by Tama Soble
We begin moving from the spine in utero. Once born, we progress through a series of developmental movements that support our journey toward the complex act of walking.
During this period in our lives we utilize and perfect the four basic movements of the spine: flexion, extension, side bending and rotation. We practice rotation of the neck, turning the head because we are hungry, develop extension and strength in the neck as we lift the head to see the world around us or roll over and rotate the thoracic spine reaching for something enticing or someone dear. We master lateral fish-like movements to explore our environment, slithering on our bellies and advance to crawling on hands and knees. Eventually we integrate these movement sequences and find our way to walking. This journey is driven by curiousity and desire, and supported by the inherent mobility, power, and intelligence of the spine.
The physical life of an infant, toddler and child is dynamic and the spine is at the core of the child’s physical universe. As adults, awareness of the spine is often forgotten through lack of movement and lack of knowledge. And yet, we have the potential to reawaken the spine as the wellspring of the body. Yoga can educate us about the spine and help us recover the resilience at the centre of our bodies.
Acknowledging and applying the four basic movements of the spine, re-establishing the essential connection between spine and limbs, and learning how to feel the way in which the simple act of breathing moves the spine, can return the body to a natural state of balance, grace and greater comfort. Releasing tension along and within the spine enhances function throughout skeletal and muscular structures, and respiratory and neurological systems.
Much of this is accomplished through recalling what we knew innately as children, reminding the spine and the body as a whole of all of the movement potential within us. Using safe, developmental movement patterns that work intelligently with the anatomical range of motion in the joints, and within each section of the spine, we can reawaken a wave of movement and energy that leads toward greater comfort, and mobility, as we practice yoga and throughout our daily lives. We need only look inwards and proceed with patience and interest.