If you can easily do press-ups, keeping your body straight as you lower it to the ground and effortlessly raise it again … this blog is not for you. This blog is for those of us who don’t know how to even start arm strengthening. It is for those of us whose back is suffering more because our arms are not strong enough when lifting or carrying. It is aimed to help you feel more ease when doing yoga poses that require arm strength. And, since this blog is part of the summer-body series, it is for those of us who would like to have a bit more tone in the upper arms when wearing summer tops.
A few weeks ago one of my students came into the group class and declared: “I want a beach body by August.” An unusual request in a back care yoga class, so there were a few seconds of stunned silence. Then I thought “great!” A beach body presumably has shapely arms, firm gluts and a toned abdomen. Strong Gluts, arm and abdominal muscles also happen to be important for back health, so beach body and back health work together very well. My blogs this summer will focus on these three muscle groups, making them ready for the pool or beach if you want, or simply toning them to support your back health. If we also do these exercises mindfully, they can have a positive effect on stress levels, and cultivate a healthy approach to our body. We are starting with the gluts today.
It takes some ingenuity to find exercises that can strengthen core muscles when you have neck pain. The traditional abdominal crunches, where you interlace the fingers behind the head to lift the head and shoulders, are often out of the question. Not being able to do abdominal exercises can be frustrating, especially if you have lower back pain, because these muscles are instrumental in keeping the lower back healthy. This blog presents two ways of working core muscles while leaving your head relaxed on the mat. I realise that these movements are not strictly yoga. However, doing the exercises with full attention makes them more ‘yogic’ than a headstand in which the performer is distracted and trying to outdo the yogi next to him or her. It is the attention that counts.
Everyone with back pain knows that there is no 15-minute fix; everyone doing yoga knows that 15 minutes a day is not long enough to really get into the practice. Nevertheless, when you have back pain, making time for daily stretches will help you. It is making regular, small changes that can make a big difference. This is what I observe with my students who schedule 10 to 15 minutes for their yoga routine in the morning or before going to bed. The 15-minute Back Care Basics described in this blog are designed to gradually ease lower back tightness and can make a difference if you do them daily.