“The most remarkable feat of balance we perform each day is simply standing upright on two feet. The human frame aligns itself to support and distribute our weight with the greatest economy of effort – the arch of the foot, the precise curves of the spine, the design of every joint, the tilt of the pelvis – and is designed to combine freedom of movement with strength, and protection of the vital organs. (Devananda,2000, p. 178)”
Welcome to the 1st part in a 3 part series on yoga for health. By the end of this series you will have established a quick and easy yoga routine that will provide long lasting results that will benefit your mind and body. In this section we will explore how yoga can benefit our body’s posture and alignment.
Yoga is a wonderful alternative to pain medication and benefits suffers of fatigue, pinched nerves, or general back pain and yoga aligns the spine and stretches out cramped bones and muscles while providing them the oxygen they need to support proper blood flow and circulation. The gentle stretches associated with yoga can be catered to any skill level and a sustained practice can greatly improve muscular flexibility.
Yoga for Alignment
Our spinal column is made of 24 bones, called vertebrae, and cartilage. Our vertebrae increase in size as they descend. The cartilage between our vertebrae provides our spine with the flexibility it needs to perform daily tasks such as walking, bending, and twisting. Because of this flexibility, it is easy for our vertebra to settle into unwanted positions. The adjustment is small; however, small shifts in our spinal alignment can cause big pains. Why? Because our spinal column is essentially a large case that protects our spinal cord and spinal nerves. This cord and nerve system is responsible for delivering all the signals from our brain to the rest of our body. Yoga for proper alignment ensures a clear and direct path from the brain, through the spine, and outward to our bodies.
Yoga for Posture
Running from the base of our necks down to our sternum and along our spine are the long, deep muscles of the back “whose function is to bend the vertebral column backward and laterally, to twist it, to help maintain erect posture and to assist in walking. (Marshall, Lazier, 1963, p. 124)” These deep muscles of the back are integral proper posture. By holding our bodies in positions that are atypical we stress the alignment of the spine and the flexibility of these muscles.
How do we correct this? By holding our bodies in recognition of the natural curve and flexibility of the spine we will automatically relax the deep muscles of the back. Your shoulders and hips will drop and your spine will lengthen. Your muscles will release their rigidity and relief will come.
Marshal, Clyde, M.D., and Lazier, Edgar, Ph.D. An Introduction to Human Anatomy. W.B. Saunders Company. 1964
Devananda, Vishnu. The Sivananda Companion to Yoga: A Complete Guide to the Physical Postures, Breathing Exercises, Diet, Relaxation, and Meditation Techniques of Yoga. Simon & Schuster. 2000
Yoga for Alignment
“The Corpse Pose” – Lay down on your back. Make sure your feet are aligned with your hips. Place your hands on your stomach and breath deeply as you relax into the floor. By relaxing your spine of all exterior stress, the Corpse Pose lets your spine relax into its natural state. It pushes your pelvis up, allowing gravity to lengthen your spine.
Yoga for Posture
“The Mountain” – Stand tall. Make sure your feet are aligned with your hips. Stretch your hands up to the sky and breath deep. The Mountain gives provides your spine and deep back muscles with an upward extension.
“The Triangle” – Stand tall. Make sure your feet are aligned with your hips. Stretch your right arm to your right side while reaching your left arm to the sky. Bend at the hip to the right and touch your right hand to the floor (or your knee) while extending your left hand to the sky. Bring your gaze to the tip of your left hand and breath deep. Repeat for left side. The Triangle is a symbol of unity. Of two coming together to make one, representing the male when the tip of the triangle is pointing up and the female when the tip is pointing down. The Triangle provides your spine with a full lateral while flexing and extending your deep back muscles.