Joseph Pilates was known to say: “You are only as old as your spine is flexible”. I’ve been thinking a lot about the spine recently during my monastic retreat. We’re used to thinking of the office as the place where most damage to the spine is done but one nun said, rather wearily, “We do more sitting than an office worker”. Seated meditation is a practice of extreme stillness. Office sitting isn’t.
After a night of lying in sleep and decompressing the spine, de-pressurising the discs, elongating the body into its taller self, monks and nuns then start the day with concentrated sitting. Gravity is happily targeting their spines and dumping down on them. That happens many times throughout the day.
Whaddaya know; yoga can help! A 2011 study in Taiwan showed that the yoga teachers had “significantly less” degenerative disease than their control group. The physicians in charge of the study said “that spinal flexing may have caused more nutrients to diffuse into the disks. Another possibility, they wrote, was that the repeated tension and compression of the disks stimulated the production of growth factors that limited aging”.
David Keil, in Functional Anatomy of Yoga, asks: ‘How can we free our spine from the forces of gravity and our slouchy posture?’. He suggests: “Sun Salutations are a great place to explore... the movements of all parts of the spine. Look for the spine to undulate through the forward and backward movements in Sun Salutations. Try to loosen the movements a bit and even exaggerate them to see if you can assess which parts move and do not move in your spine. Then you can place a bit more emphasis on any areas that don’t move so easily”.
Hallelujah for Sun Salutations! (Here's Kino to take you through the basics.) It doesn’t cater for all of the movements of the spine but it’s a great place to start and a go-to practice to give your spine a daily minimum care.
I’ve designed a poster for this year’s September retreat. It’s attached. Please have a look. If you like it, would you be able to post it at work or send it to someone who might be interested? If you don’t like it, tell me and I’ll re-design. Details are uploaded on my website. My teacher, Valentina Candiani, is the other teacher this year. We may still have Lisa! The beautiful Porto Delfino will be our home and our venue. So far, we have a mixture of new people and returnees signed up. Come with us!
A couple of classes are full next week but most are not. Please give notice if you can’t attend so that anyone on the waiting list can come. You can see class availability on my website (which I update often). The latest availability is attached to this email.
The next training I have lined up is on April 19th – 21st with Ty Landrum for weekend of Ashtanga workshops: The Wonder of Embodied Experience at Triyoga Soho. In the first workshop on Friday evening “we explore the internal mechanics of surya namaskar”. Ha!
Next Sunday, the 14th, I’m teaching at Virgin Active Fulham Pools, covering Valentina’s class at 11.00-12.15.
Yoga in the news
At the beginning of the week, Business Matters had: Fintech lender Iwoca to offer Lirpasloof Yoga for stressed SME owners. I teach at this company! Nice to watch their You Tube and see their April 1st offering.
This article warms up and becomes quite a good read: The Guardian’s When I could barely look in the mirror, hot yoga untangled my darkest thoughts. The author says: ‘When I describe that time to people, I tell them that when my brain was broken I focused on my body until my mind returned to me’.