Dossier: yoga & a healthy back
The spine and its, in the true sense of the word, central meaning from a holistic-spiritual perspective.
Article from the 'Yoga Aktuell' Magazine
By Doris Iding
Good health takes place in the fullness of the moment and is, according to Carolin and Alexander Toskar, fundamentally a way of life. With their work, which is known as ‚Divine Straightening’, the Toskars have been experiencing phenomenal success for many years in Europe, the USA and in Thailand. Spiritual Straightening refers to the straightening of the spine within a matter of seconds, following an impulse that leads to a straightening of the spine, which in turn can initiate subsequent regeneration and self-healing processes on all levels. In Spiritual Straightening, an immediate visible correction of pelvic obliquity occurs. The straightening occurs without touch (i.e. the impulse coming from the healer is, as the name suggests, spiritual) and has the aim of holistic healing that affects mental and emotional issues as well as the physical well-being.
Re-aligning the Focus
For the Toskars, it is as important, as for many other well-known healers and authors, to focus mentally, emotionally and spiritually on one’s health, rather than on one’s illness. As the spirit is capable of evoking disharmonies and illnesses, it is also capable of making the body healthy and maintaining its health. And here is where spiritual medicine comes into play, the medicine of Health. Alexander Toskar describes it as a way that aims at a fine-grained harmonizing and expansion of consciousness: ‚It means being spiritually healthy, actively structuring one’s life and not being a passive observer of one’s own life’. For him, this also means being interested in the laws that ensure the preservation of one’s health and the circumstances that favour this. According to him – but also according to numerous Masters from the yogic tradition – health develops where illumination is increased, and it is important that this love and strength radiates throughout one’s own life. Therefore, it is important for all these traditions and for spiritual medicine to concentrate on what makes you healthy and what heals, instead of surrounding yourself with people and things that make you ill. Because only then can darkness recede as if on its own accord. Health can only come about when illness or disturbances are not viewed as enemies to be battled with, but recognised and viewed as indications.
The Spine – the Universal Core of Life
For Alexander Toskar, the spine is of key importance. ‚The spine is of central and diverse importance for our health. From an anatomical perspective, it supports the entire human skeleton, connects the brain to the body, and gives us maximum stability. At the same time, however, it is so supple that it enables movement and thus accesses spheres of consciousness in all dimensions. The vertebral canal is the ideal protective coating for the spinal cord and therefore vital for the nervous system. In addition, the spine represents the superordinate monitoring organ for all functions of the organs, for tissue, for each cell in the body and also for our emotions. From a spiritual perspective, the spine is the carrier of life energy, the life plan and the chakras.’ Carolin und Alexander Toskar presuppose that the spiritual law of ‚everything is vibration’ also applies to the spine. ‚The natural form of the spine, viewed from the side, is in the shape of a wave and thus corresponds to the universal movements of sound and light waves. As such, the spine is not just the carrier, but at the same time the expression of cosmic vibrations. Waves always alternately exhibit an inwardly curved negative part and an outwardly curved positive part. In spiritual teaching, these two poles mean that fullness and emptiness do not exist by themselves alone.
They are interconnected and complement one another. Fullness and emptiness also represent the two principles of male and female, which function creatively in the universe. In human beings, these elemental cosmic principles are embodied in the shape of the spine and signify its spiritual uniqueness.’ This is why the Toskars, but also Ayurveda and other schools of yoga, consider it possible to align oneself with the cosmic order by way of a healthy spine. The well-known American author and publisher Louise Hay, whose books such as ‚Heal Your Body’ or ‚Heal Your Body and Mind A-Z’ are also very popular in German-speaking countries, views a healthy spine as a mobile support for life.
For Alexander Toskar, the wave shape has an important physical affect in addition to the spiritual aspect, as the spine acts as a feather due to its natural double-curve. Under stress, such as when walking or jumping, it yields in a mobile way and then returns to its original shape. This oscillating elasticity protects it from damaging compression, reduces the wear of joints and protects the brain from concussions. In cases of a flattened spine, which is particularly to be found in many women in the thoracic vertebra area, but also in cases of too much mental ‚baggage’, in other words pressures or stress, the vibrations of the spine and the associated buoyant attitude to life are lost. It is the aim of many spiritual teachers to reverse this process and to find the way back to harmony with a mobile, healthy spine. Toskar also views the spine and the spinal cord as mediators between our brain and body: ‚These are the carriers and recipients of cosmic vibrations, whose gateway is the medulla oblongata. In symbolic language, the medulla oblongata is also referred to as the mouth of God, through which the word of God, our life energy, enters a person. This life energy is in constant flow and movement. If it stagnates temporarily or if there are only the smallest limits to its activity, which also represents evolution and development, this leads to mental disharmony and a functional disruption of the entire organism’. Only the inrushing and free flowing life force maintains health or brings about healing. All external ‚healing’ stimuli are thus only successful if they activate the life force.
