I have been seeing clients with back pain for a while now and this firmed up my belief that we don’t understand our structure well and therefore, are not convinced about following certain principals of our body.
In fact this is one common problem the world has today. Be it any country, age, caste, creed, sports…back problem persists, which further proves, that we haven’t really manage to find a proper solution to this pain. How about looking at it from a different angle/perspective?
And what better masterpiece to pick than the spine!
Have you ever looked at training the spine? Sounds weird…but, how about looking at your spine, once a while, leaving the muscles to work around the spine and not the other way out!? Let’s see if it is any different to training our back muscles and check if it is more simpler to remember
The role of spine broadly covers protecting the spinal cord and being responsible for flexibility, structural support and balance of your upper body. Of course, not to forget the nervous system uses spine to transmit signals turning into feeling of sensation; and our spine is home to all nerves etc
When we sit, train, play, drive or make any movement repeatedly; we are instructing our spine to follow the movements. Also since you are more or less repeating the same movement every day; the spine sets itself to move accordingly. Brilliant!
But there is a caveat: the spine setting itself to move in a certain manner would mean that our muscles have to adjust their functioning to suit the movement. This may cause imbalance in the back – overworked and under worked muscles.
We then take to exercising and start working on the muscles. But how about reaching to the root cause of the problem which is spine; because muscles are only assisting spine in any movement? Is it any different than training the muscles? Yes….read on.
Resting our body is not a choice. It is an essential if we wish to stay strong.
What is a physical rest for the body?
When all the muscles are rested – not working.
Can sleeping/sitting be considered enough rest for back?
In my opinion, the answer is no, because proper rest for spine means firstly, it should be rested in its full length following the spine curvature (like savasana) and secondly, it needs to be elongated too because somewhere we have kept it compressed in all our actions including sitting.
Q1: How is our spine oriented?
This further means that it needs to stay in its curve to be at its best. Right?
Q2: How we treat/use it?
Definitely not as per the curves and in case of lower back; we, in fact, change the orientation many a times to its opposite – curving it the other way around. Right?
Q3: What state do we keep our spine in?
Compressed…visualise yourself right now whether sitting or standing or lying and you can easily see your spine compressed. Right?
Logical solution to rest our spine?
- We need to find ways to shape our spine as per its orientation and make it rest in its curve
- And find ways to restore its original length which is shortened due to compression
Now let’s learn how to attend to the above two logical conclusions:
- Restoring the shape of our spine: the pictures show a couple of ways to work towards restoring the shape of the spine
- The logical rest for compression is extension/elongation.
Extension/elongation: pulling the spine to its full length and beyond using its flexibility/spring like quality to lengthen. And what happens to a spring if you don’t use its springiness is obvious. Less springiness in the spine means more pressure on lower back discs and you know the story…
Just to reiterate that most of the postures in today’s post are more to show you body orientation and how it changes rather than asking you to perform these. If you like to see effective and yet simple postures then please go through my below mentioned articles on ‘back’.
How does elongation of spine help to relax muscles?
When the spine is lengthened, what it does besides stretching itself is that it creates space in your body so that your muscles could rest luxuriously.
The picture is also showing a good view of a strong lower back. Our lower back is most strengthened when it follows its curve. Therefore, one must work towards restoring the lower back arch which is often compromised owing to its usage.
Now let’s look at it from front:
Again, not arguing the case of shape and instead, the picture gives you a good perspective into the core/all associated muscles. You can see all the muscles and their orientation in the picture on your right; and how they are placed. The muscles have little bulk and they are shaped up to form a lean structure. All these pictures are taken in a day’s gap to make it an effective learning.
The picture on the left displays same set of muscles from the above picture but perhaps
little more relaxed!? To me, this was a lovely insight especially the view that it brings when there is less fat in the body. It seems the muscles have gone back into their origin cell.
But where did the muscle mass disappear?
The muscles are relaxing, enjoying space and yet, not under any kind of stress/stretch.
Therefore, can we summarise that it is not just the spine which is getting rested with elongation; but all the muscles get rested, which together with the spine, constitutes a healthy back. I know it sounds so obvious but look around; or instead look into your training schedule and check if you get involved in relaxation to the extent it may be required by your body?
The next question to ask you is whether this is important? Do you buy into this logic?
Of course, you don’t need to hang yourself upside down and instead, just follow the idea of relaxation. Try poses shown in my above mentioned articles and listen to the message that your body gives via aches or niggles. Take it forward with an expert if you wish to dive deeper…
To conclude, here is my mantra: if we understand the basic structural alignment of our back/spine, it is easier to train it. And of course, the broader message continued from my previous posts, is about relaxation. Learn to relax your body…
I would like to rest my case by saying – relaxation is way to artistic then it is taken to be and yet, it can be immensely simple if you first, accept it is required; and second, you understand your structural alignment. Relaxation strengthens and prevent us from injuries.
Below mentioned please find the links to my two articles which will give you more insights into your understanding of your back muscles and how you can restore your health by following some basic principals via simple postures shown in the articles: