, and of muscles’ contractions as well.

This is the reflectory mechanism of asanas that are performed for stretching the spine. This mechanism can be also conveyed by the observed changes occurring in the internals innervated by corresponding segments of the spinal cord (A. G. Safronov «Yoga: Physiology, Psychosomatics, Bioenergetics”).

Yet it is important to note that the pain relieving effect of exercises shall be effective mainly at the early stages of osteochondrosis when the radicular pain syndrome has not yet revealed. In the latter case they are other mechanisms that will be more important, and so the approach to treatment will be a bit different.


Elena Akhramieieva, Yoga Instructor, Yoga-therapist

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