"Yoga is the fountain of youth. You're only as young as your spine is flexible." - Bob Harper

You could think of the spine as the "oneness" we think of in Yoga, one central axis that diversifies into the multitude of our function the spine, or Central Nervous System, is our connection to the world as well as how we respond to it. 

As we practice Yoga we refine our abilities to make sense of the world, process and integrate our steady stream of thoughts and sensations more effectively and eventually create better karma in the world. This freedom of sense and action allow us to stay youthful and vibrant by becoming more deeply rooted in the eternal divine (cit-ananda/conscious bliss).

As we engage in an asana practice and breath work we are literally able to re-integrate and re-connect all the parts of our body and mind. All of our many seeming distant parts and systems begin functioning as "one" whole and the philosophy of the yoga practice begins to be lived through the physical body. All of our wasted energy, ranging anywhere form, poor muscular holding pattern to erratic patterns of frustration or worry is diverted back into an exuberance for life. If you imagine a small child with boundless energy, able to pick up new skills and information easily, no inhibitions to express itself in the moment; this is a nervous system and body and mind at its finest. Now imagine all these qualities combined with your lifetime of experience and wisdom, this is the gift of Yoga.

In our physical practice we want to create and support the natural curves first before we look for length. If you do not, we run the risk of "flattening" out the spine by diminishing its natural curves which best support the delicate Spinal Cord inside.

As the body becomes more open and there is less "static" or "white noise" in the nervous system, the brain can begin to function and integrate better.

Deep breathing helps to open the thoracic vertebrae. Our ribs are all connected at the back to the spine, as they expand with the breath it offers greater opportunity for the deep spinal muscles to open and the smaller joints of the vertebrae to "free up" and move more smoothly. The deep breathing associated with the Yoga practice, from a brain point of view, also helps to reduce the "flight or fight" stress response in the body, control blood pressure, balance autonomic functions, integrate voluntary muscles and primal emotion and is associated with pain desensitization, alertness and consciousness.

Here are some asanas I suggest to improve your spine's health:

Downward Facing Dog
Cat + Cow 
Inhale hips tip forward to backbend, exhale hips tip back to round spine -work to create even movement through all segments of spine especially thoracic on inhale
Twisting Lunge (both sides)
Work to keep pelvis square, twisting occurs in vertebrae(thoracic & cervical) not in the hips -as twist opens begin to incorporate the feeling of a backbend into the twist as well standing forward fold - start with bent knees to create natural arch in lumbar -although whole spine will eventually be more rounded work to maintain lumbar arch as the forward fold begins to deepen(hips tip forward like in cat/cow)
Bow Pose
Have shoulders lifted up and rolled back to create space for thoracic and cervical movement, if the upper back is open pain will not be experienced in low back - lift into backbend from the abdominals and a reaching of the tail bone to the knees to further support low back space
Knee straight up and square pelvis (both sitting bones rooting into mat -maintain lift in chest and evenness in hips while twisting (shoulders and head back)
Head stand + shoulder stand (option!) 
Best done with guidance of experienced teacher if you are newer to the practice for safe variations/ modifications and should be practiced by all yogis.

- Written by Noah Krol. 

Noah is the owner of Peg City Yoga in Winnipeg, Canada. Noah is also a 2200 hour graduate of Foothills College of Massage Therapy. He holds a dilploma in Fitness and Nutrition as well as a Personal Training Specialist certificate through Can Fit Pro. Noah is accredited with a 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training and Personal Development program and working towards apprenticing with the Canadian Wing Chun Association.


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