As we age we actually start to shrink! The constant pressure from gravity on the discs between the vertebra means that they are permanently squished. The only time this pressure is relieved naturally is when we are laying down at night. Have you ever heard it said that we are taller when we wake in the morning?
This constant pressure is greatly increased if we live a more sedentary lifestyle, desk jobs, watching tv, computer games etc. If we do not move the spine and keep it flexible, we can not keep it lubricated or refreshed with the nutrient dense fluids it needs. Long term this causes toxins to build up and the discs to dry out, erode and eventually disintegrate. The skeletal bones in the spine then start to grind on each other, vertebra on vertebra, weakening our spine. Anyone who has suffered back pain will know just how much it affects everything we do. Unfortunately, for many people by the time we feel this physical pain the deterioration has been in progress for many years.
The good news is there is a solution to helping to reverse some of that damage and relieving some, if not all, of that pain without medication. We need to create space and improve the lubrication and mobility of the joints. This is one of the many reasons yoga is soo good for us. Over time, regularly practicing deep stretches creates more space in the body, allowing us to release tensions, trapped toxins and flood the joints with fresh cleansing energy (fluids and lubrication). While we practice these deep stretches we concentrate on the breath and as it naturally slows, we notice the body naturally releasing deeper, letting go of built up tension in both the body and the mind.
Deeply stretching not only benefits the spine but the entire body. Arms, shoulders, hips, hamstrings, wrists, ankles can be all become tight and suffer degeneration due to lack of use, mobility and consistent stress and tension.
This is not an overnight fix, but if you are consistent and practice regularly you will soon feel the benefits. After all, your mind and your body need regular maintenance just like a car. If you neglect it then eventually something stops working.
Of course, before starting any exercise practice, especially if you are feeling pain, it’s important to get a check-up and approval of a medical practitioner.
A combination of yoga styles can work well together. Yin and Yang – Passive and Active. We need both to achieve balance.
The most effective way to create space in the spine and reverse the effects of gravity is with inverting. However, headstands and handstands can take many, many years of dedicated practice and are just not realistic or practical for most people. Headstands, in particular can even cause more harm than good to an untrained and unsupervised student as they can compress the vertebra in the neck if they are not practiced correctly. This is why, I personally started practicing inversions with a yoga swing, why I later became certified as a Yoga Trapeze Teacher and why I am continuing my studies in Aerial Yoga. With the support of the fabric and a qualified teacher most people can successfully and safely hang upside down and feel the relief as the whole spine decompresses. Just a few minutes of suspension can have the same benefits as a whole night laying down.
There are also many ways of practicing with the Yoga Trapeze or a Yoga Hammock without hanging upside down. They can be used to support you, keep your balance, help you relax and go deeper into a stretch. As with any other prop in yoga they can be used to enhance your experience.
The most important factor is that you listen to your body. If it doesn’t feel right for you then try something different. Get advice from any (relevant to your condition) professional including the teacher of the class you are taking. However, the most important person you should listen to your inner self.
There are many styles of yoga, and many styles of teaching. There is an option to suit every body, every age, every size and every stage of life. You just need to find the one that suits you best.
Important Note: There are a few contraindications for inversions – high or low blood pressure, glaucoma, heart conditions, vertigo, travel sickness, pregnancy, when inversions of any kind are not advisable.