If we neglect our spines we just may be setting ourselves up for complications and discomforts ranging from poor posture and general back pain all the way to herniated discs, sciatica, spinal stenosis, and even osteoarthritis. Yoga can be a great way to improve spinal health, flexibility, and mobility. Read on to learn more about the 6 basic movements of our spines, as well as the 7th that provides the foundation for the rest! This month in each of my classes (Rest and Restore, VinYin, and Sunday AM Flow) we'll be focusing on the movements of our spines!
Flexion: Flexion is the movement of the spine in which it bends forward, bringing the chin towards the chest. This movement is commonly used in poses such as Child's Pose (Balasana) and Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana). Flexion of the spine stretches the muscles of the back and neck, including the erector spinae, rhomboids, and trapezius. It also helps to relieve tension in the spine and increase mobility.
Extension: Extension is the movement of the spine in which it arches backward, lifting the chest and looking up. This movement is commonly used in poses such as Cobra (Bhujangasana) and Camel (Ustrasana). Extension of the spine stretches the muscles of the front of the body, including the abdominals, hip flexors, and pectorals. It also strengthens the muscles of the back, including the erector spinae and latissimus dorsi.
Lateral Flexion: Lateral flexion is the movement of the spine in which it bends sideways, bringing the ear towards the shoulder. This movement is commonly used in poses such as (Bananasana) and Triangle (Trikonasana). Lateral flexion of the spine stretches the muscles of the sides of the body, including the obliques and quadratus lumborum. It also helps to improve balance and stability.
Rotation: Rotation is the movement of the spine in which it twists, bringing one shoulder towards the opposite knee. This movement is commonly used in poses such as Seated Twists (Ardha Matsyendrasana) and Revolved Low Lunge (Parivrtta Anjaneyasana). Rotation of the spine stretches the muscles of the back and sides of the body, including the obliques, erector spinae, and quadratus lumborum. It also helps to improve spinal mobility and digestion.
Axial Extension: Axial extension of the spine is a movement that involves lengthening the spine from the crown of the head to the tailbone. This movement helps to decompress the spine and create space between the vertebrae, which can reduce compression and alleviate pain and tension in the neck, back, and hips. In yoga, axial extension is often practiced in poses such as Plank (Phalakasana), Tree Pose (Vrksasana), and Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). It can also be practiced in seated meditation and pranayama practices.
Incorporating these basic movements of the spine into your yoga practice can help to improve flexibility, mobility, and overall spinal health. It's essential to remember to listen to your body and only push yourself to a comfortable level. By taking care of your spine, you are investing in your long-term health and well-being.
Stephanie Cottrell is an Albuquerque, NM based yoga teacher. Join her for an
in-person or online class at stephaniecottrellnm.com