According to yoga philosophy, it’s the flexibility of the spine, not the number of years that determine your age. The spine gives structure, movement and support to the body and protects the spinal cord that connects the brain to the rest of the body and the nerves that branch out to all the other parts of the body. The spine is the junction box for the nervous system, it controls and coordinates all bodily functions.
Use it or Lose it!
Hence, if we want a healthy life we need a fully functioning spine. Sounds simple enough, but how do we do that? By keeping our spine flexible and strengthening the muscles around it, like our core muscles. Yoga is brilliant in delivering this.
Many types of exercise are good at strengthening the core but not many also help keep the spine flexible and the back strong. To keep the spine flexible we need to move it around in all directions. Not just forward which we are all pretty good at, hunching forward over our computer, hunching forward over our iPhones on the tube, hunching forward doing a jog at the weekend. This is only one movement, we need to arch it back, opening our chest and upper spine, we need to twist it and we need to stretch it from side to side.
Bending backwards can be especially challenging, we store emotion in our chest and we naturally protect the area, but backbending is essential to spinal health. The good news is that there are plenty of gentle backbends out there that can be helpful. There is no need to hold a full wheel with one leg in the air, like you did as a kid (see picture) to get the benefits you need.
In fact, there is a nice easy supported back bend you can do. You just need 2-3 rolled up blankets or towels. Place a rolled up blanket or a towel under slightly bent knees. Place another folded blanket or a towel or even a pillow behind you, as you lie back make sure you position the support so the lower edge is just in line with the start of your ribcage. Then finally, place a nice towel or a blanket to support your head and neck. With arms by your side and eyes closed just relax and breath, effortless comfortable breath using only your nose. Stay for 5-10 minutes. This can work magic.