Spinal Awareness: say hello to that beautiful backbone

How often do we consider our spines? Are we aware how the spine supports our movements, daily tasks and even our character? Is it possible to cultivate more spinal awareness, and offer gratitude to our spines by looking after them to keep them healthy and happy?

The adult spine is rigid and heavy and yoga, as intended here, consists in breaking bad habits and in re-educating the spine so as to bring it back to its original suppleness.

Vanda Scaravelli 

Let’s get technical for just a moment:

The spine, otherwise known as the vertebral column or spinal column, can be found by placing your fingers at the base of your neck to feel the hard ridges that track all the way down the back to the top of your bottom. However, rather than thinking of the spine like a book spine—at the very extremity of the structure—consider the spine much, much deeper within the body. The spine protects the spinal cord and nerve structures. Incredibly, the spine is made of about thirty-three irregularly shaped bones (called vertebrae), contains thirteen and half million nerve cells in the spinal cord, can support hundreds of kilograms of weight, has two hundred and twenty ligaments and over one hundred and twenty muscles. The naturally curved, strong yet flexible, spinal column supports the body and breath. The backbone has four natural curves: sacrococcygeal, which connects the coccyx (tailbone) with the sacrum, lumbar (lower back), thoracic (mid-back) and cervical (neck). These curves are natural, necessary and contribute to spinal health and function.

When the spine is well positioned, the unremitting force of gravity flows easily through it. If the spinal curves are habitually disturbed, gravity becomes the enemy.

Judith Hanson Lasater, Relax and Renew, 1995

Yoga cultivates awareness of the incredible, complex structure that is the spine. Yoga class starts with a spinal warm-up to create length and space through the spine, increase strength and purify the organs, including increasing circulation and aiding digestion. Yoga brings our attention to the delicate movements of the spine and the importance of spinal health to support life and longevity.

Here are some questions to help begin your spinal exploration:

  • Are you able to feel your spine? The beginning? The middle? The end?
  • Does this sensation change when standing, sitting and lying?
  • Which parts move easily and which parts are stiffer?
  • How does your spine respond when you move your arms and legs?
  • Is your spine impacted by the movements of your breath?

From this place of appreciation, you may find you will naturally notice your posture throughout the day and perhaps make tiny adjustments. This for me is the key, that we create a reciprocal relationship with our spines: our spines help us to do what we need to do, our spines provide the backbone for our strength of character and in return we nourish our spines with healthy movement, love and tenderness.

May you and your spine be well, my friend.

Copyright © 2019 Niki De Domenico. All Rights Reserved.

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