Your Spine, Your Yoga: Developing stability and mobility for your spine

Your Spine, Your Yoga: Developing stability and mobility for your spine


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Your Spine, Your Yoga is arguably the first book that looks at the spine from both the Western anatomical/biomechanical point of view and the modern yoga perspective. It is filled with detail, discussion, illustrations, and practical advice for spines of all types. This emphasis on variety is welcome and necessary: no two spines are exactly alike, and no two people have the same biology and biography. What your spine is able to do may be vastly different from what other yoga students’ or teachers’ spines can do.

The human spine is unique in its structure and function. Primarily, it provides stability through the core of our body, allowing forces to be transmitted from the upper body (arms and shoulders) to the lower body (pelvis and legs) and vice versa. Secondarily, the spine allows tremendous range of movement. Unfortunately, in modern yoga practice we find the primacy of these two functions reversed, with flexibility prized over stability.
This focus on spinal mobility comes at a grave cost to many students. Stability is lost, and when that happens, dysfunction and pain often follow.

Just as all tissues and areas of the body need a healthy amount of stress to regain and maintain optimal health, so too our spine needs the appropriate levels of stress to remain functional throughout our lives. How we choose to exercise the spine makes a difference, though. Knowing the way the spine is built, specifically, how your spine is built, will allow you to tailor your exercises wisely to match your goals.

Your Spine, Your Yoga is the second book in the Your Body, Your Yoga series and focuses on the axial body―the core, from the sacral complex,
which includes the pelvis, sacrum, and sacroiliac joint, through the lumbar and thoracic segments of the spine, to the cervical complex, which includes the neck and head. The structural components of each segment are examined: from the bones, to the joints, ligaments, fascia, tendons, muscles, and even the neurological and blood systems. The range and implications of human variations are presented,
as well as the ways these variations may affect individual yoga practices. The sources of restrictions to movement are investigated through answering the question “What Stops Me?” The answers presented run through a spectrum, beginning with various types of tensile resistance to three kinds of compressive resistance.

Whether the reader is a novice to yoga, anatomy, or both, or a seasoned practitioner with an in-depth knowledge in these fields, this book will be valuable. For the novice, there are easily understood illustrations and photographs, as well as sidebars highlighting the most important topics.
For the anatomy geek, other sidebars focus on the complexity of the topic, with hundreds of references provided for further investigation. For the yoga teacher, sidebars suggest how to bring this knowledge into the classroom. Your Spine, Your Yoga can be used as a resource when specific questions arise,
as a textbook to be studied in detail, or as a fascinating coffee-table book to be browsed at leisure for topics of current interest.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780968766552
Publisher: Wild Strawberry Productions
Publication date: 11/01/2018
Sales rank: 518,388
Product dimensions: 8.40(w) x 10.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Bernie Clark author of the best selling The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga, has had a passion for science, health, sports and spirituality since childhood. He has a degree in science from the University of Waterloo and spent over 25 years as a senior executive in the high-tech/space industry. Bernie has been investigating the path of meditation for over three decades and began teaching yoga and meditation in 1998. He conducts yoga teacher trainings several times a year and aims to build bridges between the experiences of yoga and the understandings of modern science. He is creator of the website. Other books written by Bernie include Your Body, Your Yoga; From the Gita to the Grail: Exploring Yoga Stories & Western Myths, as well as YinSights. Bernie lives, teaches and offers workshops in Vancouver, Canada.

Dr. Stuart McGill is Professor Emeritus after 32 years at the University of Waterloo where he had a laboratory/clinic that explored low back pain, rehabilitation and performance enhancement. He has been the author of over 240 medical and scientific journal papers. This work has received several international awards including the “Volvo Bioengineering Award for Low Back Pain Research”. As a consultant, he has provided expertise on low back injury to various government agencies, many corporations and legal firms and professional/international athletes and teams world wide. He is regularly referred special and challenging patient cases from the international medical community for opinion. He has authored four books: "Gift of Injury" with Brian Carroll; "Back Mechanic" targeting the lay public with back pain; “Low Back Disorders: Evidence Based Prevention and Rehabilitation” designed for clinicians assessing and treating patients; and “Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance” targeting coaches and trainers.

Timothy McCall, MD is a board-certified physician specializing in internal medicine, and the author of two books, Examining Your Doctor: A Patient's Guide to Avoiding Harmful Medical Care (Citadel Press) and Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing (Bantam). He is co-editor of the first medical textbook on yoga therapy, The Principles and Practice of Yoga in Health Care (Handspring Publishing, 2016). He practiced medicine for more than 10 years in the Boston area before devoting himself full-time to investigating and teaching yoga therapy. Certified as a yoga therapist by the International Association of Yoga Therapists, he is the Founder/Director of Yoga As Medicine Seminars and Teacher Trainings and, until 2016, co-directed a yoga therapy center just outside of New York City.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents for Your Spine, Your Yoga


How to read this book



Summary of key concepts


Chapter 1: The axial body

Overview of the axial body
  • Axial landmarks
  • Spinal segments
  • Variations of the spine
  • Curves of the spine
  • Posture perfect?
  • Bones of the axis
  • Ligaments and fascia
  • Movements of the spine
  • The kinds of stress in the spine
  • Spinal nerves and neurodynamics

