Is yoga a reliable method for spinal health? Adult students of all ages participate in yoga training sessions for pain relief, but students often ask why it works. As a teacher, you should have learned this during your foundational 200-hour yoga certification course, but most students know very little about spinal or skeletal health, unless they have experienced chronic joint pain. Let’s go over the basics, just in case you want to have a short workshop for your students to give them a deeper understanding of how and why they are feeling better after a class at your yoga school.
The spine has three distinct parts, the Cervical, Thoracic, and Lumbar. Each part carries the body’s weight in different ways. Every part is susceptible to injury at any given time it they are over worked. The cervical part is located at the top of the spine. This area contains the top most vertebrae and carries the brunt of stress from life and work. The asanas can relieve depression, anxiety and stress. The thoracic area contains the next twelve bones of the spine. This section supports the ribs and is a vital part of good posture. This area needs to stay in alignment to keep the body in line. The lumbar section consists of the last five vertebrae. The lumbar is the most frequently injured area of the spine as it has the job of holding up the entire upper body. For anyone who cares about injury prevention due to all the moving parts, yoga has become a preventative and reliable method for spinal health.
Understanding Basic Spinal Movement
The spine works like the control center for the body. It should be kept as straight as possible when exercising. There are 5 natural Yoga movements that keep the spine healthy and strong.
1. Flexion is curling the body in a fetal position. Poses that include this movement are the child pose, downward facing dog and cat pose. These all help the spine keep its natural position.
2. Axial Rotation is the twisting of the spine. Yoga moves that use this movement are half spinal twist, half lord of the fishes twist and the sage twist. Performing these movements will strengthen the spine and prevent twisting injury.
3. Extension the normal movement that allows the spine to stretch out and get longer. Asanas that perform this movement are Cobra pose, camel pose and upward facing dog. This helps keep the spine and vertebrae from compressing.
4. Lateral Flexion bending from side to side. Yoga poses that strengthen the spine in this manner are the revolved head to knee pose and the side stretch.
5. Axial Extension is not common in every day movement. There are no specific asanas that help alone. There are movements that do incorporate this extension or stretching.
Hatha yoga is known to be a healthy way to exercise and keep the mind and body in top shape. For those suffering from back pain, there are some yoga training exercises (asanas and warm ups) that can ease the pain and with continued use, can prevent it from coming back. Yoga as a holistic method for spinal health only requires steady practice.
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