Lumbar Spine Anatomy (part 3: Lumbar|Lower Spine)

lumbar spine_vertebrae

Lumbar Spine

The lumbar spine is the lowest five of the twenty-four vertebrae of the spine, which descend vertically from the bottom of the ribs to the top of the hips and pelvis. Structurally, the lumbar spine is the foundation for the body’s movement and supports the weight of the upper body as it moves through space. It is prone to injury because it is where the most weight-bearing and movement of the body takes place.

The lowest and widest bone of the column is the L5, with large amount of ligamentation towards the fused sacrum and the posterior, superior portion of the iliac crest, or hip plate. As one descends down the vertebrae, the pedicles of each bone get longer and deeper as the spinal cord widens. The vertebrae have 5 wide fins, called processes, two transverse processes, two articular processes, and the spinous process at the very rear of the vertebrae. The spinal cord passes through the vertebral foramen which is the chamber formed by the processes at the back of the bone.

The Ligaments of the Lower Back

There are multiple ligaments connecting each vertebrae and interlacing down into the sacrum. The lumbar portion of the spine is the least able to twist as it is primarily a support structure for the body. Each bone of the Lumbar is wider and deeper than the last, allowing for less movement and more stability as you descend down to the pelvis. The backsides of the vertebrae interlace with ligaments and tendons that stabilize the trunk. The psoas muscles run up the lumbar vertebrae on each side up to the L1. The Lumbar is the third and final curve in the spine, with ligaments interlacing down into the sacrum and up into the thoracic spine and ribs.

The Nerves of the Lumbar Spine

The lumbar spine is particularly important for the nervous system; it is the starting point for the nerves of the legs and lower body and contains a plexus of nerve connections that extend up the spinal spine_nervescord, and down into the legs and lower organs. This is a pivot place for alignment of the entire body; oftentimes nerve pain originates from mis-alignment in the lower back. The fins and processes at the back of the bones protect the nerves, but can be somewhat easily mis-aligned to pinch nerves in the legs and hips. This is why hip opening should be done slowly and why it is important to keep the sitting muscles (QL, spinal erectors, obliques) engaged and lengthening throughout hip opening.

Muscles of the Lumbar Spine

The muscles that interlace in the Lumbar spine are intricate and not usually appreciated by the term spinal erectors. The spine seems to be perfectly capable of strengthening itself to stay erect, if you engage the obliques, transverse abdominus, the muscles that run up the spinal vertebrae, and the serratus posterior inferior muscles connecting to the lumbar vertebrae from the ribcage.


That concludes the final piece of anatomy of the spine. Hope you enjoyed the series, parts 1 and 2 are available by clicking on the numbers. Let me know if you want me to write about anything else in the spine!


The Eight Limbs of Yoga (part 7: Dhyana)

dhyana meditation

Dhyana is a type of meditation, like the other 2 last limbs of Patanjali’s Ashtanga yoga Dharana and Samadhi. It is used to describe a specific meditation based on simultaneous awareness and detachment from the environment and the body. The transcendence of this meditation is Samadhi, which is the ultimate bliss of the 8th limb of yoga. This is when the consciousness detached from the body, reaching a higher state of feeling and awareness. Samadhi is ultimately obtained in Savasana, which is why emphasis is based on the posture in most Indian school of yoga.

Dhyana has similar meanings in Jain, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions, meaning a focused meditation where one is aware of their surroundings, but detached from them as purely an observer. What does that mean? Essentially it means that the outside world has little influence upon the state of the practitioner. They are aware of the world, but uninfluenced by the fluctuations of the universe around them, fully detached and content with the internal sensations and peace that has been cultivate. This is an advanced state of meditation that Zen Buddhist have many practices for; this state is typically referred to as a precursor for Samadhi, or complete bliss.

In Buddhism, there are four levels of Dhyana, called the jhanas by the Sutta Pitaka, a Buddhist holy book, each of which increases the depth of meditation. Each level refers to a different state of meditative absorption where the practitioner is taken into a deep state of meditation, or an altered conscious state. Each focuses on creating more equanimity between thoughts and greater balance through destroying blockages in the thoughts. The jhanas are a set of meditative practices leading to increased serenity and are mentioned as the meditative exercises that the Buddha used underneath the bodhi tree and during the period where he taught about the eightfold path. Buddhists believe that a foundation of morality, proper conduct, and a removal of the five hindrances lead to the availability of the jhanas within meditation. One must scale the four jhanas in meditation in order to reach Samadhi, or the supreme state of bliss.

