Spinal Segmentation refers to identifying each area of the spine individually - cervical, thoracic, and lumbar. The cervical spine consists of the first 7 vertebra, basically your neck. The mid to upper spine is considered the thoracic region, consisting of the next 12 vertebra. Finally, we have the lumbar spine, that low back area consisting of the last 5 vertebra of the spine.
Keeping the spine healthy is super important, and especially important as we age. Staying in certain positions for long periods of time (sitting at a desk, standing at a cash register, laying on a couch, etc) starts to slowly change the body. The body was created to move in all sorts of different ways! In fact, the spine can move in 6 different ways and it's important we practice safe usage of each of these movements. A couple of ways we can do this are with:
Cat/Cow is a fairly regular warm-up. However, have you ever tried identifying each area of the spine in cat/cow? Starting on hands and knees (Table Top position), just move the lumbar spine, keep your entire body super still except for your low back. Just move the hips and lumbar spine up high to the sky and down to the earth. Then move up to the thoracic spine, keeping the head and low back still, just moving the chest and upper back. Finally, make your way up to the neck and cervical spine. Play around with flexion, contraction, and lateral movements in each area of the spine.
Locust Play Traditional Locust starts laying on the belly, then we lift the head, shoulders, hands, arms, and legs. This is more for cervical and thoracic flexion. I challenge you to start on the belly and just lift the upper back, don't use your shoulders and add in those bigger muscle groups just yet. Make sure the legs are strong and active, lifting the kneecaps and pressing all ten toes into the earth - pinky toe to big toe. Pressing the pelvis into the earth as we keep the legs strong will help keep the low back safe. Next, add the shoulders. Try grabbing opposite elbows, relaxing the forehead on the forearms and lifting from there. You can then start to play around with the arms, reaching them forward, around, and back. Notice the little nuances of your body, see if you can identify which muscles are working when you try different exercises. To get into the lumbar spine, we can relax the upper body and start by lifting the legs one at a time. Then, you can start to play with both arms and legs, but only if you feel your core is strong enough to keep you safe and your low back feels no pain. Remember, there should never be any pain in yoga, only sensation, and only you know the difference.
Traditional bridge is wonderful! In fact, I add it to almost all of my routines. However, it can get a bit boring. Locust play gave us some ways to play with flexion, but bridge play gives us some ways to play with contraction and lateral flexion. Laying on the back, bend the knees and bring them as close as you can to the tush while keeping them hips width apart. Keeping the arms close to the body, lift the hips. This is traditional bridge. For some play time instead of having the feet flat on the floor, bring the bottoms of the feet together and press the pinky toe side of the foot into the earth, lifting the hips. Now, imagine there's a bowl of water sitting on your hip bones, spill the water to the left and right, without moving the rest of your body. Try not to rock the knees. It's harder than it seems!
If you'd like to explore your spine in a safe environment with a certified instructor, schedule your free consultation with me today to see if we'd be a good fit to work together!