My first 26+2 teacher Mark Hough December 2012 @ Bikram Yoga Kona Hawaii; and my 500th session of 26+2 with teacher David King @ The Foundry Yoga, Tempe, AZ March 28, 2023. In between there were many others, and classes in vinyasa, yin, javamukti, and other yogas, but for my spine I choose 26+2 which I address below. Please read on.
I’ve told a common yoga story when writing about what happened to me. I moved to Hawaii but couldn’t enjoy paradise because I had a bad back that limited me. Out of desperation, I tried yoga in Hawaii and my back healed. I believe that yoga can fix our backs, spines, and minds. It’s as simple as that.
From the first glimmer of life, our spines constantly evolve. At first (in utero), the human spine looks no different than any other animal as it’s one simple curve resembling a comma, called the primary curve. When we make our way through birth trauma, our cervical spine begins its evolutionary adjustment and shifting of its shape which allows us to stand upright. This adjustment continues throughout our lives.
After several months and into our early years, we develop a second curve in the thoracic spine trailing down to the lumbar spine. This secondary spinal curve serves us well until our later years, especially if we begin to stoop forward (and we stop bending backward). If the older adult continues to stoop forward, the spine begins to look more and more like it was when we were infants.
The spine is made to bend and flex; it is built with both firm and soft mass which allows it to extend and compress, to rotate, support, adjust, and keep adjusting through life. Yoga’s Gospel teaches us to bend and flex the spine in concert with breath intake and exhale; to breathe while moving deliberately to maintain a supple flexibility
After 500 Bikram Yoga Sessions (today) – what I would more accurately name as the Gnosh system – I believe my spine has been in constant evolution millimeter by millimeter, especially during the last 11 years. Yes, yoga work fixed my back, but I’d like to write this as a way to commemorate 500 sessions of 26 + 2.
Recently, one of the teachers said, “Let love fall upon your spine.” This kind of word is the marvelous privilege that yogis absorb in yoga’s ministry of spirit. Mentally, letting love fall upon your spine is yoga’s Gospel and curriculum. It’s a mind, body, and spirit practice forming in you as the object of ongoing evolution.
You can help keep your spine supple and healthy by saying yes to regular practice. And who can benefit? From an Institute of Medicine survey “Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research,” 27 percent of all respondents said they suffered specifically from lower back pain. That’s 86.1 million Americans directly identifying lower back issues. Yoga works on back pain, but I’ve found it’s only part of what this ancient transformational science offers to anyone that hits the mat.
When your soulful urge leads you there, you will be fastened into a deep curriculum of transformation through breath and moving meditation. It will steer you down the road of change where you’ll enter the realm of the marvelous. There, your inner guru (your breath) will bring renewal; your spine will adjust millimeter by millimeter and you will find healing.
Below the frost line of commerce and uncritical life, I challenge you to step across the threshold into a yoga place, and there learn to fasten onto a deep core with breath and meditation steered by the way of music and time.
I challenge you to dig deep to embody asana and find in your pose a new identity refined by the fire from within but observed in the fusion of the particular and the universal.
Yoga is an ambitious integration by which your dancer, cobra, sphinx, or warrior looks similar to everyone else but it’s unique to you.
Moment by moment, yogis learn to inhabit contentment and put on garments they’ve gathered from their brush-up with the marvelous.
Breathing into the body, yoked to asana, the yogi sips from a deep lake of calm balanced by stillness. They experience short-term and long-term shape-shifting in space. The diaphragm shifts immediately with each breath while the spine shifts over years.
Yoga poses, and the yogi’s move to do them, enable perspective shifting – as the inhale and exhale – taken from opposite poles in the arc of respiration relaxes the mind and opens the gate between conscious and unconscious. This lays bare a pathway where our strategic and analytic minds are paused and the mind of ease (parasympathetic nervous system) is brought to the forefront.
Yoga will not look the same for every yogi but it will always lead to every yogi’s excavation to the ground of their being and a healing therapeutic that will set them on the path of sacred dance with a soul that is fed by science and spirituality that is uniquely individual and cosmically universal.
After the 500th with my teacher David King at The Foundry in Tempe, AZ.