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spine tatYour spine is a strand of love: 33 bead-bones threaded with the spinal cord. The top is deep behind your eyebrows. The bottom is low at your tail. Your spine is solid and electric: it makes you human. Relaxed rootedness and visionary creativity emerge from mindful, spinal movement.

At the base of the spine are the sacrum and coccyx. Fused and solid, they look like a curved palm. Inherent in the structure of your spine’s base is support and grounding. (See Diane Goodbar’s story about this.)

The top two vertebrae are the atlas and the axis. Your eyes and head direct your attention-energy. Inherent in the structure of the top of your spine is vision and imagination.

Inherent in the spine’s form and function is grounded support and vision to see beyond what is. Just like love. So, you’ve got love running through your core. A strand of love. Feel it?

spine woman externalIn yesterday’s post, we explored the possibilities of focusing awareness on the design and structure of the spine, in particular the very top and base of it.

At the base are the sacrum and coccyx which are more solid that much of the rest of the strand of spinal bones. In fact, when seen from the side, they look much like a curved palm of a hand. When I imagine that hand behind me, something in relaxes a little.

Relaxed Rootedness

A few years ago, Nia practitioner Diane Goodbar shared a Nia story* that comes back to me every time I’m in traffic. After a Nia class in which we focused on the supportive “hand” of the sacrum, she was stopped at a light and saw a car barreling toward her from behind. She had no way of getting out of the way so had no choice but to allow herself to be rear-ended. She writes,

…as I “braced for impact” I just sat in my car totally relaxed, looking straight ahead, and feeling that hand [of the sacrum] supporting me. My car was hit really hard but I ended up with absolutely no injuries. In fact, I wasn’t even slightly sore and in less that 24 hours was back at the gym doing my normal workout. (You can read Diane’s whole amazing story here.)

Right now, imagine the relaxed support and the dynamic rootedness provided by the sacrum and coccyx. Experiment with adjusting what you’re doing to enhance that sensation.

The Spine’s Design: Top

The top two vertebrae of the spine are the atlas and the axis which allow the head to nod and turn. Most people move their head very little, opting instead for the “marshmallow on the toothpick” approach. This lack of movement over-stabilizes the muscles and joints in the neck and constricts the flow of energy. No shock that neck and head aches are miserably common.

The top two cervical vertebrae are positioned right behind the center of the eyebrows. The eyes and head direct our attention and energy, so movement of the top of the spine is essential for us to see and connect actively with the world. We call strong leaders and courageous creators “visionary” for their ability to see beyond the obvious. (Think of one of your heroes, and I expect that in your mind’s eye they are not looking down but are upright and looking out!) Mindfully moving the spine from the top connects us to this visionary nature that we can all access.

Spine Divine

As the main conduit of the nervous system, tremendous energy is moving through the spine in every moment. Enhancing our awareness and honing our movement particularly at the top and bottom of the spine offers more physical ease and comfort. I’ve also noticed that after moving the spine mindfully, when I quiet down, I also have access to insights, ideas, and creativity that was not accessible before.

Experiment with both big and small movements at the atlas/axis and at the sacrum/coccyx. Then sit or lie down quietly, letting both the body and mind settle down and see what comes to you from this aware and relaxed place.

This post is one of the things that came to me. I’d love to hear your experience.

* Do you have a Nia story?  Something big or small about how the practice has affected you or how you use the practice outside the studio?  I’d love to hear it!  Send it to me at sjmnia@gmail.com and maybe we’ll use it as a focus for class and the blog!

spine divine xrayThe 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.

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