The Hindu definition of Dhyana is a bit different. Dhyana is the seventh limb of yoga and obtained after Dharana, or single pointed focus. This is the stage of awareness and detachment, simultaneously. The Dhyana meditational exercises are taken up to bring about increased self-knowledge, to assist in separate the maya (illusion) from reality to gain moksha, or liberation from Samsara. Dhyana is also a specific system that Sri Krishna gave to Arjuna within the Bhagavad Gita, being the fourth system of yoga after Karma, Jnana, and Bhakti yoga. In Dhyana, the meditator is not aware that they are meditating, but is only aware of existence. Dhyana comes after Dharana because the object of the senses becomes one with the meditator and not a separate object. This is a pure detachment from the physical world, leading to a relaxed concentration of the senses until the exercises of Jnana lead to Samadhi, or bliss.

Dharana is an integral part of the Samyama (the last 3 limbs of yoga), detaching the mind from its physical bindings in the world. The jnanas, or stages of Dhyana, are fairly elusive, but they build the serenity of the practitioner until thoughts are actually linked to reality. It could be inferred that this means that the constructive nature of the mind if let go to actually perceive reality for the first time, which then leads to the blissful state of Samadhi. Self-knowledge, it seems, are the last steps up the ladder of the 8 limbs of yoga.

The seventh limb of yoga is very interesting and quite complex; I expect traveling to India will give me new insights into how the exercises of Jnana and Dhyana can be completed to raise consciousness to the blissful state of Samadhi. Simultaneous awareness and detachment is powerful, using these concepts in your own yoga practice may change things quite a bit. Stay tuned for the final limb of yoga, Samadhi, the final step on the path to enlightenment.

Ganesha – The Hindu Elephant God


The Remover of Obstacles

The hindu god Ganesha is a powerful archetypal symbol. He represents the removal of obstacles, and transcends religion to be a sacred symbol to all of India, including the Hindus, Jains, Buddhists. His elephant head makes him easy to identify and he is also the patron god of the arts, intellect , and wisdom. As the son of Shiva, he is also known as Ganapati and Vinayaka and has survived for the last 1,600 years accumulating thousands of names and pseudonyms along the way.

Etymology of the word “Ganesha”

The name Ganesha is a compound sanskrit word where ‘gana’ (गण) means group, categorical system, or multitudes and ‘isha’ (ईश) means lord or master. Often ‘gana’ refers Shiva‘s retinue or followers, making Ganesha the master Shiva’s head follower. Some take this even further and refer to Ganesha as the master of the elements or lord of the systems of knowledge. Ganapati (गणपति) is a synonym for Ganesha and means lord of the group; ‘pati’ translates into ruler or lord. Ganesha is also commonly referred to as Vinayaka after which the eight buddhist temples in Maharashtra were named Ashtavinayak (ashta – eight, vinayak = Ganesha). The final noteworthy name for Ganesha is Vighneshvara (विघ्नेश्वर) meaning the remover of obstacles (vighna) which is Ganesha’s primary function as a part of the Hindu pantheon.

Stories of the Son of Shiva

Ganesha is very often portrayed as a child, where he functions as the


son of Shiva and protector of his mother, Parvatti. He is known for his mental agility and ability to learn quickly through the removal of obstacles; he is often invoked when starting a new business or buying a car or house. Ganesha is a clever god and is closely associated with the sanskrit term buddhi, meaning intelligence and wisdom. Over the years Ganesha has evolved to mean different things to different parts of the world; for example, he is commonly worshipped in Indian homes, invoked at meals and times of prayer; he is also worshipped by merchants in Bali, Indochina, Thailand, and Cambodia as the god of material success and prosperity. He is one of the most widespread gods of the eastern religions and has hundreds of different particularities of meaning to the different cultures that idolize him.

Symbolic Significance of Ganesh

Ganesha’s most famous attributes are his huge belly and elephant head, which one story depicts resulted from Shiva’s anger at finding a stranger guarding Parvatti, Shiva’s wife. He later learned that Parvatti had made Ganesha out of clay and that the boy that he had just beheaded was their son; he replaced the head with that of an enlightened white elephant and Ganesha was allowed to live. Ganesha typically has four arms, representing his divine omnipotence and is often depicted eating a sweet. He is most often depicted without a vahana, but is known to ride a mouse, a snake, a peacock, and a lion. Most often he is shown on a rat, which was known in India as a pest and killer of crops and is interpreted by many to be a negative symbol of desire and greed. Ganesha subdues the mouse and makes him his primary means of travel. Many historians agree that he has evolved from obstacle creator to remover over the past centuries, but both seem to be integral functionings of his character.

