Cultivating Physical Core Strength & Spinal Health
Cultivating physical strength in the core of body has a powerful and direct impact on spinal health and flexibility.
A strong core helps to offset the constant force of gravity that over time can lead to compression of the spinal column, reduced space between the vertebrae, and a disruption in ease of movement, range of motion, and overall flexibility.
The spine is fascinating! Below find access to a few essential principles of the spine:
- The spine is a row of 26 bones in adult body. It allows you to stand upright and bend over.
- When we are born, our spines consist of 33 individual vertebrae.
- As we age, some of these vertebrae fuse together. The five vertebrae composing our sacrum become one bone and the coccygeal vertebrae – which can vary from three to five bones – fuse together as one. Thus, the tailbone is formed.
- Over 120 muscles are contained in the spine.
- Over 100 joints allow for the spines extreme flexibility and range of movement.
- Back pain is among the most common reason for a physician visit – in fact, approximately 80% of North Americans will suffer from this condition at some point during their lives.
- Back pain is also a leading cause behind disability claims in the United States. (American Spinal Association, Innerbody)
Core Essential Practice
- Invest in a yoga or exercise mat that will provide mild to moderate cushioning and reduce any direct impact between the joints and bones and a hard surface.
- Slowly unroll your back onto the mat, bending your knees softly and drawing them in towards your chest. Rock slowly from side to side which will massage the base of the spine and settle the muscles.
- Place both feet on the floor, knees bent, hip-distance apart. Gently lift your hips, curl your tailbone under (this engages your abs & lengthens the lower back), and then holding this engagement place your hips back down on the mat.
- Place a yoga block (sub in a an empty box, pillow, or book if you don't have access to a block) in between your knees, engage your inner thighs and lower abdominal wall to keep hold. Release arms to the floor, fingertips reaching in the direction of your heels, palms spread wide and facing down.
- Exhale all of your breath out. Catch your next inhale, mindfully draw your knees towards your chest (without dropping the block!). With your next exhale, lower your feet until they hover 2-inches from the floor, your lower back remains grounded into the mat (no sway or lift from the floor in the lower back at all). Repeat, inhale rise, exhale lower, 8-10 cycles.
- Exhale all of your breath out. Catch your next inhale, mindfully draw your knees towards your chest and then extend your heels towards the sky (legs extended out, feet flexed as though walking on the ceiling, without dropping the block!). With your next exhale, lower your legs 50% of the way to the floor (keeping legs extended and feet flexed), your lower back remains grounded into the mat (no sway or lift from the floor in the lower back at all). Repeat, inhale rise, exhale lower, 8-10 cycles.
Weave this core essential into your current routine. Suggested Practice: 3X per week.
Mindfully increase number of cycles, range of motion, and depth of breath over time.
Added Essential: When exhaling, draw your navel all the way into your spine, pause briefly, before you inhale again. This helps release the diaphragm, place slight pressure on the vital organs in the abdominal core, and wring out your kidneys and liver.
Image Courtesy of Hilary Currer, Evergreen Brickworks, Toronto Canada