"A tree that is unbending is easily broken".- Lao Tzu
Let's discuss the importance of spinal flexibility.
By that I don't mean you have to aim for the most intense backbends like contortionists in a Las Vegas show. The healthiest way is much more subtle than that. For now, I'd like to share how vital it is to simply look after your spine daily - gently and mindfully. I'm sure you've noticed during a yoga class, even the most gentle, beginner's class, a lot of emphasis is put on spinal fluidity - through the regular use of poses like downward facing dog, cobra, twists, and forward folds. There's a reason for that - simply to train the spine to become more supple. Loosening up tight ends from sitting, standing or lying in bed after a night's sleep is crucial to keep that back fluid. Below are pose examples of the '5 major movements' the spine is capable of.
1. Lateral flexion
(Side bending stretches).
(Twists of the spine).
(Arching of the spine).
5. Axial extension
(Vertical elongation of the spine).
Showing your back love & attention heals the more than just the spine. An unhealthy spine can have a knock-on effect on other areas of the body too - like the hips, which then has an impact on the knees (and so on, like a domino effect). Tightness of the spine can also affect shoulder movement, which in turn affects the neck and skull, causing headaches, stress & tension. Furthermore, an inflexible spine can actually take its toll on your organs. Yup, your organs! How and why, you ask? Well, according to expert chiropractors and osteopaths, the spine can have a direct effect on the internal organs because of the nerve endings (fascia) that connect everything together. Which is why it's important to see the body as a whole entity, not as a load of separate components. Treating one area of the physical body can also treat other areas or symptoms you had no idea were related.
Some of the spinal movements shown above can be performed naturally throughout the day, but as we get older movement is restricted. And of course, movements like side bends, arching and back bending are not used much if at all throughout the day. Which is why yoga plays such a crucial part in keeping our spinal column young and supple. After all, you're only as young as your spine is flexible!
The importance of honouring your body.
Your body is a temple, honour it always.
Before recommending any classes for spinal flexibility, I'd like to share the importance of honouring and respecting our bodies - both on and off the yoga mat. I always say one of the most beautiful things about a yoga practice is there really is no competition, no goal to be achieved when performing a physical yoga sequence - the most important thing you can do is listen to your body's whispers. What is it telling you? And every day will be unique, depending on how you are emotionally. Perhaps yesterday you could touch your toes, but today your body is screaming half way down! Listen to that inner voice, when you do, your practice will be transformed. You will feel incredible at the end of it, whether you achieved a deep backbend or not...because at the end of the day, yoga is not about physical achievements, it's really about learning to honour and love your body in its entirety, no matter how flawed it may seem. So, before choosing one of the classes below, tune in and tell your body you are going to respect and honour where it is today.
Namaste, my wonderful friends, I do hope you enjoy whichever class feels right for you today.
Sending love, light and respect to your whole being,
Add this beginners back bending flow into your weekly yoga routine to increase your spinal flexibility & movement, and like we discussed above, you could be healing other areas of the body too.
For those of you who already have a regular practice and feel confident with getting deeper into spinal back bends and hips openers, I'd recommend adding this intermediate hip opening & back bending class into your routine.