Sunday, 11 September 2016

Why do yogis say, 'You are as young as your spine is flexible'?

Your spine is wonderful.  It is made up of the spinal cord which is an extension of your brain and the vertebrae which protect it.  These vertebrae are separated from one another by intervertebral discs which cushion the vertebrae from wear and tear.  From the spine nerves arise and these are of two types - motor neurons and sensory neurons  - the sensory neurons send messages to the brain via the spinal cord about taste, smell, sound, sight and touch and the brain sends messages back to the muscles, organs and glands to take the necessary action. Sometimes, say if you touch something that is likely to burn you the spinal cord reacts without involving the brain initially to remove your hand - this is a reflex arc.

Enough of the biology.  The problem is as we age the intervertebral discs wear and if you add years of poor posture to the mix the result may be an inflexible spine - forward positioning of the head causing problems in the cervical (neck vertebrae)such as neck pain and headaches, rounded thoracic (upper) spine causing the chest to collapse and breathing difficulties, rounded lumbar (lower) spine causing back pain - all of which mean that we are no longer experiencing the wellbeing of youth.

The good news is yoga can help maintain a youthful spine.  For a start yoga teaches us good posture with poses such as Tadasana (Mountain Pose).  

In our yoga practice also we move our spines in every way they can move - forward and backwards, lateral stretch to the right and left, twist to the right or left  maintaining flexibility. All these movements increase the circulation to the spine so that the spine is well supplied with nutrients to maintain the health of the spine.  

Try the following to move your spine in all directions:-

Stand in the middle of your mat and bring your hands to your shoulders - inhale lift your chest, take your elbows back, exhale round forward bringing your elbows together - repeat several times.  

For the next movement keep your hands on your shoulders, inhale twist to the left, exhale twist to the right keeping your hips pointing forward.  Repeat several times.

For the last movement stand with your arms by your sides, your hands in fists.  Inhale and as you exhale slide your left hand to your armpit as you lean to the right, inhale come back to centre, exhale slide your right hand to your armpit as you lean to the left and continue for several moves.  

Stay young

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