Why learn to feel and control your spine?
(and not just your spine, but your ribs, your hip bones… and oh yes, the sacrum.)
When you learn to feel and control your spine you are learning more than just the bony elements.
Feeling and controlling your spine actually involves learning to feel and control the muscles that work:
- On the joints of the spine,
- Between adjacent ribs,
- Between the ribs and hip bones,
- Between the hip bones and lower part of the spine (sacrum and lumbar vertebrae) and while we are at it,
- Between the lower ribs and lower back
(You could also consider the muscles that work between the base of your skull and the cervical vertebrae and the upper ribs.)
So learning to directly control the bony elements of your spine involves learning to control a lot of muscle.
But, the nice thing, the cool thing is, that same muscle control also allows you to feel the different elements of your spine.
So another way to put that first question is, why learn muscle control for your spine? Because that muscle control not only gives you better control of your spine, it allows you to feel it.
So why bother with that?
Lots of people seem to think that in terms of good body control, the core is where it is at. And most people tend to think of the abs (the rectus abdominis, the obliques, maybe the transverse abdominis) as "the core".
But what if your core isn't limited to the abs?
And have you ever noticed how most traditional ab workouts are done on the floor? Generally sit ups and plank.
But what if you learned to use your arms (and the rest of your spine) while standing, at least part of the time? How does training your abs on the floor help you there?
What if you thought of your spine as "the core" and learned, at the very least, to feel and control it while standing.
One implication of "core" exercises is that with a strong core, with a stable core, it's easier to use the extremities, i.e. your arms, your legs (you might even consider your head an extremity.)
If you consider your core to be your abs, and you consider core strength as the ability to contract your abs and make your mid section strong, aren't you missing a large component of the spine, namely the ribcage? And if your extremities include your arms, how does just activating the abs make it easier to use your arms? And have you ever been taught how to use your arms to support movements of your legs?
Do you know how?
Now you can continue doing sit ups, and get better at doing sit ups. (and perhaps get a nice six pack while you are at it).
Or you can spend at least some of your time learning to feel and control your spine (and the muscles that work on it).
Since this includes learning to feel and control the muscles that work between the ribs and hip bones, this includes the abs. It also includes the transverse abdominis and the respiratory diaphragm. And it includes the spinal erectors.
Did you know that your ribs and your ribcage as a whole can move? There are muscles, the intercostals that help to move the ribs relative to each other and stabilize it. And while you may have gotten a taste of these while doing your sit ups, it was probably a limited taste.
Did you know you can use these muscles (as well as the obliques) to drive a twist internally.
Spinal muscle control teaches you how to do this.
And it gives you a taste of stabilizing your si joints, where you hip bones meet your spine, as well as your thoracolumbar junction, where your ribcage meets your lumbar spine.
Note how these help to define the region of your lower back. and while spinal muscle control isn't going to completely solve your lower back pain, if you have it, it can help.
It can help by helping you to better feel your spine.
This isn't an emotional feel. It's a measurement that you can learn to make internally. And the things that allow you to take this measurement are your muscles.
Now imagine using the same things that move your body to feel it.
It's like listening to a car engine and being able to tell when it's firing on all cylinders. Noticing that it isn't you can check the spark plug on the cylinder that isn't firing.
Noticing when you lack feel for a part of for example, your lower back, you can then make adjustments, changes, so that the muscles in that region can fire, and give you sensation.
Speaking of pain, do you have problems with your hip flexors, or your knees. Core control is the idea of controlling your core. And let's imagine that since the hip bones attach to your spine, your hip bones are part of your core. And let's also imagine that the hip flexors are more than just your psoas and your iliacus.
There are hip flexors that attach to the front top corner point of your hip bones. These same hip flexors also cross the knee so that they can affect the knees.
Imagine if you learned real core control. You'd have better control of the hip bones and in turn better control of your hip flexors. So not only better hip flexor control as a result, but potentially happier knees.
If you've ever seen the series the Boys, there is a part where they talk about how tortoise shells actually evolved to allow them to dig. (And if you haven't seen the boys what are you waiting for? But failing that, there are articles on the same topic).
Our ribcage could be thought of as similiar to a tortoise shell but with more flexibility. Because we have the option of mobilizing it, changing its shape, that means we also have to pay attention when we want to stabilize it.
If you want stronger arms, what then do you do? How about stabilize your ribcage.
Note that we have a flexible ribcage for a reason. And one reason might be that it allows us to use your arms in a variety fo positions. Sort of like a camera tripod where you can loosen the head, position it then tighten it again.
With the ribcage we can vary its shape so that it supports our arms in whatever position we use them, we can then stabilize the ribcage for more effective use of our arms. Put another way, we improve core control.
Note that moving your spine, or controlling it sort of relates to posture. How so? Well, if you are sitting in front of a computer all day, the thing that is slumped is your spine.
Or maybe you think of it as your head and ribcage but they both attach to your spine, in fact they are levers for operating on your spine.
So controlling your spine doesn't sort of relate to posture, it definitely does. And if your consider your shoulder blades as a postural element, well, they and your collarbones sit on top of your ribcage so controlling your spine can also have an effect on your shoulder blades.
Part of your shoulder blade winging problem might be resolved by simply learning to make your ribcage more upright. (there is more, but it's a good place to start).
As for tension, do you get that. are you always in fight or flight mode. Are you always stressed? What's the solution? breathe, or exercise (which involves breathing.)
Where are the muscles that you breathe with? They all attach to or work on some elements of the spine. So improved spinal control isn't just about better control of your extremities, it can also lead to better breath control. And what is breathing. It is moving air in and out of your lungs. The things that you generally tend to focus on when doing breathing exercises are muscles.
Respiratory muscles provide or generate the sensations that occur when breathing. So, learn to feel the muscles of your spine and you are also learning to feel and control the muscles that you breathe with.
And if you've ever had trouble learning to do focused breathing exercises, now you'll have some basic tools (and basic understanding) to make breathing exercises easier.
Because that's a thing about core stability. You'll learn how to stabilize effectively. You'll learn how to anchor your muscles. And you can use those same principles to make conscious breathing a little bit easier to learn.
And you'll learn the basics of feeling your spine and controlling it.
Note that if you've even taken driving lessons, or learned to ride a motorbike, you probably did it in a car park, somewhere isolated from other traffic. In addition, you learned the details of operating the vehicle little bits at a time. You didn't just get in the car or on the bike and ride. You probably learned how to use the brakes first. And then you learned to steer. And maybe you spent more than a few hours learning the basics of clutch control. I think the first few days of learning to ride a motorbike we didn't even move out of first gear.
The point is, you spent a lot of time working on the basics. But at the end of it all, the idea was that you would be able to drive or ride without the need for your instructor to sit beside you. (Maybe you had to have licensed accompaniment for a little while). The point was, the goal of the driving course was to teach you the basics of driving so that you could drive safely without supervision, without the need of having your teacher there beside you.
And that's part of the aim of this course. It isn't to make you reliant on a series of videos. Instead, it's to teach you the basics of feeling and controlling your spine so that you can do it at any time. And note that because the focus is on your spine, that is what these videos focus on. And as such it's not the complete guide to learning to feel and control your entire body. But it is an important part.
And having learned to feel and control your spine, it is something that you can practice in various activities or yoga poses so that you become really good at it.
Taking driving lessons doesn't make you a good driver. You become a better driver from driving. And with feeling and controlling your spine, you get better at feeling and controlling it, and understanding it, by practicing using it. This course gives you the basic tools for feeling and controlling your spine so that you can then get on with experiencing it.