I am embarking once again on a journey to deepen my knowledge of the human body and biomechanics. I am diving head-first into a Level 2 training on the spine, core, and pelvis for the LYT method for the next 5 weeks. This method is not only the foundation of my classes, but the way I endeavor to carry myself in my own body and spirit. So what better way to digest all of this learning than by sharing it with all of you!
The first week of the training is all about the SPINE. I will now attempt to summarize 4+ hours of lecture on the anatomy of the spine into a few sentences.
It's actually quite simple if we think about it though. The spine is literally the backbone of our body. It is what holds us in an upright posture, allows us to look around, bend over, and supports the flow of energy in our bodies. It also has an optimal position through which all of these activities can be done without causing damage to the bone, tissues, nerves, and blood flow around the spine. And guess what, that position is not flat, nor is it hunched over.
Our spine has curves. (ooo la la)
Ever heard that cue in a yoga or fitness class - "keep a flat back" or "flatten your spine". It makes no sense. Our spine has natural curves that have evolved with us homo sapiens since we were fish! Yes, long ago before we evolved into humans, we were aquatic creatures with a rigid spine. Then we grew feet and crawled onto land so the spine curved to allow lateral movement. Then our legs got longer and our primary curve (think fetal position curve of the spine) developed. Then we actually started to stand upright and needed to move our head around and look up so the lordotic curve of the neck developed. As we grew further into our upright posture, the lordotic curve of the lumbar spine and the kyphotic curve of sacrum and tailbone developed.
So even though the spine may look "flat" on the outside because of muscles and skin covering the bone, its structure is inherently curved and a healthy spine needs to maintain those curves in a neutral position. However, due to our now very sedentary lifestyles, our spines are curving too much, losing stability in some areas and becoming too mobile in other ares. We need to open up those sticky regions of the spine and re-stabilize those areas that are meant to hold us. So, how do we find that neutral position you might ask?
3 Steps to Finding Your Neutral Spine
Lie on your mat with your knees bent and feet on the floor. First, find your sacrum. Best way to describe where it is, is right above your butt crack. That's your sacrum! You want all of it pressing into the mat behind you. You may need to curl your tailbone slightly to find this position. This sets the pelvis in a neutral position.
Draw your scapulae onto your back ribs so that you feel them touching the mat. At the same time, gently press your mid-spine, right in between the shoulder blades, into the mat. Just a little bit as we don't want to over-round here in the thoracic spine, but it does have a natural kyphotic curve.
Lastly, and what may be most difficult, is the neck. Tuck your chin slightly and then press the base of your skull into the mat behind you. If it feels weird and unnatural, you're probably doing it right. With all of today's technologies our necks have become shortened and weak making it harder and harder to keep the weight of our giant heads directly over the rest of our spine, which biomechanically distributes the weight much more efficiently.
You can do these steps against a wall or with a pole or stick behind you. Once you get the hang of your neutral position, try moving your arms and legs and notice how the spine position responds. Using props is a great way to give feedback to your brain so that you know where your spine sits in space and where it might be compensating.
Happy spinal searching!