The spine is the main conduit of life force energy through the body. Clearing the energy in your spine can help your wellbeing on every level. In the Indian tradition the spine is depicted as having a central conduit of prana termed the Sushumna which when clear allows the free flow of energy from Heaven to Earth and Earth to Heaven.
There are two other major currents that criss-cross at the chakra points starting at the base of the spine and ending at each nostril. These are called Ida and Pingala. Ida starts on the left side, ends at the left nostril and is a female current, aligned to lunar energy. Pingala starts on the right side and ends at the right nostril, is male and solar in nature. Clearing these two currents helps us achieve integration and balance between our receptive and active natures and helps to keep all the chakras functioning in a healthy way.
These three energy channels are the termed nadis, a Sanskrit word meaning streams. There are many more nadis, however working on these three is important for everyone, especially for healers who wish to channel energy.
The Chinese meridian system is quite similar, with the Governing vessel running up the centre back of the body and the Conception vessel running up the centre front. The Governing vessel controls all of the masculine, or yang meridians and the Conception vessel controls all of the feminine or yin meridians. It is interesting that the shape produced by the three main energy channels up the spine is the foundation for the Staff of Hermes, otherwise known as the Caduceus, which has long been used as a symbol for the medical profession and healing. Here again is an awareness of the importance of these three currents arising from yet another ancient culture.
As back pain is a primary cause of time off work every year and can be agonising, care for the energy of the spine is important on the physical level alone. Additionally our other physical organs and systems are linked into the energy of the back, not surprising when you think of the design of the nervous system, plus we can store our issues in our spine. Chiropractic diagrams of the spine can be illuminating, I use a fantastic poster by Dr John Cross. Louise Hay in Heal Your Body A-Z: The Mental Causes for Physical Illness and the Way to Overcome Them gives her own guide to the emotional messages that are being signalled when there is a problem with the vertebrae, along with affirmations for working with these. A bad back can tell a therapist a lot about what is going on for a client!
One of the best ways to clear the energy in the spine is through using the breath. There are many different ways to use the breath and yoga teaches that aligning our movements with our breathing is more powerful than just the movements alone. One powerful exercise you can try for yourself is to stand or sit straight and consciously picture breathing energy up your spine on the in breath and down the spine again on the out breath. You may imagine that the breath up flows out of your Crown and connects you to the Divine and that the breath down flows into the ground connecting your to Mother Earth. If you feel light headed at any time sit down and focus on the contact your feet are making with the ground and go back to breathing normally. Always finish on the out breath as this leaves you feeling grounded. If you do this simple exercise for just a few minutes every morning you may be surprised by the difference in your overall vitality.
Yoga makes use of alternate nostril breathing to help clear and balance the Ida and Pingala nadis. By closing off one nostril and breathing through the other you stimulate the associated nadi, so if you need more vitality and dynamism spend a couple of minutes breathing through your right nostril. If you need more inner peace and receptivity breathe through your left nostril. You should normally allow enough time to breathe through each nostril as you risk causing an imbalance by just focussing on one side.
As a crystal therapist I place double terminated quartz points where there is an energy blockage to assist the energy flow. I also gently stroke the energy down the spine using amethyst clusters. I stay off the skin, working out in the aura, which can clear some blockages. It feels and looks a bit like you are brushing long hair. Never press upon the spine itself and be sure to use properly cleansed crystals. Smoothing over with a selenite wand to finish feels good.
Doing regular exercise that keeps the back supple, such as yoga, pilates or bellydance is helpful. Getting a good back massage can release a lot of tension and other complementary therapies may also be worth looking into, as can a good chiropractor if you feel your back needs some more physical help.
Checking your posture will help the energy flow well both when standing and sitting. Imagine a golden thread connects the crown of your head up to the heavens so that you are suspended from it. Allow the rest of your body to come into alignment and balance below. This is a very quick, but effective way to check your posture (Ive just sat up straighter thinking of it!) Take care of your back and it will take care of you!
I love Maya Fiennes' Kundalini Yoga as this is more dynamic than other forms I have followed. I try to fit in a morning workout before my day begins to keep my spine supple. It is important to listen to the wisdom of your own body with any exercise. I can do most of each class, but I know when I can't manage a posture or hold it for as long as she does. I use all three sets in the chakra collection so that I don't get bored and I can focus on a different chakra each day, but I suggest you start with the first three chakras.