We all want a healthy back and the yoga pose Chakravakasana brings the awareness most of us need to really understand the movement of our spine. And that understanding? That brings a happy back and a healthier spine!
So, take a moment to consider your spine, running from your tail all the way up to your head. Consider the size of the vertebrae, the curves in your spine. Move the spine a little and notice if there are areas more flexible than others, perhaps this changes when you try a different movement. So much of yoga is about exploration – physical mental, emotional, spiritual. The spine ties into all of that in so many ways. But today, we will use the pose Chakravakasana (Ruddy Goose Pose) to explore the physical movement of the spine, refine and isolate the sections of the spine and bring mental focus to our movement.
An Anatomy Lesson (so we know what we are focussing on when we do Chakravakasana):
As you can see from the picture on the right, there are 4 sections to our spine:
- Cervical Spine – The 7 vertebrae of the neck. Runs from the base of the skull to the top of the shoulders, curving toward the front of the body.
- Thoracic Spine – The 12 vertebrae of the upper/mid-back. Runs from the shoulders to the top of the low back, curving away from the front of the body.
- Lumbar Spine – The 5 vertebrae of the low back. Runs the length of the low back to the top of the pelvis, curving toward the front of the body.
- Sacrum/Coccyx – The fused vertebrae of the base of the spine that form a triangle of bone at the base of the spine from the top of the pelvis to the tail, curving away from the front of the spine.
These curves in the spine help keep the structural integrity of our spine. Through these curves, our spine is engineered, like a bridge, for both movement and support. However, as life happens we often end up with more curvature than we were meant to have. For our purposes, we will be looking at the thoracic and lumbar spine in Chakravakasana and lessening excessive curvature in each. Excessive curvature in the upper back is called kyphosis (also known as “hunchback”). And, excessive curvature in the low back is called lordosis (also known as “swayback”).
Working with your Spine in Chakravakasana:
The basic instructions for Chakravakasana are:
- As you exhale, round the low back and sink your hips back as your forearms come to the floor.
- As you inhale, come back to all fours, broadening your chest forward and up.
Pretty simple, but as with all simple poses, there is so much going on and so many ways to shift focus for different results. Below are some refinements that will help you to better understand your spine and how emphasize where you need the attention most.
Chakravakasana Refinement #1
The exhale portion of this posture is meant to be a low back stretch. Even when you inhale back to all fours, try not to drop the low back. Instead, keep reaching your tail back, lengthening your low back. When you do exhale back, use your abs to begin the pelvic tilt before sinking your hips back. Otherwise, you may miss that low back stretch entirely.
Chakravakasana Refinement #2:
As you move back and forth in this pose, be aware of the movement of your Sacrum and Pelvis. Focus on moving them together as one unit. Feel how connected their are and how their movement affects your low back and core engagement. Focussing on moving these two parts as one unit reduces strain on the not-so-mobile SI Joint and helps to build strength around it. When the SI Joint is stable, it is healthy and your low back feels so much better! When it is hyper-mobile (on one or both sides), that low back is not so happy. 🙁
Chakravakasana Refinement #3
Still moving the Sacrum and the Pelvis as one unit, just let the rest of the spine come along for the ride on exhale. Instigate the action with your abs. Feel how the movement from the lowest part of the spine travels up to the highest part. A smooth, fluid, flow. Wow – the power of that lower spine movement!
Chakravakasana Refinement #4
Focus on your upper back and your thoracic spine as you inhale. Bring the hips directly over the knees and stop there. The chest, however, keeps moving forward and up, broadening all the while. The movement is as if you were going to backbend the thoracic spine. This, of course, isn’t really possible, but the action is what is important here.
Chakravakasana Refinement #5
Everytime you exhale your hips back, keep reaching your chest forward and up as long as possible. Notice the stretch this creates deep in the torso.
Bringing it all together:
That’s alot of detail you just explored. So, what does it all do? The upshot is that you learn to use your abs to create the movement in the Sacrum/Pelvis as you begin your exhale. Then, the two bony structures move as one unit to create stability and instigate the movement of the lumbar spine into flexion. As the chest continues to reach forward, you begin to make more space in your torso, giving your spine room to stretch out, as the hips begin to shift back. As you inhale back up, you maintain this space by continuing to reach the tail back, lengthening the low back, as the thoracic spine moves toward a backbend. All of this brings more fluid movement into the spine, more space for the spine and begins to reduce excessive curvature in the spine.
In other words, you gain knowledge and awareness about your spine which enables you to help keep it healthy!
Want to learn more about how to utilize the abs? Check out this post and video!
Looking for a flow to use your newfound Chakravakasana knowledge in? Try this one!