Due to the effect of gravity and the way we identify with our habits, we hold tension in our tissue, electrical and nervous systems. When newborn, our bodies are highly receptive to growth. We breathe life with greater co-creative fluidity. With age, we tend to become more set in our ways. 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, resistance to the flow of life can affect the springiness and suppleness of the spinal discs that provide essential cushioning between our vertebrae. Over time, our spine becomes compressed by the weight of this constrictive energy and spinal issues occur.
Spinal issues are more complex than, say, a sore knee, as the spinal column is the central channel of life-force energy that moves through our body/being. Like the trunk of a tree, it gathers and transmits essential life-force energy to our various body parts, and is in constant communication with our ability to perceive, emote, think, sense and act. When the spine is not functioning optimally, our whole body/being can be out of phase with our fullest potential.
Hatha Yoga provides valuable exercises to help optimize spinal health, which in turn affects our whole self. Specific exercises that help to lengthen the spine can reverse the effect of gravity, aging and help us 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. Above all, please abide by the instructions of your healthcare provider. Do not push past what is comfortable for you.
Find a quiet and relaxed environment to lie on the floor. Use a towel or yoga mat if you like.
Gently cup the base of your skull with your hands, lift your head off the floor about an inch or so, and tilt your chin in slightly, so that your neck lengthens slightly.
With arms alongside your body and feet hip-width apart, begin a full body relaxation, bringing your breath awareness from the crown of your head through your body and down into your toes. Feel your whole body breathing. (See last month’s article, Savasana, for full description.)
Once you feel connected to the ground and aware of your breath, lift your arms above your head as you inhale, and exhale as you rest them on the floor. Let your whole body feel long.
Then point your toes as you inhale. Breathe in through a whale spout in the crown of your head, through your spine and into your toes.
Exhale out that whale spout and out your feet as you press out your heels and stretch your arms away from your feet.
Repeat the process: Inhale through your whale spout and spine, pointing your toes.
Exhale through the whale spout and soles of the feet as you press out your heels and stretch out your arms. Feel your spine lengthen.
When you have had enough, bring your breathing back to what feels more normal for you. Take a few more long breaths and enjoy.
Parvati is an award-winning musician (“I Am Light”, “Electro Yog”, “Yoga In The Nightclub”), yogini (YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine), author (“The Grace Mindset”, “Aonani of Avalon”, “The Three Supreme Secrets for Lasting Happiness”) 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.