The sacred sound of AUM is also identified with Ganesha. He is said to see past, present, and future simultaneously and AUM represents Brahman, Vishnu, and Shiva all simultaneously their combined power of creation, which Ganesha invokes by removing obstacles. He is also the resident of the first chakra, the Muladhara. He guides all other chakras and is therefore the guardian of the wheels of life.

Skanda is Ganesha’s brother, although regions will differ in opinion as to who was born first. There are many stories of their conflicts as Ganesha rose to prominence in 600AD and Skanda fell in popularity; Skanda was referred to as elder in the north and may very well represent the conflicts between northern and southern India in ancient times. Ganesha may have been a Brahmacari, or celibate, but he is also depicted with one to three wives quite regularly. Buddhi, intellect,  Siddhi, spiritual power, and Riddhi, prosperity, are often personified as Ganesha’s goddess wives. He is also associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of luck. He also has two sons, Ksema (prosperity) and Labha (profit) according to the Shiva Purana.

A Unique God in the Hindu Pantheon

All Hindu denominations use Ganesha to invoke prayer; he is a powerful symbol of the moving of energy and instigator of change. He is also an elephant, which is extremely powerful and sacred in India and represents a higher level of consciousness to many.

I have used the primary energies of chanting Ganesha to fantastic benefits, there are many invocations that have positive psychological effects and pranayama exercises that have powerful physiological effects. The chant I’ve used often is “gam ganapataye namo namah” meaning “the devotee bows/ offers salutations to the lord of the world”. It is a powerful chant and after about 5-10 minutes, the mantra starts to seep into the unconscious mind. The energies of sanskrit are primary and very old; the internal energies evoked should not be underestimated, especially when the symbols and meaning of the mantra are understood.

Ganesha is a god that is unique across the various religious and spiritual practices. He is always shown with an elephant head and huge stomach, though variation will show different symbols and representations of his form.

This post is also significant because it is the first post on my newly hosted website; I am trying out a new hosting provider instead of the complimentary WordPress hosting. Please let me know what you think, I welcome all feedback openly!

What does Ganesha mean to you? How do you create new beginning in your own life or manifest change? What symbols in your own life are equivalent to the elephant god who rides a mouse?

Just feel it…

Architecture of God

I love Sacred Geometry, which this is an example of. The idea is that there are base patterns in all things that remain true to certain geometric patterns and shapes. A good example of this is the ratio of 1.618 which occurs in a myriad of organic beings that are seemingly unrelated. The sacred geometry is supposed to be the building blocks for all of creation.



Hinduism is a religion and a philosophy. It is quite possibly the world’s oldest religion. Officially recognized as the world’s third largest religion Hinduism is far more complex than its description implies. Hindu holy books contain epic mythological tales from the beginnings of civilization and cascade through the ancient world to the present day. Rigid is one thing that Hinduism is not; it is far more flexible than the western religions and is more of a moving framework for believing in the multi-faceted nature of the divine rather than a set of principles or dogma towards reaching a singular divinity that the community shares. This is quite a bit different from a religion like Catholicism, which is rich in theological dogma, hierarchy, and has a streamlined and specific rules for following the faith.

Hinduism is a diverse religion, having main influential sects with different moral and virtue systems and overall being a flexible and philosophical point of view rather than rigid, common beliefs. The major scriptures of Hinduism are rich with detail and expound upon stories that were passed down for hundreds if not thousands of years. The major Hindu books and scriptures are: the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Puranas, the Manusmrti, and the Agamas. Part of the name Hindu comes from them living near the powerful Indus River, which was also home to the most ancient civilization known to man, the Indus Valley Civilization.

Hinduism is extraordinarily unique. This is because it is mostly a compilation of Indian traditions, rituals, ideals, worship, and pilgrimages. There are several sacred texts that have the classification of Sruti (“revealed”) and Smriti (“Remembered”) and the texts include the VedasUpanishads (both Śruti), MahabharataRamayanaBhagavad GitaPuranasManusmṛti, and Agamas. It is also unique because of its multileveled approach to spirituality and inconsistent internal conflicts. For instance, there are sects of the religion who worship Shiva as the supreme deity and others who worship Vishnu as the supreme lord of the universe, and yet others who view the supreme being of the universe as Krishna.

