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  • Gordon Kanzer

Yoga and the Six Movements of the Spine

Updated: Sep 23, 2019


Photo from UIW 3D Animation and Game Design ~ YouTube

The spine is capable of movement in six directions ~ 1) flexion or forward bending, 2) extension or backward arching, 3 & 4) right and left lateral flexion or bending side to side, and 5 & 6) twisting right and left. Almost all yoga poses involve one or more of these movements. Examples include the cat and cow, which involve flexion and extension, respectively, the crescent moon pose, which involves lateral flexion and the seated spinal twist, which of course requires twisting of the spine. You can identify combinations of these movements in all yoga posture sequences you experience in a class or online. Since the asanas we practice involve these six movements, the warm-ups we perform before sustaining the asanas should involve all six. Just as we warm-up for any physical activity, we warm-up in yoga to open and lubricate joints and stretch muscles, which ultimately prevents injury. The vertebral bodies articulate through the intervertebral discs, but it is the facet joints, synovial joints along the posterior spine, that allow for the six movements of the spine. we honor the spine from a spiritual perspective. Preventing degeneration of the facet joints and strengthening of the paraspinous muscles is the way we honor the spine from an anatomic perspective.

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