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The hidden life of a spine

It’s been said that the health of the spine reveals the health of a whole system. Afterall, the spine is a superhighway to the life force that is your body. The nervous system uses the spine as a passage way sending operational instructions to all the organs that keep you alive; impulses direct movement out to the fingers, toes, arms and legs. The organs of perception such as touch, sight and smell all stem from the spine, not only allowing us to enjoy the world, but also keeping us safe from harm.

The visceral organs literally hang off the spine, so when the spine loses its range of motion, organ health is also at risk of being affected. Then, there is the health of the vertebrae that house the spine, which require a nutritious diet and good digestive health to grow strong.

In my case, a long term auto-immune disease of 45 years has had an impact on my spinal health. Due to low absorbtion of vitamin D (common in digestive diseases), I have developed a series of degenerative problems over the years. Schmorl’s nodes eventually led to spinal surgery in 2018. This February, roughly three years after my first surgery, unprovoked, extreme hip pain led to three months of excruciating, ceaseless pain. As test after test revealed no substantial hip problem, I eventually landed back in the office of my spinal surgeon. It seems that no two disc ruptures are ever the same, but this time around the pain is subtantially more than I recalled from 2018. It can be indescribable; everwhere and nowhere in particular, excepting the deep tenderness around the back of the trochanter and knee with electric nerve sensations down to my toes. As I eagerly await surgery next week, the only time during the day when I feel myself is in my yoga practice, which has changed in form dramatically over the past few months. My gratitude for this physical, mental and spiritual practice knows no boundaries.

As humans, we are fantastically adaptable when we need to be. These past few months have led to substantial changes in how I move, but have also required a shift in how I think – about pain, about health… about my spine and about the future.

Whatever happens next week, I’ve yet again arrived at a new layer in understanding. I shift yet another step away from the doing in movement practices and towards a focus on exploration and awareness of how movement happens, and the internal dialogue that stimulates curiosity and investigation.

The spine is the connective link between our past, present and future. It tells a story about where we have been and where we are going, and its relationship to gravity reveals how we feel moving through time. But the spine is more than that. It is a reminder of our uniqueness of being distintly human in our verticality, and our shared sameness with all other skeletal species, neh, with all other earthings moving through space and time.

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