Your Spine, Your Yoga

Your Spine, Your Yoga : Developing Stability and Mobility for Your Spine

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Your Spine, Your Yoga is arguably the first book that looks at the spine from
both the Western anatomical/biomechanical point
of view and the modern yoga perspective. It is filled with detail, discussion, illustrations, and practical
advice for spines of all types. This emphasis on variety is welcome and necessary: no two spines are exactly
alike, and no two people have the same biology and biography. What your spine is able to do may be vastly
different from what other yoga students' or teachers' spines can do.

The human spine is unique in its
structure and function. Primarily, it provides stability through the core of our body, allowing forces
to be transmitted from the upper body (arms and shoulders) to the lower body (pelvis and legs) and
vice versa. Secondarily, the spine allows tremendous range of movement. Unfortunately, in modern yoga
practice we find the primacy of these two functions reversed, with flexibility prized over stability.
This focus on spinal mobility comes at a grave cost to many students. Stability is lost, and when that
happens, dysfunction and pain often follow.

Just as all tissues and areas of the body need a healthy
amount of stress to regain and maintain optimal health, so too our spine needs the appropriate levels
of stress to remain functional throughout our lives. How we choose to exercise the spine makes a
difference, though. Knowing the way the spine is built, specifically, how your spine is built, will
allow you to tailor your exercises wisely to match your goals.

Your Spine, Your Yoga is the second
book in the Your Body, Your Yoga series and focuses on the axial body the core, from the sacral complex,
which includes the pelvis, sacrum, and sacroiliac joint, through the lumbar and thoracic segments of
the spine, to the cervical complex, which includes the neck and head. The structural components of
each segment are examined: from the bones, to the joints, ligaments, fascia, tendons, muscles, and
even the neurological and blood systems. The range and implications of human variations are presented,
as well as the ways these variations may affect individual yoga practices. The sources of restrictions
to movement are investigated through answering the question "What Stops Me?" The answers presented
run through a spectrum, beginning with various types of tensile resistance to three kinds of compressive

Whether the reader is a novice to yoga, anatomy, or both, or a seasoned practitioner with
an in-depth knowledge in these fields, this book will be valuable. For the novice, there are easily
understood illustrations and photographs, as well as sidebars highlighting the most important topics.
For the anatomy geek, other sidebars focus on the complexity of the topic, with hundreds of references
provided for further investigation. For the yoga teacher, sidebars suggest how to bring this knowledge
into the classroom. Your Spine, Your Yoga can be used as a resource when specific questions arise,
as a textbook to be studied in detail, or as a fascinating coffee-table book to be browsed at leisure
for topics of current interest.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 325 pages
  • 216 x 280 x 18mm | 975g
  • BC, Canada
  • English
  • Illustrations, unspecified
  • 0968766552
  • 9780968766552
  • 26,525

Back cover copy

Your Spine, Your Yoga is a masterpiece that bridges the gaps between scientific principles of movement, body function and yoga practice. This book unlocks the cages in which the Western view of yoga has unwittingly managed to confine itself. Not too many people or yoga books I know are able to capture the messages Bernie Clark delivers informatively, creatively and resourcefully. His brilliance and yoga experience create the conduit for delivery. Bernie boldly challenges the myths around movement terms (posture, stretching, flexibility, stress, strain, stability) with scientific clarity and reasoning. The craft of this book exposes how the architectural design of the body enables it to be fluid and rhythmic with yoga practice. This book is a truly innovative contribution integrating scientific principles, the body's functional characteristics and yoga practice. I really admire the organization and presentation of the material, particularly the special sections (e.g., "It's Important," "Notes to Teachers," "It's Complicated") highlighting the important facts. It's a challenging task Bernie has undertaken, and in my view he has accomplished his goal to deliver a game changer in the yoga field. It's a groundbreaking resource to cherish. Dr. Wilbour Kelsick, Clinical Director - MaxFit Movement Institute and Post Graduate Supervisor - College of Chiropractic Sports Sciences
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Table of contents

Table of Contents for Your Spine, Your Yoga


How to read this book



Summary of key concepts


Chapter 1: The axial body

Overview of the axial body

Axial landmarks
Spinal segments
Variations of the spine
Curves of the spine
Posture perfect?
Bones of the axis
Ligaments and fascia
Movements of the spine
The kinds of stress in the spine
Spinal nerves and neurodynamics

