A strong, supple spine protects our nervous system and contributes to its efficiency and longevity. There are five movements that our spine requires for optimal ranges of motion: flexion (rounding the spine forward), extension (rounding the spine backward), rotation (twisting of the spine), lateral flexion (bending at the side), and axial extension (decompressing and vertically elongating the spine). Often our contemporary lifestyles can restrict the movements our spines experience on a daily basis.
Yoga is a practice that, when done consciously, may decompress the spine and alleviate various spinal conditions like herniated discs, scoliosis, and lumbar pain.* It promotes relaxation in stress-carrying muscles by holding poses to flex and stretch the joints and muscles.
Many postures in yoga gently strengthen the muscles in the abdomen and lumbar areas. These muscles are essential components of our muscular spinal network and when conditioned, may greatly reduce or completely alleviate pain.* Consistent practice and application may result in improved posture, reduced stress, improved respiration, and general enhancement of emotional and physical well-being.**
The following five movements will ensure your spine is receiving opportunities to experience its full range of motion!
Paschimottanasana: Hinge from your hips while keeping the front of your torso long and extended. Extend the arms forward, reaching for your feet with straight elbows. Begin to lengthen your spine on each exhale without pushing too hard. Hold the pose for 60-seconds to a couple of minutes.
Salamba Bhujangasana: Lay on your stomach with your forearms parallel to each other and elbows beneath the shoulders. Bring your heels together and allow your feet to naturally release towards the ground. Lengthen your tailbone towards the heels and draw your lower abdomen slightly away from the floor. Hold for 60-seconds to a couple of minutes.
Bharadvaja’s Twist: Begin in a seated position with your legs extended in front. Shift your weight towards the right buttock, bend the knees, and swing your legs to the left. Your left ankle will rest on your right arch. Lift through your sternum to lengthen the torso on your next inhale. Exhale and slowly twist your torso to the right, keeping the left buttock on the floor. Soften the belly. Repeat on the other side.
Balasana with a Side Bend: Kneel on the floor with your big toes touching. Separate your knees hip width apart and bring your torso to the heels on your next exhale. Broaden your sacrum across the back of your pelvis and narrow your hip points toward the navel, nestling down onto the inner thighs. With arms stretching and resting above your head, bring your hands to the left and then to the right. Hold this pose for anywhere between 60-seconds and a couple of minutes on each side.
Savasana: Laying on your back, release your legs and place your upward facing hands at 45-degrees from the body. Close your eyes and take slow deep breaths through the nose. Allow your whole body to become soft and heavy. Hold for a couple of minutes.
Given the wide range of human variation, it is important to honour which movements work best for your body. What works for another vessel can only serve as guidance for yours.