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Lesson 2: The Subtleties Behind Spinal Integrity

Josh 31 July 2023

So how do we help our students to find both spinal comfort and steadiness during their practice? Awareness of the following may help:  

Material Factors

Bandhas: Jalandhara, Uddiyana, Mula; with particular emphasis on Mula bandha. How to apply it and re-apply it during the practice (see the below video as reference). 
Breath: Focus on Sama Vritti (even wave) as a starting point at least. The breath can be encouraged to have qualities of ease without being lazy. An even ratio of inhale to exhale is a great intention for students to help them focus (dharana). Practice of shaping and directing the breath without over-breathing can help settle the mind by supporting the parasympathetic nervous system (‘rest & digest’) rather than continually tipping into our ‘fight or flight’ response (sympathetic nervous system).  
Anatomy: The spine has a specific structural design: – the slight ‘S’ shape helps distribute weight & pressure through the body more ergonomically. It has a slight suspension action that supports our body weight and centre of gravity through all our physical functioning in life. If the spine was rod-like straight, the vertebra would be over compressed, far less mobile and fractures would readily arise. Awareness of this ‘neutral’ shape in postures will encourage students not to distort or be overbearing on their spine during their practice, potentially enhancing their meditation practice too. 

“The spine is the highway to the infinite”.

– Paramahansa Yogananda

Subtle Aspects

Energetics (subtle anatomy ): the entire nadi network is underpinned from the central channel of the Sushumna ( the spine ) as well as the two other primary nadis, Ida & Pingala.  

All 7 chakras are influenced by spinal integrity: in both their geographic location to the spine and what force that particular area may be exposed to, whether it be one of compression or expansion. Too much of either may restrict the potential for harmony or union between the physical, mental and energetic layers. 
Relating more effectively to the presence of the 5 Koshas (sheaths): if the Physical sheath (Annamaya) is more complementary with the Energetic sheath (Pranamaya) then the Mental (Manomaya) body may also relate to the deeper levels of Intellect (Vijnanamaya) and Bliss (Anandamaya). 
Awareness of the 5 pranic vayus is also beneficial: these can be covered in a separate module to best appreciate their qualities. However, the balance of them at play should be in tune with sthira and sukha.

Here’s a lecture and demonstration discussing some of the the subtleties behind spinal integrity.