Archives for February 2013

Yoga & the spine

The emphasis of our yoga asana practice is to keep the spine healthy.  It is of vital importance to our health and well being on a structural and energetic level as well as playing a vital role in the function of the nervous system.

The 33 vertebrae support the head and allow the body to be upright and move as well as protecting the spinal cord, which delivers messages between your brain and the rest of your body.  The S-shape of the spine prevents shock to the head when walking or running

The Anatomy of the Spine

Image of spine

  • 7 cervical vertebrae support the head and neck and allow the head to nod and shake
  • 12 thoracic vertebrae attach to the ribs
  • 5 lumbar vertebrae support most of the weight of the upper body
  • 5 fused vertebrae sacrum make up the back wall of the pelvis
  • 4 fused vertebrae coccyx/ tail

Shock absorbers

Between the vertebrae are pads of tough, fibrous cartilage which cushion and absorb shock. If they become damaged/prolapsed they may put pressure on spinal cord resulting in pain


The spine is supported and stabilised by strong ligaments and muscles around the vertebrae.  The facet joints of the vertebrae give flexibility to the spine allowing backward and forward bending as well as twisting.

Yoga asana/postures use the deep supporting spinal muscles as well as the larger superficial ones to release tension and bringing about optimal alignment and a balance between strength and flexibility, encouraging full use of the diaphragm when breathing


The spine is linked to the flow of prana/life force energy; the major chakras through which it passes are situated along the spine.  The way the spine is worked affects each of the different types of prana, it can help energise or calm, support digestion/elimination.

Many students report that their back pain has gone or is greatly reduced.

I was really pleased how much better my lower back felt after our session. Jane

I have osteoporosis and suffered from pain in my neck and joints. Since joining Suzan’s yoga class I have become stronger and have a greater range of movement.  I have been able to go hill walking again.  My latest scan showed that my bone density had increased 3% in the spine and 10% in the hips.  I am delighted to have gained so much, usually the best aim is to maintain density and avoid any further reduction Ann

The morning after my first yoga class I got out of bed and for the first time in 3 years had no back pain! JL

I used to suffer regularly with lower back pain, but this is now a rare occurrence.

Suzan’s yoga has worked wonders on my back! I can thoroughly recommend it. Nicola, Aylesbury

My back has been a million times better since I started your class

I look forward to my weekly class with Suzan as she offers a relaxing and non-competitive atmosphere in which to practise yoga.  Her focus on the back, neck and shoulders has helped to free up my upper back and has made me more aware of my posture on a day to day basis. MW

I had a discectomy 6 months ago and was quite concerned about how long my rehabilitation would take. The beauty of Suzan’s yoga classes are that she was able to give slightly easier versions of the exercises in the first few weeks to make sure I didn’t place any undue stress on my recovering back. Now that I am 6 months into my yoga classes, my core strength has increased considerably and I am now able to undertake the more challenging variations of the exercises, whilst always being reminded to listen to my body and make adjustments where necessary if there is too much of a strain. I am a real convert to yoga and would recommend it to anyone. I only wish I had taken it up before I began suffering with a serious back problem! Mark.

Stress and anxiety

What is stress?

Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. In emergency situations, stress can give you extra strength to avoid accident or injury. In manageable amounts stress helps you stay focused and energetic, however, too much or chronic stress may cause problems to your health, relationships, and quality of life.

Effect of stress

affects of stress on the body

Effects of stress and anxiety on the body

Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system which triggers the “fight-or-flight” response. The Mayo clinic describes the effect of stress below

“When you encounter perceived threats — a large dog barks at you during your morning walk, for instance — your hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of your brain, sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.

Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.

Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation and fear.”

When the threat is over the parasympathetic nervous system becomes active and the body comes back to homeostasis balance (rest and digest).

Excessive/chronic stress
Just as when you have a nightmare the body reacts as if the event was happening, the body doesn’t distinguish between physical and psychological threats. When you are under permanent stress, the fight or flight response which is designed for short term emergencies is constantly in operation and the symptoms of stress become an accepted part of your life. This can cause many health problems including disrupted sleep, raised blood pressure, obesity, suppressed immune system, and increased risk of heart attack, stroke, anxiety and depression.

Causes of stress
Any thought or event that puts a lot of demands on you whether it is positive or negative may cause stress and each of us responds to these events differently. Stressors may include: –

Major life changes
Relationship issues
Financial problems
Being too busy

Reducing stress

Identify what is stressful to you
Become aware of your response
Change or avoid situation if possible
If you can’t change the situation you can change your response
Let go, when you are away from the stressful situation focus on positive, relaxing things
Practice yoga, tai chi, relaxation, breathing, meditation

For further information please contact Suzan

Ways to reduce stress


Images shared from Facebook