Overview summary

Chapter 2: The sacral complex


The architecture of the sacral complex
Bones and cartilage
Joints and ligaments
Muscles of the sacral complex
Fascial trains of the sacral complex

Function: Application in yoga postures

Normal ranges of motion within the sacral complex
Stressing and supporting the sacroiliac joint in yoga postures
Normal ranges of motion of the whole sacral complex

Sacral complex summary

Chapter 3: The lumbar segment


The architecture of the lumbar segment
The bones of the lumbar segment
Axial fascia and muscles
Lumbar and thoracic muscles

Function: application in yoga postures

Normal ranges of motion
Sources of tension
Sources of compression
Variation in ranges of motion for flexion and extension
Yoga and the lumbar spine

The lumbar spine summary

The thoracic spinal segment


The architecture of the thoracic spine
The bones of the thorax
Joints and ligaments
Thoracic fascia
Thoracic muscles

Function: application in yoga postures

Normal ranges of motion
Sources of tension
Sources of compression
Variation in ranges of motion for twists and side bends
Biomechanics of the breath and its variations

Thoracic spine summary

The Cervical Complex


The Architecture of the cervical spine
The bones of the cervical complex
Joints and ligaments
Muscles of the cervical complex
Fascia of the cervical complex

Function: application in yoga postures

Normal ranges of motion
Movements and their restrictions: tensions and compressions
Variation in ranges of motion

Cervical spine summary

Volume 3: Summary

Major Sidebars

It's important

The flaw of averages

The myth of the static ideal

Where is the neutral spine?

The myth of the static ideal

What does "stable" mean?

Early morning yoga and yoga after sitting

Stress, stretch, flexibility, mobility and hypermobility

Defining some terms

Yoga poses, sitting postures and sleeping position can overstretch nerves

Yoga and the sacral complex

In standing yoga postures, should we tuck the tailbone?

Defining the core muscles

Stiffness and stability

Our orientation to gravity affects the amount of stress on the spine

Different yoga postures stress the vertebral discs in different ways

Avoid twisting the spine when it is flexed or extended and under load

For deeper backbends, relax the extensor muscles!

Bracing and Spacing

Building endurance

Of bent knees and straight spines

Maintaining our vital capacity as we age

Slowing the breath is better than deepening the breath

Galileo, scaling laws and Headstand

The vertebral arteries

As you get older, be careful of weight bearing neck movements!

Returning the head to neutral

Shoulder stand-a high risk, low reward posture

Headstand-a high risk, low reward posture

It's complicated


Approximation and Distraction

Shear is stressful

Naming the nerves and their routes

The sciatic nerve

Force closure and form closure

Details of the sacrum

The perineum

The ways the sacrum moves

Does the sacrum nutate or counternutate in backbends?

Is it possible to therapeutically adjust the sacrum?

Changing the alignment of your hips before twisting

Snaps, cracks and pops-noisy sacrum

Lumbar lordosis in sports

Variations between the lumbar vertebrae

The spines of contortionists

Deep fascia and aponeuroses

The strength and stiffness of the spinal ligaments

A functional view of the erector spinae

The strength of the back muscles

How can our spines lift heavy loads?

How much stress can our spines tolerate?

Variations of the thoracic vertebrae

The diaphragm pulls and pushes on the heart

Membranes and ligaments between the skull and neck

Coupled movements

The neck does not move as one unit

Whiplash and sports trauma

Note to teachers

Learning to sense the spine

To hinge or not to hinge?

A philosophy for counterposes

Moola bandha and Kegel exercises

Can you feel relative movements of the ilia or of the sacrum?

Stress, twists and the sacroiliac joint

Don't be fooled by the apparent curve in the lower back!

We cannot isolate and activate individual muscles

Watch your students!

Keep watching your students!

A flat back does not create a neutral spine

Strengthening the bones of the spine

Combatting hyperkyphosis

Sometimes it is okay to do only one side of a pose!

Variation in breast size will affect some women's yoga practice

Movement can enhance breath, breath can enhance movement-sometimes!

