Yoga, Sama and the Spine

Spine in sama is when the spine is in line and taking its natural curve. The spine needs to be practice towards the state of sama as the “conditioned” spine is not yet there.
So what is sama and what are the natural curves of the spine?
The meaning of sama is not grasped by one word in English but takes many words to point towards the same meaning. Such as similar, balance, evenness, union, equanimity, wholeness, one, etc. In my opinion, the word sama and yoga point towards the same direction.
There are three natural curves in a healthy spine –
1. the neck (cervical spine) curves gently inward – lordosis.
2. the mid back (thoracic spine) curves slightly outwards – kyphosis
3. the lower back (lumbar spine) also curves inward – lordosis.
These natural curves of the spine are caused by the muscles, ligaments and tendons that are connected to the vertebrate of the spine. These structures support the spine and without the, the spine would collapse. Learning how to maintain a neutral spinal alignment helps to stabilize the spine during daily activities, i.e. sitting, walking, standing and doing yoga asanas.
Due to different reasons, not many people has a healthy spine that has front-to-back curves. To avoid misalignment in our spine when standing for instance, we need ‘align’, followed by ‘stabilise’ and then ‘lift’ the following 3 platforms.
1. Foot and ankle:
– broaden the metatarsals
– press all four sides of the feet down into the ground evenly
– outer ankle to be drawn in and up, while inner ankle lifts up and out
– lift up through the legs to protect the knee and never lock the knee.
2. Pelvic girdle
– press back the femurs
– lift up the frontal hip bones
– broadens the sacrum and keep the side pelvis forward
After getting the alignment in placed, elongate through the torso and side ribs. Stabilise by drawing the side hips and thighs to draw in to the midline. Avoid hypo-extension (rounding lumbar spine) and hyper-extending (over arching the lower back).
3. Shoulder Girdle:
– lift the top of the sternum and broaden across the collar bones
– depress the shoulder blades and move the scapula down the back
– move the upper arm bones slightly back in line with the coronal plane
-draw the trapezius muscles down the back
After getting into the alignment, soften and drop the bottom front ribs and elongate through the thoracic spine and neck. This will help to protect the cervical spine. In cases of hunch in the back, strengthen the upper back postural muscles and pull the shoulders outwards and move the scapula down the back. At the same time, check for wrinkles on joints of humerus to avoid excess shoulders pull.
A crooked or compressed spine will result in poor alignment in the asana and it is highly unlikely that the yogi can find sama in any of the asanas.
Claudine Yong
200 hr – July – Aug

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