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01 Feb

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Principle #3 Initiate Movement: Begin with the Spine in Mind

February 1, 2014 | By | No Comments

Each month I dig a little deeper into one of the 8 movement principles I use whether I’m teaching a workshop, group class or working one on one with a client.
We’ve delved into:
  1.  Nourish Relaxation
  2. Move in your pain and tension free range or motion

This month we’ll look closer at………..

#3 Initiate Movement: Begin with the Spine in Mind

“The spine is the fundamental place to begin movement because of its central connection to every other piece of the body. Each vertebrae connects with fascia, blood vessels, muscles and nerves, which fan in various directions to nourish, stimulate and balance each part of the body. At its essence, then the spine is really a system of skeletal, neurological, electrical, vascular and chemical input that when balanced and connected creates magically fluid movement, much the same way a well balanced and connected orchestra creates awe inspiring music. 

The spine is composed of 33 vertebrae which are arranged in 4 curves: 

Cervical curve – consisting of 7 vertebrae Thoracic curve – consisting of 12 vertebrae Lumbar curve – consisting of 5 vertebrae Sacral/Cocceygeal curve- consisting of 5 sacral and 4 coccygeal vertebrae”

Excerpt from Anatomy and Asana: Preventing Yoga Injuries by Susi Hately

Entire Spine

The curves of the spine act as a coiled spring that absorb shock, dissipate and transfer energy when we bend, twist, flex or extend on or off our yoga mat. If the spine was straight it would be like a ridged guywire and we could not withstand impact or move fluidly and freely.

The spine as a structure is inherently stable and inherently mobile which is where we can run into trouble. The areas of the spine that are hypermobile are where the curves of the spine change directions – cervical to thoracic (C7-T1) , thoracic to lumbar (T12-L1) and lumbar to sacral/cocceygeal (L5-S1) allow more movement then other vertebrae of the spine.

When we move more through the above junctions other areas of the spine become less mobile and stiff. The thoracic spine is an area that for many becomes stiff and stuck. To compound matters we’ll compensate for the less mobile vertebrae by using our extremities – arms and legs to move the spine.

I see this when the arms are used to leverage the spine into a bigger/deeper twist rather then using the internal core muscles to rotate the spine and ribcage.

Also, in cat/cow where instead of initiating with the spine folks push and pull with the arms  /shoulder girdle and or legs to move the spine into flexion and extension.

Curious?  Give this a try:

  • Sit in a chair with your feet flat in the floor.
  • Place books under your feet so they are in full contact with the floor.
  • Place your palms together, thumbs at your collarbones and chin resting on your finger tips.
  • Take a moment to feel your sitting bones on the chair, rock slightly forward and back on your sitting bones and come to rest where you feel your sitting bones in contact with the chair.
  • Take a few breaths here and notice your low belly. Are you holding it in? Can you let it go?
  • Feel your bottom 2-3 ribs and begin to rotate the spine from the bottom few ribs in one direction and then the other.
  • Notice if your arms or shoulders are trying to lead the movement. Let the movement originate from the bottom of the ribcage.
  • Find a range of motion in your twist that allows the shoulders and arms be relaxed and easy.

 

The aim is to have a smooth even twist over the vertebrae of the spine rather than a twist concentrated in a few vertebrae. This helps keep the areas of the spine prone to stiffness supple and mobile while protecting the hypermobile areas of the spine from injury.

Here’s to a supple, fluid and dynamic spine on and off your yoga mat!

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