Jalandhara bandha

Web appendices

Measuring the curves of the spine

Body size and spinal curves

Orientation of the facets

Creep and counterposes

Thickness of the discs and vertebral bodies

Hypermobility and Yin Yoga

Spinal biotensegrity

Variations in the shapes and sizes the auricular area of the sacroiliac joint

Pelvic parameters and variations

Accessory joints of the sacral complex

Myofascial meridians

Sacral, low back and neck pain and problems

Moment arms, torque and force

Wedging of the vertebrae and discs

Alignment of the spinous processes

Prying open the anterior discs in deep backbends

The thoracolumbar fascial train

More on the strength of the spinal ligaments

Folding forward with arms overhead increases stress in the spine

Axial rotation and lateral flexion can create flexion and extension

How yoga affects our blood chemistry

Other anterior neck muscles

Muscles of the face and jaw
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Review quote

Your Body, Your Yoga is not just an indispensable book-it's a long-overdue paradigm shift, and Bernie Clark continues to lead the charge with his fantastic Your Spine, Your Yoga. By doing the heavy lifting of collecting, organizing and contextualizing a vast amount of anatomical information, Bernie has made an essential, enduring contribution to our field. I regularly and enthusiastically recommend his work to my students. - Leslie Kaminoff - Co-author of Yoga Anatomy

The Rules of Alignment are wrong. Bernie's books demonstrate that error in page after page of scientific detail. We need to replace these rules with a functional approach to yoga poses, and Bernie's work shows us how to do that. The yoga community owes Bernie Clark a giant thank you for his years of work on this project. I sincerely believe his volumes have the potential to elevate our profession. - Paul Grilley - Author of Anatomy for Yoga (DVD)

In my teaching and practice of yoga therapy, I have come to believe in "the primacy of the spine." It unites body and breath, is crucial in health and disease, and fascinated ancient yogis, who viewed it as the gateway to transformation. Bernie Clark's comprehensive book on spinal anatomy, bringing together yoga and science, is smart, thoroughly researched and well written. I recommend it highly. - Timothy McCall, MD - Author of Yoga as Medicine

Each time Bernie births another a book, I wonder how he could have more to say, as his last one was so thorough, and then voila! A new gem is revealed with more in-depth areas to highlight. Your Spine, Your Yoga is another serious buffet of information that every yoga student will want to feast on, or at least reference. It is an educational manual with a systems orientation-a holistic yin/yang view of the entire body. I particularly love the "It's Important" sidebars. It is an anatomical and functional yoga manual I am so thankful to have, and I will highly recommend that others study and imbibe its insights for a safe, informed practice and teaching. - Sarah Powers, Co-founder of Insight Yoga Institute and Author of Insight Yoga

It's rare to come across a yoga book that's thorough, practical and evidence based but also a genuine delight to read.In particular, I appreciate how Your Spine, Your Yoga is written from a perspective that's solidly grounded in yoga, yet completely and refreshingly free of pseudoscience, and that it's solidly grounded in science, yet not at all overwhelming. Bernie Clark has such a gift for making complex topics understandable, relatable and most importantly actually applicable to yoga teachers and practitioners. YSYY provided me with actionable tools that I was able to apply to my practice and teaching right away, and at the same time gave me lots to mull over and contemplate for what will likely be years to come.

I also really liked the structure of the book. I found myself excitedly skipping ahead to many of the "Note to Teachers" and "It's Important" sections because they were SO very thought-provoking. Ultimately, YSYY invites teachers and students to question our preconceived notions about anatomy and alignment and reminds us that there's always more to learn. It totally squashes the dangerous and discouraging myth of universal, one-size-fits-all alignment and should absolutely be a staple in teacher training programs of all styles. - Kat Heagberg, Editor in Chief, Yoga International

This book is a treasure. I am frankly full of admiration for Clark's accomplishment, and I am grateful to have this resource open on my desk. It is an impressive addition to the Your Body, Your Yoga series, the first book of which was monumental in its own right. Clark dives deeply into the "axial body" in this volume and demonstrates a scope of mastery over his subject matter. His understanding of anatomy is rooted in basic principles that I appreciate as essential to my own work, and which he delivers with particular relevance to the yoga community.

Clark understands the context of human anatomy and the reality of continuity, while deftly taking on the variability of our human body. This book is filled with fascinating information yet does not fall into the trap of weighing you down with information for its own sake. He conveys the importance of starting with the uniqueness that is "somebody," as opposed to the average that is literally "no body." Then he applies this principle throughout to the teaching practice of yoga instructors, in this instance around issues pertaining to the stability and function of the axial body.

