The idea of these masterclass articles is to bring greater depth to the practice of the yoga student, and the teaching skills of the yoga teacher. Understanding the nuances of yoga practice, and adapting your practice or teaching is an important part of the yogic evolutionary process.
Focusing on spinal energy during your yoga practice might possibly be the most important aspect that you learn to integrate. The overall goal of a yoga practice, according to Patanjali, is moksha or liberation. What this is referring to is awakening of the highest self. Most people practicing yoga today are focused on the physical exercise, posture based classes. No matter what your intention is during yoga, the results will eventually lead to greater insight into your physical and mental capabilities. Focusing on your spinal energy will help to quicken that process.
The central nervous system is responsible for sending and receiving the impulses and signals of the body. By focusing on the spine during your practice, you are helping to create an internal awareness of the spinal column. This awareness will stick with you throughout your daily routine, and will help you to maintain balanced posture. If your spine is consciously held in a more optimal position, then your spinal nerves have the opportunity to work unhindered. A balanced nervous system creates a more communicative body, and helps to reduce the overall stress one endures.
There are several major channels of energy in the body. The most important or relevant channel is known in Ayurveda and yoga as the sushumna. It runs (subtly) from the tailbone, up the spine, and passes through the head, ending at the crown. All of the chakras of the energy body align somewhere along the sushumna. Yoga believes that we each possess a latent spiritual energy at the base of our spine. It is commonly referred to as the Kundalini energy. When this energy source is fed with prana, or life force, it initiates an awakening process. Once enough energy is collected, it will begin to defy gravity, and it will rise up through the sushumna until reaching the crown of the head. This is the process known as enlightenment or buddhi.
Yoga teachers can easily begin to add spinal focus into their own style of teaching. Have your students visualise light or white smoke or even water moving through their spine. Work on lengthening the spine as they move into and out of an asana. Axial extension, or the upward lengthening of the spine, is extremely important in each asana. Keep your students moving in relation to their spines throughout the entire class.
Students often benefit from having a drishti, or focal point. Let your spine become your focal point for all future yoga practice. Move from your axis. If you want to do a backbend, then see how long you can lengthen your spine first, and you will be amazed at how flexible and strong your backbends become. All your asanas can be performed with a grounding sensation in your tailbone, and a rising sensation up your spine.
Cultivating awareness in your practice will be the catalyst of change. Your yoga and your teaching will evolve into realms that you were not sure existed. Focusing on your spinal energy will create a healthy central nervous system, and will create overall health and wellness in your entire life.
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