Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Stretch that spine nice and long: asana for the spine and their benefits

According to an old chinese adage, a person’s life is as long as the spine is healthy. This could make you introspect on how you can keep the spine healthy and how you will  know if your method is working for you.

The Central Nervous System composed of the brain and the spinal cord  perform the functions of the main processing centre for the entire nevous system  and control all body mechanisms.
The importance of stretching the spine

Every time the spine is stretched in a yoga pose, there is a corresponding release in the body-mind. That is, the body releases tension and the mind instantly relaxes alongside. Stretching the spine has the effect of toning and strengthening all the nerves going to and from the spine, while improving nutrient supply to it. Exercising the nerves has a direct impact on the mind. Every time you stretch, inhale and exhale deeply, and bring your awareness to the specific body part, there is a corresponding release of endorphins and serotonin, the happiness brain chemical.  

Pain Management and Spinal Stretches

Neck pain is one of the most common complaints and according to doctors, most neck pains are simple enough that they can be fixed with stretches and exercises. Back pain can also be eased through spinal stretches. Stretching the spine increases it’s mobility and  that of the surrounding soft tissue. However, increased range of motion in this part of the body will automatically provide relief from back pain according to experts.

You will know  that stretching the spine is working by taking stock of your mood, and the general functioning of your body mechanisms such as digestion and elimination. Sideways spinal stretches (also known as spinal twists in yoga) can help stimulate digestion, improve posture by realigning the spine, and increase flexibility.  Sometimes headaches can get relieved through stretching the spine, especially if the cause of it is stress. The spine is a great repository of stored tensions and stresses. Phrases such as “getting on my nerves” or “nerve wracking” then, are actually saying something about the health of your spine and in turn about the state of your nerves.

The Different Ways of Stretching the Spine

The spine can be stretched using a breath, a visualization, or an actual movement or pose. You know its working when your sleep improves, or when your mood remains positive for longer periods of time or when the seemingly annoying colleague at work can’t get under your skin anymore.  The things that stimulate our nervous system in a negative way, causing a flight or fight response will cease to do so and that will be the single biggest indicator that stretching the spine is actually working.

A few examples of asana that stretch the spine

Halasana: plough pose: improves the functioning of the spinal nerves  - it puts pressure on the sympathetic nerves in the neck region. Stretches the shoulders as well as the spine in such a way as to give it a complete overhaul and toning. Improves the working of the spleen, pancreas, liver and kidneys. Works on the thyroid and thymus glads.

Veerasana: warrior pose: in this asana the joints of the leg, neck, abdomen and spine get curved as in a backward bend – blood circulation increases to these parts and spinal flexibility increases, and digestion improves too.

Vashishtasana: sideways inclination, balancing on one arm: stretches the arms, back and abdomen. It is said to be able to cure certain problems associated with the spinal column.

Ardhamatsyendrasana: half-fish pose: provides a spinal twist that also works the abdomen. The anatomical focus is on the spine, abdomen, hips and chest
The benefits includes: increases the elasticity of the spine, tones the nerves in the spine and improves posture. It relieves back pain and stiffness from between the vertebrae. Releases tension and stiffness held in the upper back and shoulder blades. Opens the chest and improves lung functioning. Works the pancreas.  It is an especially useful asana for women because it improves blood circulation in the pelvic region, improves the health of the reproductive system and the urinary system and can be practiced to relieve menstrual disorders.

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