The Benefits of Moving the Spine in Six Directions + A Practice to Explore!
Certainly one of the most valuable benefits of a yoga asana practice is the refreshment you give the spine when you move it in all of its intended directions: forward, back, side bent to the right, side bent to the left, twisting right, and twisting left. Yes, your spine moves in six directions (technically, seven if you consider the axial extension you gain from sitting up tall and lengthening the curves of the spine). Moving the spine in six directions daily moves blood and energy through it so you can function well. Nerves that run to the organs and throughout the body come from the spine— it is important to refresh them with movement so new blood and energy can channel through them to the recipients at the other end of the nerve! Moreover, blood can collect and get stale if we do not move freely. Moving the spine in six directions wrings out stale blood and energy to make room for new blood.
Below I have a gentle yoga asana practice to explore moving the spine in six directions, as well as other practices to move the spine and stabilize the muscles surrounding it. Breathe well as you move and bring your mind inward to the length and movement of your spine as you explore these practices. The integration of mind, breathe, and movement engage your spirit and this is when the art of yoga begins. Lastly, move to where you are comfortable. Never jerk yourself into a pose or move more deeply than is comfortable. If you are unsure of what your safe range of motion is, please consult your doctor before exploring any movement-based practice.
Six Directions for the Spine
1. Sit in Easy Pose on one or two folded blanket to prop the sitting bones at the base of the pelvis or kneel. Lengthen the spine. Inhale the arms up and exhale while placing your right hand on the floor and reaching the left arm overhead for a side bend.
2. Breathe into your left ribs. Inhale both arms up while coming back to a neutral spine. Exhale your left hand to the floor while reaching your right arm overhead for a side bend. Breathe into your right ribs. Inhale both arms up while returning to neutral spine. Exhale and relax both arms down.
3. Inhale both arms up and twist to the right while keeping a twist mainly in the upper back. Exhale both arms down and make contact with the floor and right thigh. Inhale, lengthen spine; exhale, engage with twist.
4. Inhale both arms up and exhale while twisting to the left. Make contact with the floor and left thigh. Breathe. Inhale both arms up to return to a neutral spine. Exhale and relax. Keep the twist in the upper-to-mid back.
Note for C-section mothers: Minimize your range of motion in the twists if you feel any pulling near or at your incision site.
5. As you inhale and roll your shoulders back, bring your hands behind and engage your shoulder blades down your back while broadening your chest. Look up while lengthening your throat for a back bend. Exhale and breathe here.
6. Inhale, bring the shoulders forward to neutral, then rest your hands on your thighs. Inhale both arms up and exhale while rounding your shoulders forward to expand your upper back. Do not collapse the ribs into the pelvis. Rather, stay long in the front of the spine without collapsing forward. Breathe. Inhale both arms up, exhale, and relax with your hands on your thighs.
Table Pose, Cow Pose, Cat Pose
1. Table Pose: Come onto all four, hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Keep your elbows slightly soft so the elbow creases face each other and not forward. Find length in the spine, keeping your lower ribs engaged inward to stay long in the front of the torso for.
2. Cow Pose: Inhale the breastbone forward and up while keeping the lower back as neutral and long as possible. Look up if it feels nice for the neck. We are concentrating the backbend in this pose in the upper back.
3. Cat Pose: Exhale while rounding your upper back, spreading your shoulder blades apart, and engaging your naval toward your spine to feel length in y lower belly and lower back. Do not suck in your belly; instead, seek to feel a deep core engagement.
4. Repeat the movements from Cow Pose to Cat Pose three to five times. Work slowly. To add PFCR, inhale and relax the pelvic floor on Cow Pose, then exhale and contract on Cat Pose. To add extra transverse abdominus toning, include the Birthday Candle Breath.
Bird Dog Pose
1. Engage your lower ribs toward the spine.
2. From Table Pose, extend your right arm forward parallel to the floor while extending the left leg back. Let your toes either touch the mat or lift your leg while rolling your inner thigh down.
3. Keep your lower ribs engaged in toward the spine. Also keep your pelvis balanced.
4. Breathe three to five breaths before returning to Table Pose. Repeat on other side. Then repeat this movement sequence three to five times.
Extended Child’s Pose
1. Kneel with your thighs either aligned with each other or open wide to make room for abdominal flesh. Kneeling with the thighs together will give a nice abdominal toning.
2. Extend your arms and engage your palms into the mat. Rest your forehead on the mat or a yoga block and rest your hips toward your heels. (If your hips don’t comfortably rest on your heels, then sit on a wide yoga block between the shins or ankles. If your forehead doesn’t touch the floor, you may rest your forehead on a yoga block.)
3. Breathe easily and feel your back expanding with each breath.
Finally, come to lie on your back for a beautiful rest. Close your eyes and enjoy the benefits of your practice. You can follow along this practice in this YouTube video. If you enjoy this video, please subscribe to my Youtube channel and share it widely!