Yoga for the Care of Your Spine

Yoga for the Care of Your Spine

Exploring yoga as a practice of breathing that supports our spine is a passion of mine. 

The nuanced approach of Viniyoga breath-centered yoga practices recognizes that the breath is intimately connected to the spine.

With the repetition of simple movements with the breath, exploration of alignment, visualization, curiosity, and meditation we increase attentiveness, confidence, build resilience and reduce stress to allow equanimity to occur.

Does your spine lead or follow?

Consider this:

We experience the world through the membrane of our skin (including inside our mouth, our gut lining, our nostrils, even our eyes….)

We interact with the world using our legs, feet, toes, arms, hands, fingers, and our voice.

We relate to the world through our spine – animated by our spirit, our breath.

What would it be like if our spine led the way?

In our yoga practices, we experiment with this inquiry and explore articulating our relationship with the world around us – engaging with the strength and flexibility of our spine in any given movement, moment by moment, breath by breath.

We use “breath support” to wisely engage with our spine.

Let’s envision the two cavities in the torso – one above the diaphragm, the other below – and consider how these cavities change shape as we breathe.

A simple way to look at it is:

When we exhale, the abdominal cavity draws in toward the lower spine to facilitate pushing the air out of the lungs in the chest cavity, and the chest cavity recedes as it empties.

When we inhale, the chest cavity expands up and out under the collar bones, and, at the very end of that inhale, the abdominal cavity softly releases and slightly expands.

As the upper & lower cavities of the torso mobilize the body’s breathing, the spine assists by holding the ribs and the musculature that wraps all around the torso.

And, vice versa, something that is often overlooked – the upper & lower cavities in our torso assist the movement of the spine with the breath.

It’s all connected.

Inside and out, as the body breathes.

Breathing is a musculoskeletal action that supports and works with our whole spine.

Image from Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff & Amy Matthews

The inhale lifts our upper spine, the exhale stabilizes our core. When we utilize this connection and move with the breath, the whole torso participates – front, back, right side, left side. ​

The spine does not need to move all on it’s own – nor should it.

Note the difference in the image below:

  • The drawing on the right depicts breath support (exhaling with ujjayi breath and engagement of abdominal cavity)
  • The drawing on the left does not *

​ * Can you see the strain all along the back without breath support, as the body seeks to stabilize itself, especially at the fulcrum at “d, c & a”?

Image from Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff & Amy Matthews

Yoga teaches us to become more aware of the present and reminds us that our breath is always happening in the present.

Refining our movements in relation to the breath better utilizes breath support for all our actions, and wisely engages our spine.

We practice coordinating breath with movement on the mat so it becomes second nature off the mat.

Breathing helps take care of our spine.

Join me for Yoga for the Care of Your Spine. Tuesdays at Berkeley Yoga Center.  Sign up here.

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