Anatomy & Phisiology

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THE DORSAL SPINE AND THE TRUNK

I.- Functions of the dorsal spine From the point of view of Biomechanics, the spine has three functions:

1.- Support. Supports body weight, the upper body and transfers the weight to the legs, maintaining an upright position.
2.- Movement. The spine’s structure allows lots of movements.
3.- Protection. The bones of the spine protect the marrow and the nerves which connect the brain with the rest of the body.

Because of these three roles, the body’s health, as a whole, depends on the proper alignment and the use of the dorsal spine and the muscles which move it.

4.- From the Tantric point of view, energy channels called Nadis run along the backbone. The central channel is called Sushumna Nadi. It is through this channel that the spiritual transformation occurs, making the spine an essential part in our path in Hatha Yoga.

II.- Sections of the Spine: the dorsal spine consists of series of 24 vertebrae plus one sacrum and one coccyx. It is divided into four sections:

1.- CERVICAL: the cervical column is formed by the seven upper vertebrae in the neck area.
2.- DORSAL: is the following section formed by twelve vertebrae in the chest area.
3.- LUMBAR: they are the five vertebrae in the lower back area.
4.- SACRUM AND COCCYX: in the lowest area.

We refer to each vertebra by the first letter of the section to which it belongs and the Lumber, starting by Lumber one in the upper area. So, for example, the vertebra at the top will be C1 and the lowest of all will be L5.

Physiological curves: Each section of the spine has a natural curve in the sagittal plane, which helps to soften the impacts on the body. Without this, each step we made would move the whole structure, causing impact on the brain. The curves vary depending on the individual, but in general:
a.- The cervical and lumbar curves are concave when seen sidewards ( they are called lordosis in its normal degree as well as in an excessive degree)
b.- The dorsal spine and the sacrum are convex (they are called kyphosis, in its normal degree as well as in its excessive degree)
c.- Any curve in the frontal plane is called scoliosis. A mild scoliosis is quite common.

The new alignment proposal The main idea is: curve first, afterwards lengthen the biomechanics that you are studying and its principles are designed to support the natural curves of the spine. One of the concepts is “Curve first, then lengthen”.

  • To create the curve in the cervical spine, we allow the perimetral expansion of the chest perform the Shoulder Circuit, and then lengthen the neck with its natural curve.
  • To create the curve in the area of the dorsal spine, we allow the perimeter expansion of the chest and from there integrate the scapulae, maintaining the expansion with the quality of breathing from the diaphragm.
  • To create the curve in the lumbar spine, roll the groins internally by cupping them and then lengthen the lumbar with the Bhandha.

III.- Bones of the Spine the vertebras fit in as if they were rings, and the marrow is in the centre. See the vertebrae shapes in the book “Anatomy of movement” (Spanish version: Page 36).

  • The discs are named after the area in which their vertebrae are, with the first letter of that section of the spine: D12-L1; L4-L5. The lowest disc, which normally causes problems, L5-S1, is the disc under the lowest lumbar and just above the sacrum. Check in the book why this is a problematic area of the spine.
  • The body of a vertebra is long and cylindrical, and this is the part that supports the weight.
  • Between the vertebrae bodies we find the intervertebral disc, which provides space and cushioning. The discs are formed by an external layer which is thicker, the ring, the annulus fibrosis, and a central layer which is a more liquid substance, the nucleus pulpous. These layers move with the movements of the spine, as described in the book Anatomy of Movement, (Spanish version, pages 40-41). Emphasize this: The most common problems are associated with flexions. Take the ligaments inside also here.
  • Each vertebra touches its neighbour on both sides by means of the intervertebral disc.

The two upper vertebrae, the Atlas and the Axis, have a different structure than the rest in order to be able to support the head and provide maximum rotation. (Spanish version: page 66-71 of the book.)

Damages of the Intervertebral Discs:

  • Old age causes compression, dryness and even breaking of the discs. When the disc collapses, it has less space between the vertebrae, which could damage the nerves between each of them.
  • Injuries are mainly associated with the flexion of the spine and with carrying weight. (bending forward to pick something heavy up). The frontal part of the vertebrae may get closer and force the central nucleus of the disc to go out at the back pressing on the marrow. This is what we call a hernia, a displaced disc or protrusion.
  • The discs are called after the area in which their vertebrae are, with the first letter of that section of the spine: D12-L1; L4-L5. The lowest disc, which normally causes problems, L5-S1, is the disc under the lowest lumbar and just above the sacrum. Check in the book why this is a problematic area of the spine.

Different sections of the spine have different ranges of movement, base don the following:

  • The shape and size of the vertebra.
  • The thickness of the discs.
  • The anchoring of the ribs of the thoracic or dorsal section.
  • The angle of the discs between the vertebrae.

