Our Motorway - The Spinal Route
In the 1960s the first sections of the M1 opened the direct link between the north of England and
London. The motorways were built to relieve congestion on the traditional major
routes across the land. For a time they almost succeeded. Today the mass migration of traffic using the motorways at holiday times, with the ensuing holdups where
the motorwys end, and the bottleneck effect of coned roadworks on the roads, might make us doubt the wisdom of those early
It certainly seems to have very little to do with yoga, and yet there are correlations between our
own bodies, travel on our road networks, and indeed the whole complex patterns
of movement on our planet, and in the universe. We need to realise the many levels
on which we operate as living entities. We have the physical body with its own
systems of circulation and distribution. The blood system, and the nervous system,
mirror the network of roads, major and minor, that cover the country. More subtly
we have the system of nadis, the meridians, or energy channels which extend to every part of the body. In yoga we need to be aware of all these levels of our existence.
The Physical Level
The following exercises are designed to awaken awareness of the back and spine, and its relation
to the rest of the body.
LYING on Your Back - Through awareness of your
breathing develop awareness of all of your back.
Like reading a map before you set off on a journey, familiarise yourself with the terrain to be
LOOSENING - Gentle movements and stretches, lying
and sitting, to begin to prepare the spine for more extensive exercise.
Before you reach the motorway you need to leave your drive and travel along minor roads during which
your car engine warms and begins to operate more efficiently.
STANDING - Exploring our natural limits of movement,
and the relationship between the shoulders and hips, and the spine.
Drivers need to be
experienced before they can travel on the motorway. They learn both the technical limits of their vehicle, and how to use it to maximum effect.
PELVIC and LOW BACK - Exercises to mobilise, stretch
and strengthen muscles in this area
Access to the motorway
may well involve circumnavigating all sorts of difficulties. Getting out of town
can often be the most stressful part of the journey - until you get to the other end!
MIDDLE BACK and ABDOMEN - Realising the vital connections
in this least recognised zone.
How well do you know the area between Watford Gap and the River Trent?
UPPER BACK and SHOULDERS - Recognising our postural faults and their effects.
Near the end of the
journey, tiredness and stress are having their effect.
NECK and SKULL - The point where everything squeezes
together, often with disastrous results.
The bottleneck at the end of the motorway, before you are thrown into the maze of unfamiliar roads
at your destination.
The Subtle Energy Level
Here we focus on the subtle energy channels, the nadis: the three principle nadis - sushumna, ida
and pingala, and the service stations - the chakras or energy centres.
NADI - a channel along which prana - the life force, travels.
SUSHUMNA - the central channel linking the base of the spinal
energy centre with the crown of the head. it is regarded as the route taken by
the Kundalini energy when it rises from the base chakra to the crown chakra
IDA - the channel running to the left of sushumna,
from the base of the spine to its ending in the left nostril (some texts say the right)
It is associated with the parasympathetic nervous system, and the feminine, yin, moon and fluid qualities of our nature.
PINGALA - the channel
running to the right of sushumna. It is associated with our masculilne, yang,
sun and heating nature.
CHAKRA - these are seen
as psychoenergetic vortices, or wheels, of pranic energy at positions in and around the body.
The principle ones are associated with the spinal route of sushumna and are:
Muladhara - the root foundation wheel, or pelvic centre
Svadhisthana - the self-base wheel. or genital centre
Manipura - the wheel of the jewelled city, or naval centre
Anahata - the wheel of the unstruck sound, or heart centre
Vishuddha - the pure wheel, throat centre
Ajna - the command wheel, or eyebrow, third eye, centre
Sahasrara - thousand spoked wheel, or crown centre
The nadis and chakras are affected by all our actions and exercises, but particularly during pranayama
exercises and meditation when we begin to develop a more sensitive and intuitive awareness of our self.
In yoga there is much knowledge veiled by arcane teachings.
These may have been a deliberate ploy on the part of the siddhis - the enlightened ones - to control our human desire
to jump into situations without thought or preparation. They stress the need
for yoga to be practised only under the guidance of your guru. Ultimately you
must be your own guru. You can only learn by your own controlled experience. Develop awareness and respect for your body, for your Self.