Yoga practice can help keep your spine healthy and prevent age-related stiffness and pain, says Rajeev Rajesh, chief yoga officer, Jindal Naturecure Institute. “The asanas were developed to cultivate mobility, build strength and keep you energetic. The human spine is a very complex structure where bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves are tightly woven together. It performs several vital functions. It provides structure and strength to the body, allowing us to stand up straight. It is flexible and allows us to move in many positions. It acts as the body’s shock absorber, taking in all the stress that is associated with movement. It also protects the nerves and nerve roots that pass through. Spinal problems often tend to occur over a period of time, and people don’t realise it till the problems are apparent,” he tells indianexpress.com.
Spinal care should be a part of your daily routine if you want to avoid potential problems. Let us take a look at some yoga poses that not only help protect the spine, but also help improve and optimise spine function.
Shalbhasana – This pose strengthens the core and the back muscles. Of all backbends, this one is the easiest and can be practiced by almost everyone. Lie down on your belly, keep the chin on the mat and palms inside the thighs. Turn the palms up. While inhaling, lift the legs up. Extend them till you feel a stretch in your back. Stay in this position for 10 breaths and gently lower yourself back on to the ground. Avoid if you have hernia, ulcer, or heart ailments.
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana – Upward facing dog pose is one of the most important back-bending yoga poses. Practising this pose regularly helps expand the chest, open up the lungs, and strengthen the muscles of the spine, shoulders and arms. Lie down on your belly and place your palms alongside the ribcage. Your shoulders should be stacked right on top of your wrists. Lift your torso so that only your palms and the top of your feet touch the ground. Engage your legs and tighten your shoulder blades. Your neck should be aligned to your spine. Gaze straight ahead and stay in this position for ten breaths. Exhale and gently lower yourself to the ground.
Dhanurasana – Practicing this pose helps open up the chest and stretch the torso. It strengthens the back muscles, improves posture and helps relieve back pain. Lie down on your belly and hold your ankles with your palms. While inhaling, lift the thighs up. Simultaneously raise the head, chest and abdomen up. Look up. Stabilise the body on the lower abdomen. Maintain the position with normal breath. Pull your legs back so that the arms are straight. While exhaling, bring the body on the mat, release your ankles and gently lower yourself back on to the ground. Avoid in hernia, ulcer and heart problems.
Chakrasana – Practicing this full-wheel pose helps open up the chest, stretches the hip flexor and core and increases the flexibility of the spine. It is a backward bending posture that strongly engages the legs, arms, pelvis and shoulders. The impact is experienced in the spine and organs of the torso. Lie down on your back and bend your knees till your feet are flat on the ground and parallel to your sitting bones. Place your hands on the ground just on top of your shoulders with fingers pointing towards the shoulders. Press down using your hands and lift your torso off the ground, with your crown resting lightly on the ground. Push into your feet and bring more weight to bear on your palms. This will help protect your lower back. Make sure your head is in a neutral position so that there is no strain on your neck. Hold the position for ten breaths and slowly lower your legs and arms back on to the ground.
Practice these poses under the tutelage of a qualified and experienced yoga instructor until you have mastered them. Improper practice can end up creating problems instead of solving them. If you have any underlying medical condition, get the go-ahead from your physician before you start practicing.
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