The human spine is an amazing design. This necklace of 33 bones threaded with the spinal cord runs through the body with both spiny strength and delicate flexibility. The spine is solidity and movement, protection and communication, bone and spark. These dual qualities are essential for human movement and our upright posture, but also allow us to be the expressive, dynamic, passionate creatures that we are.
The Nia Technique celebrates these qualities in the spine with its varied and contrasting movements. Often, when new students come to class, I suggest that if they move nothing else, just move the spine. I love teaching about the spine (e.g., two posts from 2012: Explore from the Core and Core Galore). But even given my spine partiality, since combining a Bikram yoga practice with Nia, I’m even more of a spine believer. Lately, I am increasingly aware of both the relaxed rootedness and the spacious, creative energy that emerges from mindful, spinal movement.
The Spine, The Whole Spine…
Relaxed rootedness and spacious passion from mindfully moving the spine — more specifically, the distal ends of the spine. Many of us tend to think the spine begins at the neck and ends at the low back. Actually, the spine begins deep inside the skull and extends all the way down to the tailbone. Awakening movement and awareness at the very top and bottom of the spine helps us both ground as well as move, see, and think more creatively. Grounding and creativity are borne out of the physical design of the spine itself and the sensations associated with movement from the top-most and bottom-most vertebrae.
The Spine’s Design: Tail
At the base of the spine are the sacrum and coccyx. These structures are more solid than any other part of the spine (some are fused) and, if you squint a little, they look like the curved palm of a hand.
It’s common (especially when standing) to tip the pelvis forward uprooting the tail and disconnecting from the support inherent in the sacrum/coccyx design. When sitting (especially in the car), we frequently tuck the tail under and actually sit on the low back. This “bad dog” posture is a one of lower lumbar spine strain and energetic stagnation. It’s no surprise that low back pain is so common particularly in folks to sit and drive for much of the day.
The very structure of the base of the spine is to offer support and root us to the earth. This supported rootedness is easier to access with awareness of its design and function. Tomorrow, we’ll continue this spinal exploration with a fascinating Nia story and a look at the uniqueness of the top two vertebrae.