The Yoga Spine
The spine is a powerful and central part of our skeleton. As we know it, the spine consists of bony components that provide a stable, protective mechanism that contains important neurological structures that both travel within the spine and exit out segmentally. The spine also includes mobility due to the discs allowing flexibility between each bony segment. The muscle structures surrounding the spine provide both the ability to stabilize and mobilize. The spine is the core skeletal structure that allows a canvas to protect and allow space for essential organs.
In other parts of the world, there is the belief that the spine is much more than bony and neurological components that allow us to move and function. The art and practice of yoga in the US are relatively new. There were minimal to no studios in the 1970s, and many people were seeking more at that time. Many of them ended up going to India and learned about the concepts of yoga and meditation. They then brought it back to the states for which it has grown substantially over the past 30 years.
In yoga teachings, which date back to the 5th and 6th centuries BC, the spine is the center of energy forces. The spine is the most critical part of the body to maintain and nourish. When doing meditations, it has always been taught that good posture was necessary to allow the proper flow of energy along the spine. To achieve this strength to practice meditation or mindfulness for extended periods, Asanas(postures) were developed by yogis to improve overall strength and mobility of the spine. Some Asanas focus on mobility, which will allow a greater flow of energy through the spine. Twisting posture wrings out the spine and cleanses it of stagnant energy. The strengthening Asanas develop the ability to hold poses for extended periods. There is always a great emphasis that the spine needs to be straight when meditating to allow the proper energy flow.
A way that yogis allow the flow of energy is called Prana Yama (energy breath). The breath helps circulate energy through the spine and the body. Without breath, there is no life. Yogis have many different breathing techniques that focus on energy stimulation to increase the Kundalini(energy). Other methods to calm the system and decrease stress and anxiety. The yogis learned how to self regulate their energies through breathing.
Currently, science is just starting to understand the ideas and philosophy of yoga. Over the years, there has been a continuous focus on proper posture and mechanics in the US. We have ergonomic chairs, assistive devices, and gadgets that help us achieve a straight spine. The same focus that yoga has had for centuries but has achieved with practice and a different belief system of why proper posture is essential.
Current research focuses on neuroplasticity and the ability of mindfulness to change the person’s brain function literally. We are now seeing a whole new array of gadgets and programs that help us with mindfulness and improving our brain. This is the primary focus of the art of yoga. While doing the postures, you are very mindful of positions and alignments of the body. While in meditation, there is an ability to control the mind and calm the system. Both of which take a lot of work and practice. Yoga is not just an exercise that gets you feeling sound and moving better; it is a way of living. I encourage you to start looking into yoga and see some of the most significant discoveries in neuroscience have been there all along; we are just looking in the wrong places.
About the author,
Rajesh is a Physical Therapist and Life Coach who is passionate about health and wellness. He is interested in all aspects of general well being including fitness, nutrition, and mindfulness. He continues to learn and grow from his patients and the profession he loves.
If this article helps you or you would like to get more information, please do not hesitate to contact me at Khemrajphysicaltherapy@gmail.com.