Yoga for the Vertebral Column, Asana for a Healthy Vertebrae
Know a vertebra up close
A Singular vertebra
(plural – vertebrae) is a complex
structure of bone and cartilage
which functions like a single unit,
33 of which when put together makes up the vertebral column. The spinal cord runs through the center of each one of the vertebrae stringing them like necklace of white coral beads. Thus yoga for a healthy vertebrae affects the health of the spine as well.
The difference here is that in a necklace the string holding the beads together while in a vertebral column the vertebrae hold the spinal cord in position. Knowing the various aspects of the vertebra is vital to knowing the entire vertebral column and its role in keeping the body healthy. The prime purpose of the vertebral column is to impart protection to the spinal cord and provide hinging points to the bones of the ribcage and the pelvis.
It also helps by transmitting the body weight while walking or standing. Each vertebra is a complete unit within itself with respect to its functions; the main body of each vertebra is Y shaped (as seen from top) with a central hollow core (where the three prongs of the letter Y meet ) and the ends of the prongs of the letter Y as the attachment points to the vertebra lying above , and below it.
From the center of the upper two prongs of the Y arises spinous process, a bony spike like projection which remains bend downwards and indicates the back part of the spine. The lower prong of the Y forms a circular shape and is known as centrum. The central hole through which the spinal cord passes is known as the vertebral foramen.
The more famous (for its disorders) spinal disc is a fluid filled shock absorbing cartilaginous structure which rests between the two interlocking adjacent vertebrae. The two adjacent vertebrae latch on to each other at the two facet joints. Small bony structures called pedicles and lamina help join the centrum of the vertebra to the two upper facing prongs of the Y (which together look like an arch).
The vertebral column which is made up of the vertebra hold around half of the body weight with the other half being managed by the muscles. The very first vertebra – C1- is just a ring known as atlas. The vertebra of the cervical spine has openings for blood vessels, and arteries toward the brain. The ligaments which surround the facet joints can degenerate with age leading to arthritis of the spine. Intervertebral chondrosis, spondylosis, and uncovertebral orthosis are some of the degenerative diseases of the vertebrae.
Yoga poses for Healthy Vertebra
The vertebrae tend to degenerate with age due to over use. The synovial fluid in the vertebral discs is lost and the nucleus of the discs goes dry, this increases the friction between the adjoining vertebrae as the spine gets into its natural movements.
Lack of lubrication can add to wearing, tearing of the touching surfaces of the two vertebrae while the spine undergoes movements. Yoga poses for the vertebral column provide sufficient mobility to the vertebrae which stimulates the nerves, and the blood vessels surrounding them, properly massaged nerves and the blood vessels can delay the natural degeneration of the intervertebral disc.
A healthy intervertebral disc can in turn prevent loss of bone between the vertebrae due to mutual abrasion. Yoga asana for a healthy vertebrae include intense forward bending asana which stretch the spine from behind, similarly the backbends open up the spaces between the adjoining vertebrae which relieves the pressure on the blood vessels as well as the nerves emerging from or ending into the spine.
Yoga poses for stretching the spine help apply healthy pressure on to the vertebrae which induces their bones to build more bone mass for getting used to the stress being applies. This way yoga prevents osteoarthritis of the spinal vertebrae. Yoga applies this bone mass growth triggering stress by holding the body weight against gravity, by conveniently stretching the muscles, and not by overloading the pressure on the bones by using extra weights externally.
Yoga poses for spine alignment helps maintain the natural curves of the spine, the construct of different sections of the spine is such that they create the S shaped curve in a properly aligned spine. Regular yoga practice helps to maintain the curves which help keep away a multitude of issues related to the spine.
One can breathe better, sit for extended durations, and stand taller if one maintains the natural curves of the spine. One of the reasons for the loss of these curves is the loss of shape of the individual vertebrae due to degeneration of the bone mass. The spinal cord exercises also help keep the ligaments around the facet joints in good tone and strength. Proper working of these joints is crucial to maintaining the right posture (right standing posture) along with executing pain free movements throughout one’s life.