  • Overview summary

    Chapter 2: The sacral complex

  • The architecture of the sacral complex
  • Bones and cartilage
  • Joints and ligaments
  • Muscles of the sacral complex
  • Fascial trains of the sacral complex

  • Function: Application in yoga postures
  • Normal ranges of motion within the sacral complex
  • Stressing and supporting the sacroiliac joint in yoga postures
  • Normal ranges of motion of the whole sacral complex

  • Sacral complex summary

    Chapter 3: The lumbar segment

  • The architecture of the lumbar segment
  • The bones of the lumbar segment
  • Axial fascia and muscles
  • Lumbar and thoracic muscles

  • Function: application in yoga postures
  • Normal ranges of motion
  • Sources of tension
  • Sources of compression
  • Variation in ranges of motion for flexion and extension
  • Yoga and the lumbar spine

  • The lumbar spine summary

    The thoracic spinal segment

  • The architecture of the thoracic spine
  • The bones of the thorax
  • Joints and ligaments
  • Thoracic fascia
  • Thoracic muscles

  • Function: application in yoga postures
  • Normal ranges of motion
  • Sources of tension
  • Sources of compression
  • Variation in ranges of motion for twists and side bends
  • Biomechanics of the breath and its variations

  • Thoracic spine summary

    The Cervical Complex

  • The Architecture of the cervical spine
  • The bones of the cervical complex
  • Joints and ligaments
  • Muscles of the cervical complex
  • Fascia of the cervical complex

  • Function: application in yoga postures
  • Normal ranges of motion
  • Movements and their restrictions: tensions and compressions
  • Variation in ranges of motion

Cervical spine summary

Volume 3: Summary

Major Sidebars

It’s important

The flaw of averages

The myth of the static ideal

Where is the neutral spine?

The myth of the static ideal

What does "stable" mean?

Early morning yoga and yoga after sitting

Stress, stretch, flexibility, mobility and hypermobility

Defining some terms

Yoga poses, sitting postures and sleeping position can overstretch nerves

Yoga and the sacral complex

In standing yoga postures, should we tuck the tailbone?

Defining the core muscles

Stiffness and stability

Our orientation to gravity affects the amount of stress on the spine

Different yoga postures stress the vertebral discs in different ways

Avoid twisting the spine when it is flexed or extended and under load

For deeper backbends, relax the extensor muscles!

Bracing and Spacing

Building endurance

Of bent knees and straight spines

Maintaining our vital capacity as we age

Slowing the breath is better than deepening the breath

Galileo, scaling laws and Headstand

The vertebral arteries

As you get older, be careful of weight bearing neck movements!

Returning the head to neutral

Shoulder stand—a high risk, low reward posture

Headstand—a high risk, low reward posture

It’s complicated


Approximation and Distraction

Shear is stressful

Naming the nerves and their routes

The sciatic nerve

Force closure and form closure

Details of the sacrum

The perineum

The ways the sacrum moves

Does the sacrum nutate or counternutate in backbends?

Is it possible to therapeutically adjust the sacrum?

Changing the alignment of your hips before twisting

Snaps, cracks and pops—noisy sacrum

Lumbar lordosis in sports

Variations between the lumbar vertebrae

The spines of contortionists

Deep fascia and aponeuroses

The strength and stiffness of the spinal ligaments

A functional view of the erector spinae

The strength of the back muscles

How can our spines lift heavy loads?

How much stress can our spines tolerate?

Variations of the thoracic vertebrae

The diaphragm pulls and pushes on the heart

Membranes and ligaments between the skull and neck

Coupled movements

The neck does not move as one unit

Whiplash and sports trauma

Note to teachers

Learning to sense the spine

To hinge or not to hinge?

A philosophy for counterposes

Moola bandha and Kegel exercises

Can you feel relative movements of the ilia or of the sacrum?

Stress, twists and the sacroiliac joint

Don’t be fooled by the apparent curve in the lower back!

We cannot isolate and activate individual muscles

Watch your students!

Keep watching your students!

A flat back does not create a neutral spine

Strengthening the bones of the spine

Combatting hyperkyphosis

Sometimes it is okay to do only one side of a pose!

Variation in breast size will affect some women’s yoga practice

Movement can enhance breath, breath can enhance movement—sometimes!

Jalandhara bandha

Web appendices

Measuring the curves of the spine

Body size and spinal curves

Orientation of the facets

Creep and counterposes

Thickness of the discs and vertebral bodies

Hypermobility and Yin Yoga

Spinal biotensegrity

Variations in the shapes and sizes the auricular area of the sacroiliac joint

Pelvic parameters and variations

Accessory joints of the sacral complex

Myofascial meridians

Sacral, low back and neck pain and problems

Moment arms, torque and force

Wedging of the vertebrae and discs

Alignment of the spinous processes

Prying open the anterior discs in deep backbends

The thoracolumbar fascial train

More on the strength of the spinal ligaments

Folding forward with arms overhead increases stress in the spine

Axial rotation and lateral flexion can create flexion and extension

How yoga affects our blood chemistry

Other anterior neck muscles

Muscles of the face and jaw

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