The Youth of a Spine
Sep 01, 2019
“You are as old as your spine.” - Chinese Proverb
“You are as young and healthy as your spine is strong and supple.” - Ancient yogi saying
“If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If your spine is completely flexible at 60, you are young.” - Joseph Pilates
“Yoga is the Fountain of Youth. You’re only as young as your spine is flexible.” - Bob Harper
What if these sayings were right? What if the key to youth, vitality, and longevity were simply found in having a healthy, mobile spine? The answer would be simple also wouldn't it? Have a healthy and mobile spine to retain your youth. Yep, that would be the answer. But how would you actually acquire that answer?
If you read the quotes above, you might have found some clues. Some think, and with good reason, that Yoga or Pilates is the answer to having a healthy and mobile spine. Both disciplines do move and use the spine and encourage it to stay healthy and strong. They can work to keep a spine healthy for sure, but is there a better, more efficient way? Is there a way to restore the spine and restore the body’s youth that is maybe even a bit more “natural?” And if there is a way to do this, a secret if you will, where would it exist?
Before we get started, I’m all for yoga and pilates. I’m actually for anything you enjoy doing that makes you feel good and brings you health and strength. And, I don’t want to take anything away from the powerful effects of yoga and pilates. If anything, I want to add to them so you can enjoy them even more.
Having said that, I do follow the wisdom that a healthy spine leads to a youthful body and mind. But I also believe the secret to having such a spine or such a vitality is found inside our very own design. Our original movement template is the answer to keeping our spines young throughout life. And this answer requires no skill or technique as much as it simply requires engagement.
So, let’s look at the design and discover the intent of our movements so we can learn how to restore our youth.
Spinal health starts with breath.
When we breathe properly with our diaphragms we are stabilizing our spine. A stable spine is a safe and strong spine. Your breathing muscle, your diaphragm, is a spinal stabilizer. When properly engaged, the spinal stabilizers optimally function which allows the movers of the spine to freely move the spine without limitations caused by a guarded nervous system.
Wait, that’s still not simple enough. The spine is protected by breath. When we breathe as we should, our nervous system feels safe because the spine is protected with it’s reflexive strength. This allows us to freely move as we were designed without neurological safety restraints being placed on the body. And yes, if you missed the balance of it all, a stable spine is a mobile spine.
We should freely move as we were designed.
How is the spine designed to move? Without getting overly complicated, let’s just keep this really simple. The spine is made to flex, extend, laterally bend, and rotate. The spine has a series of vertebrae (the bones) that are connected by a plethora of mobile joints that allow for this movement. As with all things in the body, and all structures of the body, the best way to keep them healthy is to use them and move them. It is simply a game of use it or lose it. So, if you want to keep your youth, you have to move your spine in all the ways it was designed. If you don’t, you will eventually lose the ability to move it in those wonderful ways and this can hasten the aging process.
So the answer to a healthy spine and a young body is simple: Breathe and move.
The way is also simple: Breathe and move like a child, the way you did when you were younger.
Wait. To keep a young spine, you simply move like a young child? Yes. That’s the gist of it. Youth is found in youth. Go figure…
Belly breathing keeps the spine safe and allows it to freely move.
Moving your head through head nods and head turns activates your vestibular system but it also moves the vertebrae in the neck in the ways they should be moved.
Rolling on the floor literally nourishes the spine with rotation that keeps cartilage youthful and healthy.
Rocking on the hands and knees while keeping the head on the horizon sets the curves of the spine - the ones we are supposed to have, and this gives us a strong and desired posture for optimal functioning in life.
Crawling, walking, and running also gently move the spine and help to nourish it.
Not settling for thoughts of aging and deterioration also keep you young! Think youthfully.
If you want a healthy spine and youth, if you want to enjoy yoga and pilates even more than you already do (what if that were possible!?!), then each and every day spend just a little time deliberately breathing deep into your belly, move your head, roll around on the floor for a few minutes, and rock back and forth for a few minutes. Then, or sometime later in the day, go for a good old fashioned walk, run or crawl.
This will keep your spine mobile and young, you will move better and feel better, and you will also retain if not restore your youth and enjoy your life even more. When the nervous system feels safe, and the spine is healthy, all things get better and easier to do. Even other activities that seek to keep you young through movement, like yoga or Pilates, get easier to do and thus they become more enjoyable.
The point is you were made to by young regardless of your age. The secret to your youth is found in your design. Only it’s not meant to be a secret, but a gift you were meant to open every single day of your life. So, Happy New Day! Move young, think young, and stay young!