Foundation Friday: The Spine

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A reclined twist is a wonderful, gentle way to nourish, massage and lengthen by inviting rotation to the thoracic and cervical spine.

Foundation Friday: The Spine

Fitting with foundation, today we're taking a look at the spine: the literal backbone of life! Spine alignment comes into play with each and every asana and yoga is an amazing practice for spine health and rehabilitation. At the most basic level, the spine is comprised (normally) of 33 vertebrae - 24 articulated and separated from each other by intervertebral discs, the 9 lower vertebrae fused together (5 in the sacrum and 4 in the coccyx or tailbone). A healthy spine has 4 curves to it - a lordodic curve in the cervical and lumbar spine and a kyphotic curve in the thoracic and sacral spine - which creates a balance to support two main functions of the skeletal system: stability and mobility.

Spinal Rotation

In yoga we refer to the rotation of the spine as a twist, often used throughout a sequence at varying levels of intensity. Twists may be active or passive, supported or strengthening.  In general, they are all meant to lengthen and nourish the spine.  It is important to remember to twist from your thoracic spine and allow the twist to finish in your cervical spine for full rotation.  As always, it is also important to listen to your body and especially not overdo these poses.  Let your breath guide you into depth.  Cherish this masterpiece within your body!

Other Ways To Move Your Spine

Action: Spinal Flexion Asana: Cat

As you press into the earth, hollow your tummy and round your spine, flexion is created by deepening the thoracic spine's natural kyphosis. The natural curve of the cervical and lumbar regions allow the flexion to continue in the neck and lower back.

Action: Spinal Extension Asana: Cow

Spinal extension is created by tilting your sit bones and heart upwards, rolling your shoulders back and lifting through your collarbones. This hammock shape provides the opposite curve that the thoracic spine is normally resting in and range of motion may be limited here. It is important to concentrate on lengthening your energy and breath through the entire spine to free up tension from the lumbar region.

Action: Lateral Flexion Asana: Crescent Moon

As the legs and pelvis root into the earth, the spine lengthens up and over to the side in a C-curve to create lateral flexion. Be mindful of space in this pose, especially around the shoulders. By keeping soft and your upper back and neck and connected in your core, the spine will be supported to move in this manner. The most freedom will be felt in the cervical and lumbar spinal curves.

"The yogi will tell you that you feel and look as young as your spine is elastic."

Richard Hittleman