From a physical, mental, emotional, economical and spiritual point of view the importance of the spinal column cannot be
underestimated nor its care be dismissed. An unhealthy back greatly diminishes the quality of life of the person, causes mental and emotional upheaval, the loss of billions of dollars in job absenteeism and an overall sense of despondency. A healthy back on the other hand means a functional body that is able to adequately comply with personal objectives and professional obligations. Maintaining a healthy back, through specific exercises to strengthen it and keep it flexible along with healthy every day habits will yield mint benefits in every realm of your life.
As the Tao Teh Jing expresses: “It is easier to undo things when they are young or small”; prevention is easier and better than healing.
To better understand how to take care of the spine we should know some things about it: Its role in sustaining the body, its other mission of carrying the nerves impulses to and from the brain to the rest of the body, that it is made up by 24 vertebrae plus the sacrum and coccyx, that these vertebrae are stronger and bigger at the bottom-lumbar area- and weaker and more fragile and with multiple nerve and blood vessels running through it at the neck, and finally that that the vertebrae are held together by muscle and ligaments and that the best way to preserve their function is to maintain the flexibility and strength of these soft tissues through exercise and an adequate blood circulation.
The Hands of the 18 Luohan places a great deal of importance in keeping a strong and flexible spine. For health and spiritual reasons, a healthy back was the raison d’etre for these exercises. Bodhidharma conceived these exercises to strengthen the body to withstand the countless hours of sitting meditation but also, understanding the key role the spine plays in the energetic mechanism of the body, the practice of Luohan Gong was also to serve as a spiritual practice, a moving meditation that drained the meridians and moved the energy through the different channels found in it.
Trough out the whole form, the back is moved and exercised in the four different types of movements necessary to keep the spine healthy, that is: Extension, flexion, rotation and lateralization. But it is not enough to perform these four different types of movements, but they must be executed adequately, that is, on the different body planes and moving the vertebrae in the right sequence. This last element is known as using of “The Three Gates”.
The Three Gates are physical energetic centers situated on the spine:
The low gate is situated at the lumbar vertebrae 3 (related to point Ming Men, Du-4), the Middle Gate at thoracic vertebrae 3 (related to point Shen Zhu, Du-12), and the Upper Gate at the cervical vertebrae 1 (related to points Feng Fu, Du-16).
Engaging these three gates in the right order assures a biodynamical movement that is relaxed, healthy and efficient in allowing the circulation of blood and energy.
Every movement whether it is going up or down should originate in the leg and from there flow to the lumbar vertebrae, then the thoracic vertebrae and finally to the cervical vertebrae. The reason for this, as we mentioned is to keep a relaxed movement that favors the free flow of blood and energy and avoid injuries. The Gates are also considered threshold from where the energy is impelled onto the next center in its upward or downward journey. To increase this flow, it is recommended during the mobilization of the spine to visualize, feel, be aware of the flow of energy and ”stop” a hundredth of a second while passing through each Gate.
As we describe the correct movement of the spine using the Three Gates, a special mention must be given to the Dan Tien that acts as an anchoring point from where originates every movement. The Dan Tien acts as a the center of a “pulley” so to speak, from where the muscles of the four members, the trunk and head, hold on to, or attach to draw its support to move.
A very quick and simple study of its anatomy will demonstrate Works the natural “S” position of the spine.
The spine column plays a key role in the control, circulation and storage of energy in the human body.
Pondering on analyzing Buddha´s words ¨Treat your body with care as it is the vehicle for realization¨and the main role that the spine plays in Luohan and Yoga, it is very probable that he ws reffering to a great extent to the spine when he said ´body and related to the Three Dan Tiens ASSOCIATED TO DIFFERENT SOUNDS.