A strong back and a healthy spine are essential for our general wellbeing and they literally provide the back bone to our resistance training.

When we feel strong on a physical level we are generally more active, more sociable and our self-confidence is enhanced.

Asana Yoga for spines

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On a more spiritual level, a healthy spine is also a sign that the energy centre that grounds us, called our Root Chakra (or Muladhara in Sanskrit), is well balanced. This offers us feelings of stability, clarity and contentment, which in turn allow us to lead a more fulfilled life.

When there are problems with the spine however, the opposite can occur and the spine literally becomes unstable, having a huge effect on our health.

The support of the spine

A spine that is not functioning properly can have a huge knock on effect to our daily life by greatly affecting us on a physical, mental and emotional level. Therefore keeping it healthy is paramount to our health.

As we know, the regular practice of yoga asana can keep us physically healthy and in great shape.

However, to maintain the health of our back and spine and to achieve a healthy and balanced movement pattern, our yoga asana practice needs to include movements to:

– stretch
– rotate
– extend
– strengthen the spine and its surrounding muscles and connective tissue

These are all natural movements of the spine, but even in our yoga practice it is easy to do too much of one movement and not enough of others, leading us to physical imbalances and eventually injuries caused by overuse.

‘Rolling Down’ asana sequence

Articulation of the spine for example, such as that shown in ‘Rolling Down’ below, is an important movement as it helps to keep healthy mobility of the middle (thoracic) spine.

The following asana sequence will help you maintain the health of your spine by creating a healthy and balanced movement pattern:

1. Stand with the feet hip-width apart and parallel to one another.

2. Bend the knees slightly, lightly contract the abdominal muscles and tuck the pelvis under slightly.

3. Allow the neck to completely relax, drop the chin to the chest.

4. start to roll down through the spine with the arms completely relaxed. Move slowly throughout.

5. When the hands are in-line with the knees (or lower if your body allows it), start to roll back up to standing, keeping the knees slightly bent.

A visualisation that may help you with this movement is to imagine you are un-stacking the spine and the restacking it as you roll back up.

Repeat 3-4 times.

Yoga for a healthy spine_Rolling downBenefits:

It mobilises the spine, in particular the thoracic spine. It stretches the muscles of the back, especially the spinal extensors and the hamstrings and improves body and postural awareness and is a mentally calming movement.

Ardha Chandrasana: Crescent Moon

1. Stand in Mountain Pose with the feet together and arms down by your side.

2. Now reach the arms up over head, interlace the fingers and extend the first finger.

3. Tuck the pelvis under slightly to encourage a neutral alignment and drop the shoulders down away from the ears.

4. Contact the legs including the glutes. Hold your chin level with the floor and keep the legs strong and stretch the entire body upwards.

5. As you exhale, bend sideways to the right whilst maintaining the lift through the spine, especially in the lower back area. You will feel compression through the right side of the rib cage and oblique muscles and a strong stretch through the left side.

6. Hold for five breaths and repeat on the other side.

Yoga-for-a-healthy-spine_ardha-chandrasanaBenefits:

This posture encourages a sideway bend (lateral flexion) of the spine. This is not a movement we do often other than in asana practice, but is useful to keep healthy mobility of the middle spine and rib cage and its surrounding connective tissue in particular.

In Part 2 tmorrow discover more yoga techniques to support your spine. 

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