I love to learn about different religions, especially the mythology behind the traditions. Edward Trafton, an excellent teacher at Jesuit High School, introduced me to the Hero’s Journey when I was eighteen and I tend to follow that framework to examine the different religious beliefs and practices of the world. I grew up Catholic, so I went to church when I was young. Lots of church. I still find I can almost recite the entire mass, though I end up at a church about once every two years. Usually for Easter. I was thoroughly exposed to the various religions of the world with my Jesuit education, which concluded at Gonzaga U. After a long time, the Catholic traditions stopped resonating with me, and in high school I questioned my belief in god because I saw all the problems with the church. I regained a personalized version of faith by the end of high school and then college helped to strengthen my conviction in a customized belief system. Hinduism is the most interesting religion in the entire world, in my opinion. There is so much room for gray area, interpretation, and it in no way claims to be dogmatic. I’m drawn to the metaphysical concepts that tell about life and the explain how to avoid suffering in the events that occur in our lives. The stories mean something different to each person, so having thousands of people making their own translations and interpretations makes things pretty complicated. Hinduism is a puzzling spiritual practice and is so fragmented that claiming to be “correct” or “right” about god would be silly.

It has been my experience that rigidity in anything causes suffering. This includes belief systems and religions. I think that religion is really about community and spirituality, learning how to co-exist with one’s self and with one another. Religion is no longer a necessary aspect of our world, though people tend to believe that it is. Contemporary French culture helped to drive the Catholic out of me, and replaced it with a mindset of existential choices that spreads across multiple religions, and draws the best concepts into my belief system. Hinduism has become the most prominent of these simply because of the focus on internal dialogue, the connection of the body and mind (which in Catholicism is non-existent. Even church is a labor on the spine and pastors look to be anything but healthy and alcohol is prevalent in everything), and on the cultivation of internal awareness. I am critical of religion because I believe that we are evolving beyond it.

Religion, really, is about community. It’s about learning to share what we have and co-operate our minds and bodies together. Directing focus internally creates so much awareness that it forces people to become more aware of their surroundings and of their behaviors. It is extremely powerful and any way to cultivate internal focus tends to be good. Catholicism definitely has benefits and I see them in people who I love so I respect the religion, but I also believe that we, as a species, will evolve beyond organized religion in the future. You could even say that certain parts of the world are going to have to let go of their religions if they want to prosper and live in peace. But humanity still has many core differences in belief that we have to work through until we can become a global community, rather than separated and organized into countries, states, governments, etc. Once we realize that we are all the same (I think we all share 99.999999 of our DNA…not positive on that figure), everyone will be a lot better off. We have to stop creating in-groups and isolating ourselves with the people around us to truly enjoy the global community.

Building Something Beautiful: Transcendence Festival


My friend, James Kapicka, is starting a festival in Sacramento. Its called Transcendence. I am pretty excited about it for a few reasons: first, Sacramento is where I live and having a cool festival here would be awesome, especially in the beginning of Winter; second, the focus is on yoga and partying(“community”), two of my favorite things in the world; third and final, some of the best yoga teachers I know will be together for a few days to teach yoga, camp, and have fun.

The yoga community in Sacramento is relatively well-formed; I think there are about twenty studios in Sacramento. Ryan Bailey, Karen M-B, Marilyn Castilaw, James, and a whole host of rad and awesome and inspiring yoga teachers will be there. I will be there too 🙂

This is something exciting that I feel honored to watch develop. I think it has the potential to be truly amazing; combine yoga with partying and crazy shi*t tends to happen, something I am a big fan of. This is something that could be very special and I think our community is ripe for it.

100 $100 tickets went on sale today. If yoga, camping, and having fun are your kind of things then you should definitely get the tickets while they are cheap. Honestly, $100 won’t even cover a camping site for three days, so this is a great deal. Check them out

Maybe I’ll see you there…

The End of my Second Teacher Training

Sunday I finished my second 100 hour teacher training with Ryan Bailey. It was an incredible experience, from start to finish, each day was dynamic and had all kinds of lessons about everything from emotional intelligence, to public speaking skills, to asana practice, anatomy, the hero’s journey, and much more. The name of the training was the Yoga Lab, an idea Ryan had for training people how to teach yoga. The idea was to cover things that aren’t normally taught in teacher trainings, like presentation skills, how to be yourself while teaching, and how to think on your feet. It was more of a life training than a yoga teacher training, and Ryan deserves a ton of credit for what he is creating. Bob Bradley was a part of the training as well and pulled in many of his leadership techniques and skills in lots of situations. The main thing I walked away from the training with is the ability to step into a yoga class and be myself.

This might sound simple, but it’s not. Presenting to people is difficult, having the attention of a group of people is nerve-racking to anyone without experience. Remembering a sequence, keeping calm while inflecting your voice, being present to assist students, and giving personal attention to individuals while controlling the whole group are just a few of the skills you need to be able to bring your self into a yoga room. Ryan’s ability to open us up to being vulnerable and open in our dialogue was incredible; I feel like I am in touch with aspects of myself that I didn’t even know existed. At the end of the training, I told a story that I’ve never told anyone else in my life. The things we learned will stay with me for the rest of my life.

