Have you ever wondered what makes your spine so flexible?
(If its any consolation, we never gave our spine a second thought - until our tai chi teacher asked us to tuck our tailbone in. )
And the answer is that the spine has lots of joints lots of places to bend, change direction and generally just move about.
The spine has 25 joints connecting the 33 individual bones - take a look at a bigger spine picture to see how its all divided up into sections.
And yes, we know the math doesnt work. The bottom 4 bones of the spine are fused together to form the terminal vertebrae called the coccyx or tailbone and the 5 bones above that are fused together to form the sacrum. And are caged within the bones of the pelvis.Each bone in the spine is called a vertebra and they are grouped together to perform specific tasks.
The vertebrae are kept separate by disks of cartilage effectively the cartilage stops the vertebrae in the spine grating on each other.
In this side on view you can see that the spine is made up of four opposing curves (exaggerated for illustration) that counterbalance each other.
What keeps the spine from going all floppy and bendy is the interconnected series of deep muscles and ligaments. And these are the ones that tai chi and qigong exercises work on.
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.. the deep postural muscles that stabilise the lumbar vertebrae the lower part of the spine. Effectively this creates a stable base for you to move without overbalancing and it explains the tai chi emphasis on movement coming from the waist or the centre of the body.
So, how do you align 33 bones and 25 joints of the spine when they are set in opposing curves? And at the same time keeping your tai chi looking smooth and flowing?
It might help if you think of the spine as a length of chain made of links. You can see how it can be moved but at rest it just all flows from top to bottom no kinks or leaning left or right
Much more poetic - and often quoted by tai chi players - is to think of the spine as a string of pearls.
CautionOur spine picture, spine information and spine exercises are for information only. Spine health is vital so always consult your health care professional if you have trouble with your spine, spine joints, spine movement and spine pain, spine spasms or anything related to the spine.