Study Guide
Functions of the spine
1.- Supports the weight. Supports the upper body and transfers the weight to the legs, supporting our upright position.
2.- Movement. The structure of the spine also provides the possibility of a varied range of movement.
3.- Protection. Vertebra project the marrow & nerves which connect the brain with the rest of the body.

SECTIONS OF THE SPINE: The dorsal spine consists of a series of 24 vertebrae plus one sacrum and one coccyx. It is divided into four sections:
1.- CERVICAL: the cervical column is formed by the seven upper vertebrae in the area of the neck.
2.- DORSAL: this is formed by twelve vertebrae in the area of the chest.
3.- LUMBAR: they are the five vertebrae in the lower area of the back.
4.- SACRUM AND COCCYX: in the lowest area of the back.

SELF QUIZ:
Study three poses where you apply the natural curves of the spine, note the body respond to the new alignment proposal and journal over it.

SHOULDERS, ARMS AND HANDS

Movement of the shoulder blades, the humerus, the elbow, the forearm, the wrist and the fingers work really well together on a deep level. When performing a hand transition, the flow of energy travels in a coordinated direction from the hands to the elbow, inner deltoid and finally tip of the shoulder blade. Movements of the scapula and arms are directly related: as well as the external elbow-internal deltoid and scapular blade.

Maximum Freedom. The shoulder joint is where the humerus head enters into the scapula. This joint is superficial to give maximum freedom and a range of 360º of movement. This range of movement is possible due to the freedom of movement of the scapula. When we move the arm upwards and downwards or in any direction, the scapula is not fixed backwards with muscular action, it can move in various ways to support the range of movement of the shoulder.

The Heart’s Expression. The shoulder joint has a direct relationship with the great ability and precision of movement we find in our hands and fingers. The more freedom we have there, the more we can connect with the inner heart and with the outside world.

Structural Integration. We can open the shoulder joint with various asanas, but the true key to open the body is not the postures we make, but how we make them. Specifically, using the alignments which are based on the biomechanics of the human body, we create a structural integration, as well as a complete range of movement in any posture that we execute.

Alignment Principles

Tune in Tadasana first. With your feet separated the width of your hips and parallel with each other, become aware of the area of your heart. Light irradiates from the Heart. Besides, the sides of the body lengthen from the waist to your armpits, while in the external body, the skin and muscles remain soft. Tune in to your radiant heart, you may keep this plenitude in the internal body throughout our practice.

Integrate Urdhva Hastasana. Raise your arms above your head with hands separated the width of your shoulders and this time, with the palms looking forward. Move your hands a little bit forwards, integrate the arms within the shoulder joints, moving the humerus head backwards. Scapulae will move backwards and towards the spine. Feel the strength and the integration of the Muscular Energy. This connects us with an inner power.

Expand keeping the thighs back, the humerus head facing back in its joint, move the sacrum downwards and bend yourself backwards in an arch. Allow your glance to follow your heart while it raises and opens. Shine and expand. From the pelvis, root yourself down to the Earth and from the shoulder, after a couple of breaths, exhale and lower your arms.

TABLA

Postures to open the shoulders: you can open your body in a completely safe way. This is particularly important for the shoulders when we begin putting weight on the hands and arms and we bring them to their maximum range of movement.

  1. Ado Mukha Svanasana: downward facing dog
  2. Bhujamgasana: cobra.
  3. Virabhadrasana: humble warrior.
  4. Prasaritta Padottanasana 3
  5. Urdhva Mukha Vrksasana: on your hands.
  6. Garudasana: the eagle.
  7. Setubhandasana: “baby” bridge.
  8. Urdhva Dhanurasana: full bridge or wheel.
  9. Uttanasana: with ropes.
  10. Therapeutics shoulder opening: with elements.

SHOULDERS, ARMS AND HANDS

Study Guide
Practice
: Place your hand on the scapula of a friend and feel how it moves. Find the joints while he/she moves the shoulder.
Practice: Find the different parts of the scapula in a mate.
Practice the first sequence of Ashtanga and find the poses which open the shoulders.

SELF QUIZ: Use the book Anatomy of Movement, Chapter: shoulder.

  • Difference between the shoulder joint and the hip joint?
  • Where does the scapular waist join with the torso?
  • Which is the main function of the group of muscles at the rotator cuff of the shoulder?
  • What are the actions that support the chains of the arm-shoulder in transitions?
  • How could a shoulder injury occur in the transition of the four supports?
  • How can we avoid shoulder injuries?


Tune in to your radiant heart, can you keep this fullness in the inner body throughout your practice. ?

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