Current statistics indicate that back pain will affect 80% of us at some time in our lives.
Poor posture, unbalanced lifestyle, pain, injury all lead to compression of the spine. Often we perceive the lumbar region (waist area) as a place of weakness in the spine yet this same region is what allows us to elongate the spine and in this elongation its elasticity and youth are reestablished.
Our bodies have an amazing ability to heal and regenerate. The following asanas practiced regularly will allow you to experience a pain free and supple spine, regenerating your nervous system and bringing a new found vitality and energy into your lives. We learn to elongate and extend not pull and push. The result is a powerful wave of extension giving life to the spine.
We begin with Tadasana.
There are no beginners or advanced students in yoga – the first step is the last step.
Take your time with this asana. This is the most important pose. With this you have the ability to re establish balance. The lumbar area (waist area) suffers the most when standing incorrectly. The lumbar vertebrae become misaligned and crushed together by tension. When performed correctly and regularly Tadasana subtlety realigns your entire spine, creating space for your diaphragm to breathe fully and regenerating your spine, there is no end to progress.
Stand with your feet as close together as comfortable. Observe, is your weight evenly on both feet? Where is the placement of your weight in your feet? Can you lift your toes and maintain your balance? Enjoy the subtle shifts you feel in the body. You are experiencing the wonderful ability of the body to find its own equilibrium. Standing on the back of the heels your weight will slowly sink down. Contract your pelvic floor (buttocks will automatically contract), and draw your knee caps upwards. Feel your chest expanding as the diaphragm is given life and expression. Let the weight of the fingers gently unfold and gravitate downwards to the earth. Slightly tilt the chin in as you lengthen the delicate cervical vertebrae. If you stand long enough, while the lower part of the body, from the waist to the heels, gravitates, you will discover that the upper part of the body becomes light, free and straight.
2. Tadasana with arm extension Illustration of flexion of spine with elongation
Maintain Tadasana, lower body (from waist downwards) anchored to the earth, contracted and firm. Gently open your palms outwards allowing your upper body to open as if the heart was a lotus flower unfolding its petals to the sun. Continue the journey of the arms upwards extending the palms of your hands strongly as you activate and lengthen between the intercostals (this helps to keep the lower body grounded and active). Draw your arms in line with your ears, your gaze looking upwards, facial muscles calm and relaxed. Chest is fully open; you are experiencing full body breathing. Notice the elongation of your spine; by the lifting of the head you are already experiencing a back bend. By anchoring through your feet you naturally draw the lower three lumbar vertebrae forward enabling you to safely and beautifully elongate the spine, nourishing and regenerating this area.
3. Standing Forward Bend
Back bends require a counter posture of a forward bend.Bend your knees keeping the knees firmly together as you pivot through the hips drawing your buttocks backwards. This brings the lower back into its counter posture of a forward bend. Come to a comfortable stance and then draw your arms down to rest your palms lightly on your legs just above the knees, fingers facing inwards. You may step your feet out hip width apart if this is more comfortable for you. Relax your shoulders downwards away from your ears, broaden your sternum. Draw your navel gently in towards the back of your spine, breathe, keeping your spine beautifully lengthening in a smooth line from the base of your spine to the neck. Let your gaze be soft.
4. Pelvic Spinal Release
Lie in the supine position with your legs bent, feet and knees hip distance apart.
Observe the places where your body makes contact with the earth. Gently seal your lips. As you inhale bring your awareness to your lower back region feeling the spine gently arching away from the floor on the inhalation, a moments silence, then as you exhale feel the spine gently release back into the support of the floor. Bring your attention to the waist area (5th lumbar vertebrae) and notice the natural arch through this part of your spine.
On each inhalation the spine gently lifts away from the floor and on each exhalation the spine gently returns, creating a natural flowing wave of movement through the entire spine. This powerful wave of extension arises not from any forced movement but from the natural rise and fall of the breath.
This is a gentle movement that cannot be forced; it arises from the freedom of the breath, of letting go any tension you may be holding. Just release into this asana, it is highly restorative and calming.
Detail of spine gently
arching away from floor
Rest for 10 minutes in Shavasana following the breathing meditation
© Copyright 2010 Megan Ward