It’s interesting to notice progress. One of the biggest things that we worked on was removing fill words from dialogue. We spent time paying attention and building awareness around words such as: Um, so, like, now, really, and other words that simply fill up space. Silence in a yoga class is important, especially from the teacher’s dialogue. It takes time to let things settle and sink in. This was another huge lesson from the training. I could talk about the individual learnings for hours, but I think the biggest ones were about how to connect with the people who you are teaching. Which is what modern-day yoga is really about.

Every single day was a blast. More fun than I can ever remember having, which is typical with Ryan Bailey. Kyle, Timmy, Jamie, and the rest of the crew also helped to have so much fun the whole time we were there. We did some amazing work to build a team and I think that our entire group is going places. Part of the reason I love working with Ryan is that he is constantly surrounded by amazing people.

Of course there was also some awesome anatomy work, focused on the muscular and skeletal systems, and the philosophy we studied ranged from the Hindu belief systems to the mono-myth. No subject was off-limits and everything was interactive and in close quarters. I would do another in a heartbeat. I am so grateful for being able to have the experience and grow with the people who gave themselves to the training. It was powerful.

I don’t have any future trainings planned, but I will definitely be on the look-out. The more opportunity that I can give myself to grow, the better.

Detachment | वैराग्य


Learning detachment has been a very interesting journey. During my education I had lots of teachers who taught me the concept without knowing what exactly they were teaching me. It wasn’t until I learned meditation and yoga that I started to understand what detachment truly meant. Here is my definition: the ability to perceive the world fully, without hindrances, preconceived judgements, or expectations. It is essentially a cultivation of awareness that extends until Moksha, or liberation from Samsara.

Freedom is the ultimate goal of detachment. Freedom from suffering and pain, loss and sorrow. Freedom from the highs and lows of this existence into a pure bliss that will persist through any challenge or difficulty. This is the goal of the yogi.

I have concluded that in this life, attachment is necessary. We need things like family, friends, and siblings to support us in life, to ground us in reality and true importance. But at the same time that we draw strength and love from those around us, we must acknowledge that these people will someday expire. Their life will not last forever. This makes each moment more significant and beautiful, every detail of interaction becomes so utterly important. It is impossible to imagine living without love, without connection to family and friends; I do not believe that becoming a hermit and disconnecting with the world will create the bliss of enlightenment for anyone.

So let me clarify; attachment is necessary, but in order to truly appreciate our attachments, we must find ways to detach from them. This means we obtain the ability to truly appreciate the world around us and the people who comprise that world. Perspective, it seems, becomes the cornerstone for this appreciation. It also creates the space necessary to detach from our necessary attachments, when it becomes necessary.

Detachment from the material world, things, money, cars, planes, vacations is an required and absolute skill for the yogi. It allows for freedom within the mind from sorrow due to loss. But people even animals are much more complex. Attachment to living beings then becomes a systematic process in itself. Detachment and space become a necessary aspect of any relationship, because the individual grounds and roots in their own self, rather than those around them. With this space and freedom they are able to experience the joy of the world around them and the present moment.

I will give you an example. My favorite yoga teacher has left the studio where I work to pursue his dreams and his own prosperity. He will likely never teach at the studio again, which is sad for me because I love his teachings so much. They resonate with my soul. Being detached from this individual allows me to view the situation holistically; instead of being sad at my loss of his teaching I am happy that he is pursuing his own path of success, I am happy for the opportunity of growth that the situation will offer both of us. This is the benefit of detachment, to see opportunities in challenge, good in change, and love in everything. Perspective is everything.

I will offer that detachment is far more about perspective than hiding away in the Himalayas to wait for celestial light to drop upon your head. Leaving your culture, your family, your friends to explore the world will give you the ability to detach, as well as the perspective that comes with it. It is like a muscle that you need to flex occasionally, a skill that you hone with time and practice. Give yourself the room and it will grow 🙂

How do you detach in your own life? Do you find that it’s all about perspective or do other skills come to mind? Let me know what you think!

One Blog, not Two

I have slowly come to the realization that having two blogs is not optimal. The primary reason is that I don’t write more than 15 posts a week to keep up with each blog.

At first, I thought I would be building two separate audiences. But I am also building a personal brand, therefore, two different blogs doesn’t necessarily serve my goal. It fragments my audience.

Thus I have decided to take my three blogs and turn them into one. Categories and tags will be much more useful now and I will have to reorganize the website for additional subjects and information, but I really believe that this is going to make my life a lot easier. And my audience bigger.

What do you all think about multiple blogs? Do you think it will take away from engagement or readership?