Our spine is not only essential for movement, it also offers protection to our central nervous system and all its delicate tissues which coordinate all our complex motor and sensory functions. It is an amazing piece of evolutionary development which connects our brain to our entire body. This is why maintaining the health of your spine is so important. There are 24 movable vertebrae which make up the spinal column which is connected to the sacrum and the coccyx. The spinal column can be divided into 3 regions: 1) the cervical spine, 2) the thoracic spine and 3) the lumbar spine. The cervical spine consists of the 7 vertebrae at our neck region (C1-C7), the thoracic spine consists of the 12 vertebrae in the middle (T1-T12) and the lumber spine consists of the 5 vertebrae at our lower back (L1-L5). These vertebrae are bound to each other by cartilaginous discs as well as capsular joints and spinal ligaments.
Because of our daily lives most of us habitually put our backs under pressure and compromise our spinal health. This is due to many lifestyle factors such hours spent sitting at a desk, in a car or watching TV. Most athletic injuries to the back are sprains of the ligaments or strains of the muscles and many injuries occur after repetitive overuse of the structure of the spine. One of the major benefits of practicing yoga is the strengthening and stretching of the entire back and all the muscles involved.
Yoga helps in aligning the curvature of the spine, maintaining the full range of spinal movements and flexibility and relieving the pressure on nerves emerging between 2 discs. When performed cautiously and correctly the forward, backward and sideward bending asanas (postures) mobilise the inter-vertebral joints, develop the supporting musculature of the spine, strengthen the ligaments and massage the nerves and blood vessels. As well as all these benefits, a well-balanced asana class will help keep your spine supple. Our spinal discs, between each vertebra, crave movement. It is this movement that provides them with the necessary nutrients. The cells that live deep within the disc are surrounded by an infrastructure without blood and it is human movement that facilitates fluid flow across the vertebral end-plates.
Another great reason to incorporate yoga into your exercise regime. It really is the least you could do considering how important your spinal health is.