Spine, Space and Yoga
The spine is an incredible piece of your anatomy. You may not even think about it until it starts “talking” to you as you age or if you have suffered an injury. It is composed of 33 vertebrae, 24 which are separate and 9 that are fused together. The 24 vertebrae that start at the base of skull are given space with discs. These discs act like cushions to keep the vertebrae from pressing on the nerves that extend from them. The nervous system flows within your spinal column so that your body can get the messages it needs to function.
This backbone of yours not only enables you to stand up straight, walk, and practice yoga. It makes it possible for the messages necessary to be sent to the organs and glands to do their job to keep you in homeostasis. Gravity and aging can cause the precious space between each disc to become shorter and compress a nerve. As a result, back pain and a slew of medical problems can manifest depending on the disc and nerve that is affected. Prevention is key and yoga can help give the attention the spine needs to do its magic.
“Move it or lose it” philosophy is applicable to a lot of things…spine included. Make the conscious effort to breathe into your spine. You can simply be sitting, whether in a chair or on the mat, keep that spine straight and as you breathe, feel the rib cage expand and the “lift” in the upper back take place. When raising your arms to reach up high, breathe into the crevices of space you are creating. Every move or pose in yoga depends on the spine in some way. Doing your forward folds opens a lot of space between each vertebrae and disc. We all enjoy a little space and the spine is no exception.
When you do poses that arch the back in the opposite direction, such as bridge, you help strengthen the ligaments and tendons that surround the spine for support. You also increase flexibility which is beneficial to have at any age of life. The synovial fluid that lubricates your joints remains more fluid with movement.
Inactivity causes this “oil” of the body to get thicker which makes you feel stiffer. By practicing yoga, the synovial fluid remains more pliable. It does dissipate with age; however, the practice of yoga helps to decrease the loss and the consequences of inadequate fluid. Keeping that healthy space between the vertebrae and discs decreases the compression of the synovial fluid that helps everything move with ease.
Within that spine, you have 31 pairs of spinal nerves that start from the spinal cord. These nerves are the source of transmission of messages from the brain to the designated recipient. The compression of a nerve changes the message that was intended. Kind of gives a new perspective on the classic saying…”that is getting on my nerves”…everything needs its space.
It is important to take the time to learn a little more about how your body works. A little knowledge opens up more awareness of what is beneficial or detrimental for it. Set the intention when you practice next time to focus on what you’re feeling in the back with each move. Consciously breathe into the spine, be aware of the feeling as it bends forward or back, and observe how everything flows a little differently as a result.
Enjoy your space on your mat. Allow your spine to enjoy the space you create in certain moves. Enjoy the endless ripple effect of a strong, healthy spine. You might find yourself standing a bit taller after each practice.
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