I have no doubt that those who spend time with this volume will find their work with students becomes safer, with injuries avoided, and more efficacious, fulfilling the intentions for which the practice of yoga is adopted. - Gil Hedley, Ph.D., Producer of The Integral Anatomy Series

Excellently researched and chock full of detailed information, this book contains everything that you could want to know about the spine and its surrounding structures. Bernie has a rare gift for making even the densest anatomical information engaging, relevant and accessible. I've been studying anatomy for years, and this book contains a multitude of insights that have changed the way I see my students and teach asana. - Rachel Scott, Educational Designer, Teacher and Writer

All our students agree: you become a better teacher by reading Bernie's books. He speaks directly to us, explaining mind-blowing science with simplicity and clarity, and offering tips and advice with wisdom and compassion. This book is incomparable. A rare gem. - Anat Geiger, Senior Yoga Teacher Trainer

A must-read for all movement practitioners and educators! YSYY showcases Bernie's meticulous research and analysis into bone morphology, explained succinctly with functional application to yoga and movement. - Jo Phee, Senior Yoga Teacher Trainer

With a knife-sharp analytical and scientific eye, combined with a light sense of humor, this wonderful and rich study contains practical explanations, many functional illustrations and different perspectives on how we can practice and teach yoga in a safe and holistic way. - Magdalena Mecweld, Creator of the Yin Yoga App and Author of Serenity Yin Yoga: Rest Yourself to a Calm Mind and Healthy Body

Bernie Clark has done it again. This is a masterpiece, bordering on the miraculous. Like your favorite professor at university, Clark will adeptly walk you through an elaborate anatomical journey that includes scientific consensus and controversy. And with each step, your knowledge will expand, be challenged and grow. YSYY deserves to be read and reread, again and again. - Josh Summers, Co-author of The Power of Mindfulness, Host of the Podcast Everyday Sublime - Shedding Light on Yin Yoga and Meditation

"Comprehensive" is the word that springs to mind while poring over YSYY. It is truly a breath of fresh air to read a work on safe and effective practices of yoga that recognizes, rather than attempts to violate, the laws of nature. Scaling laws and how body size affects safety in headstands are two of the many knockout evidence-based propositions in this book. A resource for self-practice, a guide for yoga teachers or a practical manual for teacher trainings, YSYY invites critical inquiry in a very organized, readable yet exhaustive study of the axial body. - Daniel Clement, Director, Open Source Yoga School
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About Bernie Clark

Bernie Clark author of the best selling The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga, has had a passion for science, health, sports and spirituality since childhood. He has a degree in science from the University of Waterloo and spent over 25 years as a senior executive in the high-tech/space industry. Bernie has been investigating the path of meditation for over three decades and began teaching yoga and meditation in 1998. He conducts yoga teacher trainings several times a year and aims to build bridges between the experiences of yoga and the understandings of modern science. He is creator of the website. Other books written by Bernie include Your Body, Your Yoga; From the Gita to the Grail: Exploring Yoga Stories & Western Myths, as well as YinSights. Bernie lives, teaches and offers workshops in Vancouver, Canada. Dr. Stuart McGill is Professor Emeritus after 32 years at the University of Waterloo where he had a laboratory/clinic that explored low back pain, rehabilitation and performance enhancement. He has been the author of over 240 medical and scientific journal papers. This work has received several international awards including the "Volvo Bioengineering Award for Low Back Pain Research". As a consultant, he has provided expertise on low back injury to various government agencies, many corporations and legal firms and professional/international athletes and teams world wide. He is regularly referred special and challenging patient cases from the international medical community for opinion. He has authored four books: "Gift of Injury" with Brian Carroll; "Back Mechanic" targeting the lay public with back pain; "Low Back Disorders: Evidence Based Prevention and Rehabilitation" designed for clinicians assessing and treating patients; and "Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance" targeting coaches and trainers. Timothy McCall, MD is a board-certified physician specializing in internal medicine, and the author of two books, Examining Your Doctor: A Patient's Guide to Avoiding Harmful Medical Care (Citadel Press) and Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing (Bantam). He is co-editor of the first medical textbook on yoga therapy, The Principles and Practice of Yoga in Health Care (Handspring Publishing, 2016). He practiced medicine for more than 10 years in the Boston area before devoting himself full-time to investigating and teaching yoga therapy. Certified as a yoga therapist by the International Association of Yoga Therapists, he is the Founder/Director of Yoga As Medicine Seminars and Teacher Trainings and, until 2016, co-directed a yoga therapy center just outside of New York City.
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Rating details

35 ratings
4.45 out of 5 stars
5 69% (24)
4 17% (6)
3 9% (3)
2 3% (1)
1 3% (1)
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