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Why Does The Spine Matter In Yoga?

Your spinal health equals your health.

A sketch of unfurling fern frond, alluding to the spine, rigid at the bottom, yet pliable as it curls in a spiral at the top.

The emphasis on the spine in Yoga is due to its direct relationship with overall health. Simply put, your spinal health equals your health. As long as you have a body, you need your spine. And if your spine is in optimal health, it means you are alive and very healthy.


Have you ever marveled at the incredible design of your spine and its ability to facilitate movement? The spine is a pinnacle of evolution, as it is both strong enough to protect the spinal cord, which is part of the Central Nervous system and flexible enough to allow for a wide range of motion. Unlike a rigid bony tube, the spine is "perforated" into 33 vertebrae, with jelly-like discs between the first 24 to absorb shock and enable movement. The vertebrae are held together by surrounding tissues, such as ligaments and muscles, making the spine both sturdy and pliable.


The health of your spine is directly linked to your overall health because the spine houses part of the Central Nervous system. The spinal cord sends out nerves (spinal nerves) that exit through spaces between the vertebrae and innervate most of the skeletal muscles, as well as various internal organs such as the heart, lungs, intestines, bladder, skin, fat tissues, glands, and blood vessels.

The 31 pairs of spinal nerves transmit sensory information from the body to the spinal cord (and brain) and motor signals from the spinal cord (and brain) to the muscles and organs. The proper functioning of these nerves is essential for vital body functions like breathing, heartbeat, and digestion.

A spine with proper alignment of the three natural spinal curves and proper space between the vertebrae promotes health and vitality.

The spine possesses three primary natural curves: cervical (neck), thoracic (upper back), and lumbar (lower back). These curves play a crucial role in providing the spine with stability, flexibility, and the ability to absorb shock.

The cervical and lumbar curves are oriented inward, creating a concave shape towards the body. In contrast, the thoracic curve is outward, forming a convex shape away from the body. 

These curves must be balanced in relation to each other. Accentuating one curve can lead to affecting the rest of the curves.

A spine with proper alignment of the three natural spinal curves is crucial because it balances the structures surrounding it, such as muscles, ligaments, and other tissues, avoiding excessive tension or pulling to maintain an upright posture. It also allows for optimal recruitment of deep core postural muscles and muscles of breathing, which efficiently redistributes load throughout the body.

When these curves are in their optimal positions in relation to each other, the weight of the body and external/internal force is distributed evenly throughout the spine, reducing the amount of stress and strain placed on the spinal structures.

Imbalances in the spinal curves can lead to imbalances in other structures connected to the spine, including the pelvic and shoulder girdles.

For example, the lumbar curve is a gentle inward curvature located in the lower back region of the spine. When this curve becomes exaggerated in the opposite direction, it results in a reversed lumbar curve, commonly referred to as "reversed lordosis." In this condition, the normal inward curvature of the lumbar spine transforms into an outward curve.

As a consequence of this reversed lumbar curve, a posterior pelvic tilt can occur. This involves the upper part of the pelvis rotating backward and downward. Consequently, the buttocks may shift downward and slightly backward. Simultaneously, the muscles in the front of the abdomen, particularly the rectus abdominis muscles, may become tightened or experience increased tension. This tightening represents a natural response to the adjustments in posture and alignment, as the body seeks to stabilize itself.

To better appreciate the interconnectedness of the body, try gently tensing your lower abdominal muscles while allowing your back muscles to relax, and observe how this impacts the positioning of your chest and head.

Please note that these changes in muscle tension and posture can vary from person to person, and it's always advisable to consult a healthcare professional or physical therapist for guidance tailored to your specific needs.

Furthermore, proper alignment ensures that the intervertebral discs, which are jelly-like cushions (the intervertebral discs) between individual vertebrae, bear the correct load. This helps minimize disc damage over time, such as compression of the lumbar spine, and maintain optimal space between the vertebrae (intervertebral space).

Prolonged improper balance can result in uneven pressure on the intervertebral discs. This can wear them down or damage them, subsequently affecting the integrity and function of the spinal nerves.


For example, if the lumbar curve is reversed, it can place increased pressure on the front of the discs in the lower back, subsequently wearing them down at a faster rate. This can cause health conditions such as disc degeneration, herniation, or bulging, which can compress the spinal nerves and cause pain or other symptoms.

Maintaining the proper space between the vertebrae enables spinal nerves to exit the spine without compression, promoting proper neuronal function and undisturbed communication to the organs, muscles, and tissues of the body.


In summary, the spine is crucial to overall health, and proper alignment of the spine's natural curves is necessary for the optimal functioning of the body.

The spine is truly a miracle in Yogic tradition in more ways than one.

Yoga teaches us the importance of balance between the left and right sides of the body, often referred to as The Moon and the Sun. The spine plays a crucial role in achieving this balance, as it serves as the central axis between the two halves of the body. Furthermore, the spine connects and supports all other body parts, allowing us to stand upright, move, sit, and perform various activities.

In Yoga, maintaining the health of the spine is crucial for the flow of prana, or life force energy. The prana travels through subtle energy channels called nadis, of which there are believed to be 72,000. Three nadis are considered the most important: one running to the left of the spine, one to the right, and the primary nadi, Sushumna. Sushumna is believed to run along the spinal column from the base of the spine to the crown of the head, passing through the chakras or energy junction points along the way. In the words of Sadhguru, a well-known modern-day spiritual teacher and yogi,


"It is very important that the spine is exercised. Otherwise, it will become rigid and useless. If you do not exercise it, your ability to experience life decreases dramatically."

Source: ”Sadhguru on Hatha Yoga and Spinal Health" on the Isha Sadhguru website ( (Accessed on April 27, 2023)
The information was reviewed by a language model trained by OpenAI.
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