#2 Form before Depth #3 A long spine is a Strong Spine
This is a short and sweet post for these two principles, which are interrelated. Some of this is going to seem like a no brainer, however, time and time again, it’s something every yoga instructor observes while teaching a class. Because of this it can not be overly emphasized. The mistake we often see? Bad form at maximum depth. Form before depth is a principle that everyone should always be cognisant of during their practice. Most people seem to think that your only getting a good workout, or the best way to practice is by going as deep into the pose as you possibly can. Without proper alignment, this will put you on the fast track to injury my friend. A prime example of this actually introduces you to the third principle: a long spine is a strong spine. There are three mechanisms that when applied to the spine, in combination, could have you straight on the way to a disc herniation, among other spinal injuries. Flexion, compression and twisting. Wham! The jelly centre of your once healthy spinal disc, is pushed smack dab into your spinal nerves and/or the spinal cord itself. For anyone who has experienced a disc herniation, it is not pretty, and its a long, slow, painful path to recovery. In yoga, it is important to maintain the spine in a lengthened position, especially when going into a twist. There are some exceptions to the long spine rule. For example, if you are in a standing forward fold and you are flexible enough that your hands are close to the floor, then the spine can end up below the hips. In this position, gravity is actually tractioning the spine and creating space in the discs. Conversely, if you are doing a seated forward fold, the direction of gravitational pull is going to create that compressive force to the discs and the below the hips rule does not apply. Yikes. With this in mind during your practice think- if you can not longer keep the spine long in a seated fold, go no further. Moreover, when doing a twist, if you can no longer keep the spine long, then twist no further. On another chiropractic note, you want to keep this principle in mind when lifting anything as well. To get a visual of what I’m talking about, here's a picture of someone lifting a water bottle with proper versus improper technique. On the left you see the subject maintaining a long, neutral spine, which will help the spine act as a single unit, rather than having large tensile shear forces acting on each disc at a segmental level. This also minimizes the anterior compressive forces that would be responsible for pushing the jelly centre of the disc posteriorly in the direction of the cord or spinal nerves. That’s it for this week!