As we explored in my YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine article, “Follow The Wave In Your Spine”, there is a natural wave-like impulse that flows through our spine. It exists within us all, at any given moment. It is the pulse of life itself.
When newborn, our bodies/beings are highly receptive to growth. We breathe with life with greater co-creative fluidity. With age, we tend to become more set in our ways. Due to the effect of gravity and the way we identify with our habits, we hold tension in our tissue, electrical and nervous systems. Our attachments resist the flow of life, through which comes physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual rigidity. This tension in turn can lead to unhappiness and ill-health.
At a physical level, the resistance to the flow of life can affect the springiness and suppleness of the spinal discs that provide essential cushioning between your vertebrae. Over time, your spine becomes compressed by the weight of this constrictive energy and spinal issues occur.
Spinal issues are complex, as the spinal column is the central channel of life-force energy that moves through your body/being. Like the trunk of a tree, it gathers and transmits essential life-force energy to your various body parts, and is in constant communication with your ability to perceive, emote, think, sense and act. When your spine is not functioning optimally, your whole body/being can be out of phase with your fullest potential.
Hatha Yoga provides valuable exercises to help optimize spinal health, which in turn affects your whole self. Specific exercises that help to lengthen the spine can reverse the effect of gravity, aging and help you let go of that to which no longer serves.
I share a simple exercise to help lengthen your spine. If you suffer from any spinal injuries, such as a herniated disc, it is important that you do this with gentleness and care. You may modify the exercise by keeping your feet flat on the floor, and not taking hold of your knees, but simply rocking your pelvis as you breathe. Above all, please abide by the instructions of your healthcare provider. Do not push past what is comfortable for you.
1. Find a comfortable and relaxed area on your floor in which you can outstretch your yoga mat or towel. Lie down with your arms alongside your body, palms facing the ceiling, legs straight, feet hip width apart.
2. Follow the instructions as previously given for Savasana, and allow yourself to feel rooted, vital and expansive. Sense that your whole body is breathing, that every cell is alive.
3. Then bend your knees, and place your hands on them. As you exhale, gently draw your knees into your chest, bringing them as close to your torso as is comfortable without force.
4. Inhale as your belly rises. Let go of your grip slightly so that you make room for your tummy to fill with air.
5. Exhale, belly back. Gently bring your knees into your chest.
6. As you inhale, you draw energy through the crown of your head (your whale spout) into your spine, down to your tailbone.
7. As you exhale, allow the breath to continue down the tailbone, as though it were growing longer. Simultaneously, allow your breath to travel back up your spine and out your head.
8. Remember that in YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine, you are not doing the work. The breath that carries life-force energy is doing the work for you. Let your spine lengthen on your exhale, as you feel your tailbone move away from your crown. As you inhale, gather in life-force energy through the crown, down to the tailbone.
9. Continue for as long as you like. When done, place your feet on the floor and return your breathing to what feels normal for you.
Parvati is an award-winning musician (I Am Light, Electro Yog, Yoga In The Nightclub), yogini (YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine), author (Aonani of Avalon, Confessions from Your Awakened Self) and founder of the not-for-profit Parvati.org. All her work is dedicated to protecting all life on Earth by establishing the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS). More info: parvati.tv; parvati.org.