By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
Your spine is one of the most important parts of the human body. The nervous system gathers, stores, and controls the body’s information through this key highway. The spine allows the body to analyze itself and initiate the proper response. In turn, the central nervous system sends signals to the other parts of the body. When the spine is misaligned, it can throw the entire body into disarray. Through Hatha Yoga postures (asanas), you can lengthen, strengthen, and stretch your spine. All of this, bring the back into a state of improved alignment. Ultimately, better alignment one’s back to improved health.
Are Skeletons Rigid?
When we see a clean, polished, and dried skeleton, at a university, the structure is rigid. When a person is alive and well, the structure of the skeleton is composed of wet living tissue that has some finite flexibility. If the skeleton was as rigid as many people think it should be, movement would be almost impossible. In fact, chiropractic adjustments would not be possible if the spine was rigid. Many people do not realize that the spine can stretch and lengthen in two directions. The sacrum and the tailbone can move downward. The lumbar spine and everything else extends upward. By learning the natural movement of these two separate directions, the spinal column can be stretched to its maximum length. Additionally, the spine can be gently twisted left or right and tilted side to side. With all this in mind, the skeleton is a structure designed for movement.
What About Injuries?
Back injuries are the most common type of work-related injury. It may come from lifting a heavy object too quickly. Injuries can also occur by lifting without proper form. Additionally, one may experience pain, as a result of sitting with bad posture, or from sitting for long periods of time. Too many people think that this spinal pain is something that they just have to push through. In cases where there has not been extreme damage, Yoga may be extremely helpful in alleviating this pain. Proper posture can prevent pain from occurring regularly in the future.
How Do Yoga Poses Work the Spine?
Practicing Yoga poses, in order to stretch your spine, works in many ways. First, the poses strengthen the muscles around the spine, preventing injury in the future. Second, because the spine itself is more limber due to the stretching, while the blood flow to the area is increased. This decreases the stress and pain within the area. Additionally, the muscles surrounding the spine become flexible with a steady practice of Yoga poses. Pain relief may be realized quickly, but structural progress may take months or year. Therefore, posturing is a gradual process, which requires patience for students and honest advice from teachers. In fact, instructors are better off to avoid promises and encourage steady practice.
Suggested Yoga Poses for Spinal Health
Half Forward Bend Pose
How Can I Learn?
Proper instruction, from a competent and certified Yoga teacher, is advised before practicing independently. These days, there are many types of streaming videos and many good teachers to study from. With COVID-19 in the mix, students and teachers have begun to adjust to using live streaming and pre-recorded formats to meet the needs of all and remain safe at the same time.
What Type of Yoga Do I Need?
It would be safe to point students to gentle, therapeutic, and restorative classes. That said, not all of our students are in the same boat. Power, Vinyasa, and Hot Yoga classes can be helpful depending on one’s state of health. Yoga that focuses on the back and spine promotes a healthier posture. In some cases, sitting too long can cause serious compression on the entire spinal structure. What this means is that people need to get away from sitting before major skeletal problems occur. Yet, that is just one of many reasons why people have back pain. There are many people with a variety of pre-existing back conditions. These students need to be directed toward classes that match their health profiles.
Spinal Conditions Due to Environment
Problems, due to sitting too long, happen slowly; and most people do not realize it is happening until they begin to feel pain from it. After a couple weeks or months of asana practice sessions, it is possible that you may even gain a little pain relief from stretching your spine. Although office jobs with a lot of sitting are getting global attention, manufacturing jobs with frequent lifting and awkward lifting movements have also caused problems. Injuries and spinal conditions that take place at work need to be identified. When we identify causes, we can organize systems to prevent them.
Guidelines and Precautions
For students: When performing Yoga poses to stretch your spine, be sure to use caution. You do not want to push your body past its limits. When Hatha Yoga warm up movements and postures are performed responsibly, this gives a second life to one’s spinal health. For teachers: It is important to understand that each student has a unique spine and skeletal structure. Some movements will irritate a pinched nerve or cause a pinched nerve. We don’t want our students to push through pain. At the same time, students should get to know their bodies by recognizing the difference between muscular discomfort, a pinched never, or joint pain. Specialized classes that revolve around skeletal health are growing in popularity online and in studios.
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