Spine is the basic structural pillar of our body. Dancers should be aware of their spine from the constructional, but also from the energy point of view. It will help them make full use of its plasticity, get aware of its movement possibilities and structural connections with other parts of the body. However, they will also recognize its limitations and, when respecting them, the can avoid its destruction and pain.
From a purely practical anatomical point of view, the spine is a collection of vertebrae verticaly arranged in a column, where this column is more a kind of an alive snake, twice curved in a S-shape. This curvature ensures spine mobility, flexibility, functionality and a lively support ability. The construction of the spine allows a person to walk vertically and protects the spinal cord that “flows” through it. It is actually a kind of bone coat of the spinal cord and also it functions as a distribution system, because nerves emerge from the spinal cord through the openings between the vertebrae to connect via their sensitive paths with the whole body.
At the first glance it does not look like it, but the spine actually “flows”. The spaces between the vertebrae are filled with cartilaginous intervertebral discs. These are water-bearing, they allow spine mobility and flexibility. They are able to soften shocks and shakes with their liquid structure, protecting them. They also protect the flow of Qi that streams through the spine. We can also imagine the spinal cord as an extremely dense fluid in which Qi ‘flows’. All the information, all the data of our nervous system “flow” through the spinal cord and nerves. Movement of the spine can therefore have a very fluid, smooth and soft character.
Many of us limit our perception of the spine to feelings of pain in some parts of it which we tend to stress more and incorrectly. The tiny ligaments holding the vertebrae together often hurt; the muscles that have to hold this structure and balance the incorect posture of the body also ache. The culmination of our misunderstood opportunity to work with our own backbone are the disc problems – displacement, ejection and their degeneration. Unfortunately, these are often the only perceptions in which people realize that they have a spine. But the spine means much more for us. In addition to the construction pillar, it is also a pillar of our overall personality, it is a “skeleton” of our identity. It’s what we can rely on, it’s a solid back, a support, a reinforcement, a refuge. The term “skeleton of our identity” means what we identify with in this life. The spine is a protective structure for our mission to be fulfilled here. No wonder that the delicate part of our body, such as the nervous system, is connected to the spine. No wonder, that the fibers of our nervous system “flow” in the thick bundle of the spinal cord from the brain directly through our backbone, because they have there the necessary support and protection. And, they use the spine as their distribution center. Taoists have discovered that there are energy channels in the spine area through which a very strong Qi stream flows. The spine thus creates a kind of Qi flow path that can flow through it and then spread throughout our organism, thus nourishing it. The life-giving Qi flows through these channels, from them to the organs of the body, into each cell. This way it provides them with the nutrition they need for their growth, function and healing.
These channels are so-called Governing vessel through which runs Qi on the back of the spine and Conception vessel through which Qi flows on the front side of the spine. Both of these channels start to activate in the human kind shortly after the conception and develop completely in the embryonic stage. Governing vessel affects many health but also psycho-spiritual areas. Its activity is closely linked to our innate original Qi and its source in the kidneys. If Qi is lacking in this channel, one has a problem with his identity, he has no “back to lean on”, he suffers from a lack of courage in his life. In the belt area, opposite the navel, there is a place through which we “inhale” rules and principles which we work with in our life. This place is called Mingmen, The Gate of Destiny. Children without parents often have weakness in this channel, they have difficulty finding certain frames and principles in their lives. Governing vessel springs in the depths of the pelvis, passes through the sexual organs, enters the spine and through it enters into the brain, to the cranium, then it continues through the third eye, nose and ends in the mouth. Here it connects with the Concention vessel. It also rises in the perineum, passes along the front side of the spine upwards, ascends into the navel, leads through the solar plexus, the sternum through the neck to the throat and the oral cavity. This channel has a strong influence on the ability to conceive a child, but in a psycho-spiritual context, on the ability to conceive anything, that is, to be a creative person. These two channels are deliberately interconnected in the meditation techniques in the mouth by placing the tongue to the palate. The tounge is like a switch that connects these two Qi channels and activates their common flow. This Qi circulation is the basis of Qigong or Tai-Chi-Quan exercises, and Taoists say they link „microcosmic orbit“.
Another channel related to the spine is the Bladder meridian. It is the longest energy channel of the body, connecting our body from top to bottom, from the head through the torso to the feet. There are acupuncture points on this channel in the spots where nerves are separated from the spinal cord along the entire spine to continue and nourish the body. They are so-called transport points which, when stimulated, are able to nourish all the organs of the body through their connection to the nervous system. This is an evidence that our nervous system is highly interconnected with the energy system. Bladder meridian is the only channel in the body that has such an impact on all organs.
Working with the spine consciously in dance will help us to connect with those psycho-spiritual contexts and, by the movement cultivate Qi in our spine and thus vitalize and heal it.