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How to look after your spine!

07-03-2019


Your precious spine

The spine is the central motorway for the nervous system of the body. It delivers messages from every part of your body, directly to your brain.
Keep the spine healthy and flexible and you will be looking after and nourishing your nervous system.

98% of people have stiffness in the lower spine. Stiffness can also be found across the collar bone. 

Yogi’s say that you are only as young as your spine is flexible.

Benefits of mobilising the spine

People often store stress in their body that then manifests as knotted muscles. Releasing the trapped energy increases confidence. 

A lot of stiffness that manifests as pain and discomfort, is often rooted from a deeper feeling of fear. The fear builds up in childhood. As an adult this tension becomes a habit and one may continue to hold all fear in the body. It then becomes locked in.

During mobilisation of the spine, it is this trapped energy that we are trying to release through the gentle practice of yoga. When fear is released  from along the spine, you will feel free and energised. 

Use the breath to help open and release the body during your yoga practice.

Things to remember when practicing a Spinal Twist

A spinal twist will wring out your body and release tension.

On the release of the twist the organs and muscles are cleaned and nourished as freshly oxygenated blood flows in.

The entire spine is involved. Muscles linking the vertebrae are toned, balanced and strengthened.

The spine is the M1 of the body.  Looking after the spine is nourishing to the whole of the nervous system. All the senses are energised. It is most important to relax and lengthen the spine first before attempting deeper postures.

Lengthening creates space between the vertebrae which allows the twist to be stronger and deeper and therefore more beneficial.

Rotating the spine to its maximum releases tension and so not only improves circulation but also releases a lot of trapped energy.

The position of the legs also helps to massage inner organs to improve digestion and elimination.

In every good Yoga class there will be a spinal twist, a forward bend, a sideways bend, a back bend and postures in which you would lie down, sit and stand.

Every Yoga session will contain BLISS
B – Back - floor based postures
L – Lying on front
I – Inverted (i.e. dog)
S – Standing
S – Seated

Spiritual benefits of looking after the spine

The spine is an important part of our spiritual development. We have 7 chakras situated along it. When working with the spine we are working on these 7 chakras.

The body sends energy around its system through the nadis. You could think of them in a similar way to blood being transported through veins and capillaries. The nadis entwine round the spine, and use it to carry prana (energy) throughout our bodies.

Kundalini energy lies at the base of the spine in the form or a serpent. As you practice yoga and cleanse the body, the practice will begin to raise this energy so that the serpents head moves towards the crown chakra, leaving its tail at the base.  It is also said that Shakti, the female god resides at the base of the spine, while Shiva the male god resides at the crown. When you raise kundalini, Shakti and Shiva meet, this is known as a cosmic orgasm and brings self realisation.

Anatomy of the spine

The spine is made up of three sections;

Cervical – the seven vertebrae of the neck.

Thoracic - twelve chest vertebrae that support the rib cage. 

Lumbar – the five vertebrae of the lower back. This area of the spine supports the weight of the head and the torso.

There is also the Pelvis and the Sacrum. 

The sacrum is five bones that are fused together. There are also three to five bones that form the coccyx. 

The pelvis is not as likely to be damaged during a yoga practice, but it does form the base to most postures.

Posture safety

Inversions

Postures such as headstand and shoulder stand can damage the cervical vertebrae by grinding them into the floor and over time wearing them.

Use a blanket under your neck to help cushion the bones from rubbing on the floor. You must also avoid turning the head whilst in a shoulder stand, headstand or bridge. This can damage the vertebrae, tendons or ligaments that run throughout the length of the spine. 

Backbends and Twists

Backbends and twists are centred round the thoracic vertebrae, so over twisting or bending can cause damage here. You should always be body aware and never twist further than is comfortable. When performing a spinal twist, the spine must be fully extended. As people age, their vertebrae can knit together. This means that any twist that is performed without having released the spine first, won’t be fully beneficial. It could also put pressure on the spinal column and trap or damage some of the delicate nerves that run along it. Do not use the arm to mobilise a twist, it should only be used to support it.

The lumbar region of the spine is barely able to rotate, its main purpose is supporting weight. Over twisting in this area will place a greater strain on the lower thoracic vertebrae. 

Forward bending

Always remember to keep your head lifted and your spine extended during forward bends. This helps bear some of the weight that your lower back has to endure when carrying the weight of your head down to your toes. 

If your hamstrings are tight or if you have a tender lower back, bend your knees when practicing forward bends; whether standing or sitting or lying flat on your back.

Spinal movement

The spine is self supporting. The structure of the ligaments, cartilage and bones mean that it does not rely on the muscles surrounding it to keep it together. Freeing the tight muscles that surround the spine frees the spine by giving it back its natural movement and energy. 

Without the restriction placed on it by the tight muscles surrounding it, our spine can return to its natural alignment. 

The spine can bend in four ways, forwards, backwards and from side to side.

Counterposing

It is always important to counter pose postures in a yoga class. If you have done a spinal twist or a back bend, you can counter pose this with a forward bend, or the coil position. Downward dog is an excellent position for realigning the body.

If you have any questions regarding the benefits yoga can bring to your back, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Love Carrie-Anne. x


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