Acupuncturist and acupressure practitioners usually turn to the back to relieve certain ailments. The vitality of the spine is shown in a personÂ’s capacity to cope with everyday stress, the function of the organs, and the health of the nervous system
THE BACK IMPACT
Christopher Reeves’ fatal horse fall has brought him sympathy. He may have accepted his paralyzed condition and appear to have smile on his face, but none of us will want to trade places with him for all the money in the world. The excruciating pain that besets him is indescribable. A damaged spine has just not become detrimental to his acting career but to his life as a whole.
Acupuncturist and acupressure practitioners usually turn to the back to relieve certain ailments. The vitality of the spine is shown in a person’s capacity to cope with everyday stress, the function of the organs, and the health of the nervous system.
The seven cervical, 12 thoracic, and the five lumbar vertebrae are each separated by a spinal disc. Each disc is elastic in nature, allowing the back’s mobility to be possible. Like the shock absorbers of a car, the spine absorbs the jolt of the back when we run or walk. The muscles stabilize the spine. The spine should ideally be supple, flexible, and balanced.
Why does proper alignment of the spine entail that it be straight (without any curvatures) from its primary connection to the skull all the way to the tailbone? In such a vertical position, it defies the law of gravity. But when the spine is vertically stretched and the body properly standing, an efficient fluid relationship with gravity or the earth’s energy is facilitated. This is not achieved when a person had a bad posture, with shoulders tense and rigid.
Traditional medicine says that the back contain the main meridians of the body’s 12 energy pathways. The Bladder meridian, the longest one, runs the full length of the spine, on both sides of it, from the neck down to the back of the legs to the feet. This meridian is also known as the sciatic nerve which is like the main cables ending messages to all the vital organs and parts of the body. On the upper back are the points of the lungs and heart which are used to cure colds, alleviate breathing difficulties, insomnia, emotional problems, and general stress. Further down are the points stimulating digestion, and in the lower level or the lumbar region are the points influencing the elimination of the body’s waste products.
Usually when a person feels so stressed out, it is a great relief to press the bladder meridian which runs along the top of each shoulder and into the back of the skull.
Kneading the shoulders helps reduce the stress and stiffness in the shoulders.
Have you ever watched an exhausted jogger stands as he comes to a halt? Observes how the head is stretched forward, the chest sticks out and the shoulders and arms go up and up and out to the sides. He’s almost out of breath. Much work is done by the upper portion of the body. So if you were to feel the jogger’s back, much heat abounds in the shoulder blades while there is a cold emptiness in the lower back. The chest, in this case, powers the body. Power should come from below, which is the sea of energy or the tan tien. Had the jogger used deep abdominal breathing, his body will be more relaxed and will have more fluid energy power. As it is, the jogger has driven by sheer determination and willpower to finish.
In yoga, certain asanas strengthen the back, such as bending forward exercises of the Ostrich pose, bull dog, double angle pose, alternate leg stretches. For the backward bend, you can do the Cobra pose, the Camel pose, and the curved back stretch, all of which give you a more relaxed, flexible back.
The Ostrich exercise is very easy to do. Spread your legs slightly apart, exhale, and bend forward. Grab your big toes with your thumb and two fingers. Now curve your back slightly concave by raising your head and bending forward from the pelvic area, instead of pulling down from the shoulders. Keep your knees straight. Hold this position for a couple of breaths, then exhale and lower down your head down to your knees. Breathe normally and hold for 20 counts. Then inhale slowly returns to the slightly concave position. Let go of your standing pose.
The Ostrich pose is good for stimulating the digestive process as well as the liver and the spleen. It tones the abdominal organs and is quite good at relieving abdominal bloating and gastric problems.
The Cobra pose is done with a raised head resembling a cobra with its hood spread out. You start by lying face down, hands on the side. Keep your legs together and rest your head on one of your cheeks. Relax your body completely and then turn your head so that your forehead rests on ground. Open your eyes, look up, and roll them back in the sockets. Slowly, using only the facial and neck muscles tilt your head back as far as you can. Then, tilt the shoulders and torso higher and higher and as far backwards as possible. Inhale slowly as you do so. Now put the hands beneath the shoulders, with fingers pointing towards one another. Push up slowly so your back continues to raise and arch. Keep your head back throughout the exercise. If you do this as instructed, you will feel your spinal cord being flexed, one vertebrate at a time. Once you’ve reached your maximum limit, hold for 10 counts. Breathe normally. Slowly exhale, gradually lower your torso, and return to your original starting position.
The Cobra pose makes your spine elastic and healthy, and helps cure backaches and spinal injuries. A slightly slipped disc condition can be corrected. It reaches all the back muscles, relieving stiffness and tension in the back and neck areas. Circulation is increased and spinal nerves and blood vessels benefit from the extra supply of blood.
The jaw, neck, throat, chest, abdomen, and legs are exercised and strengthened. Glandular activity is balanced. Digestion is improved, constipation is eliminated, and appetite increased. While holding this posture, pressure is applied to the kidneys, temporarily flushing them of blood. Upon finishing this posture, blood rushes back to the kidneys and helps wash away harmful kidney stones.
No matter what your age is, if you try to take a few minutes to flex your back through the Cobra and Ostrich exercises, your body will not become compressed and thickened like “middle-age spread”. Introspect and observe how you move. This will make you more aware of some bad movements habits that have develop through years of misusing the body. Many of these unfortunately, start in childhood, due to bad physical training. Remember how grandma used to say that we shouldn’t force the child to walk from his crawling stage? We only feel the result of such forceful training when we’ve grown.
Lazy shortcuts always have a price to pay for later.