The Spine and its Correspondence
‚As everything originates from a single source’, say the Toskars, ‚everything is also reflected at different levels and in different regions. As above, so below. As macrocosm, so microcosm. As within, so without. This law of correspondence is, of course, also found in the human organism. Thus, for example, the large pelvis corresponds to the small mandible, and the internal organs have tiny reflex points as correspondents for example on the soles of the feet, the ears, the tongue and in the intestines. It is therefore not surprising that the spine is reflected several times in the body. It does not just run along our body, but also as an energetic correspondent along the outer ear, on the edges of our thumbs and feet as well as the back of the skull’. This knowledge, on which Traditional Chinese Medicine is also based, enables a person to self-treat his or her physical as well as spiritual spine in a very simple and yet extremely effective way, and to thus keep it healthy. For the TCM teacher F. Seefelder, existential fears and mental pressures, for example, are also reflected in this area: ‚When you are plagued by worries that affect your livelihood, doesn’t your back hurt more frequently or more than usual? Or perhaps you only feel a light increase in tension in the back area?’ But also the interface between the sacrum and the lumbar indicates our frame of mind: ‚If we lose control of a situation in times of stress, a pressure develops under which a disc can just slip’, according to Seefeld, ‚because the body is ready to lose control. In many cases, the anatomic burden on the disc and the mental stress is accompanied by a subconscious “willingness to become ill”. An illness creates a distance to other people, which we may not be capable of upholding in stressful situations. Others expect less from us when we are not in full possession of our faculties’. Yoga therapy also knows about the mental importance of the body. For the well-known Swiss yoga teacher R. Rittiner, an optimal straightening of the spine, for example, means energy and straightening on the mental level. If this straightening is missing, however, this is a sign of retreat for Rittiner.
Alexander Toskar even goes one step further and says that you can not only recognise momentary mental-physical connections in back pain or problems with your spine. For him, it is ‚a further mental correspondence that the spine also stores prenatal time. The prenatal time is especially meaningful, as the mind is not yet fully developed and for this reason cannot serve as a conscious barrier for external influences. During this phase, however, many external aspects impact the unborn baby and are solidified in our physical, mental and spiritual structure’. For Toskar, the atmosphere in society, planetary constellations, emotions and belief structures of the parents, family and their social environment are also important in shaping the state of health of the back. ‚These experiences, made already before our birth, manifest themselves as energetic blockages in our spine, which stores all impressions like a computer – and impede a free flow of the life force’, the healer explains in his book Health as a Path. ‚The body reacts with an unnatural curving of the spine, it twists and turns in a way that blockages also develop in the emotional control centres’, explains Toskar. ‚The spirit is burdened, the life energy stagnates even further and the person loses more and more physical, emotional or mental balance. This means that the body is living in the past due to its previously created mould. But even now, if you are not careful, you can be like an open book in which every other person and any living circumstances can register.’
Liberated Spine – Liberated Life Stream
The muscles and tendons that begin at the spine naturally also impact your freedom of movement. Changes and problems in these areas can have long-lasting negative physical effects: for example, the ribcage can feel constricted, the pelvis is often immovable, and the spine is no longer flexible. The whole body feels tense, shoulders, neck and back hurt. In order to sustain the unnaturally high muscle tone, the body as well as the spirit utilise a large amount of life energy. As a result, not enough new energy flows into the spine, so that a person will reach an energy deficit. Only when the spine and surrounding muscles and tendons are loosened and stretched, can a person receive a perceptible inflow of energy on all levels again. As such, particular exercises, such as the Mountain Pose (Tadasana), or the Tree Pose (Vrkshasana) can revive and activate body and spirit and strengthen the flow of life energy. Yoga offers a sufficient number of asanas for this. A holistic approach such as yoga is clearly different from purely athletic activities, because having only well-developed muscles is not equivalent to being healthy. It is far more important that all bodily functions interact harmoniously and consciously, and that the free flow of energy is ensured.
The natural movement of the spine includes bending forwards (flexion), stretching backwards (extension), turning sideways (extension) and bending sideways. These movements liberate the spine, supply new energy to every part of the body, in particular the areas that were under-supplied, strengthening the organs, the bones and every cell in the body. They incorporate the body on a variety of different levels, which means that the inner consciousness touches the entire body in a whole new way. With the help of these exercises, the spirit learns to be calm and so endure and alleviate possible pain or tension, rather than fighting it. Thus, the energy otherwise used in the battle against stress is used in its entirety in the healing process.