One of the greatest causes of back pain in our Western societies is the amount of sitting we do every day, and the way we sit, out of alignment or slouching. I realise that sitting straight is not cool; it is less relaxing and may look uptight. However, there are so many negative side effects from slouching, that it is essential to include a good sitting posture in our self-care programme. Reducing slouching habits can have a positive effect on our breathing, digestion, mood, energy and back health!
Not many people find long periods of standing easy. If you have to stand while listening to a long speech, for example, does your back start aching? Pain and muscle strain arise when the body is not aligned with and hence not served by the line of gravity. When we manage to find this straight downward pull, standing becomes more natural and effortless. It can make us experience a deep sense of peace. This blog considers two common types of misalignment that make long standing harder.
Posture and habitual movement patterns contribute hugely to back health. The way you walk, stand, sit or sleep can influence whether you develop back pain or not. My four blogs this summer will analyse different elements of posture, and how posture relates to managing and preventing back pain. After all, doing yoga once a week is not enough if during the rest of the week you slouch on a sofa or car seat, round your shoulders forward over a computer, or stand out of alignment so your muscles have to work harder to keep you upright. Together with the right exercises, this focus on postural habits can hopefully help you correct bad posture and shape lifelong, sustainable wellbeing. This first blog in the series focuses on good walking habits.
Unless we keep our spine mobile, moving it through its full range of movement, which includes twisting, sideways extensions, forward and back bends, the upper spine may tighten and round forward with age. This is even more so when our work demands long hours of focusing forward and down over a desk, workbench or computer. There are many ways to counter a tight upper back, but the yoga crocodile rest is easy, effective and soothing.
Millie came to me two years ago with a recent diagnosis of osteoarthritis in one hip. She had visited a chiropractor and an orthopaedic consultant and the prognosis was a hip replacement in the next 15 to 20 years if the osteoarthritis of the hip continued to progress. Millie, who is just over 50, wanted to try yoga therapy because she was interested in a holistic approach that would give her increased flexibility.
When you wake up with a tight and achy back it usually eases or disappears completely after some movement. Rather than waiting for the stiffness to diminish by itself, you could try some targeted and gentle exercises right after waking up. The morning routine described in this blog is designed to mobilise your back gently and reduce the time it takes to feel more at ease. It is also lovely for those who do not have back pain upon waking but simply want to start the day with a nice stretch.
If there is one pose that makes me feel fabulous it is Half Moon pose. I thought that everyone would feel equally expansive and joyous in this pose – after all extending the arms to the side has been proven to evoke feelings of positivity and confidence (cf. this earlier blog). But when I asked my students which pose makes them feel “fabulous,” to my surprise the Half Moon pose was not a favourite. This blog explores how we feel in yoga poses, and we will look at a few other “fabulous” poses that my students mentioned. The poses are not necessarily difficult or acrobatic but can be simple and soothing, or strong and expansive. I would love you to try them and see how they make you feel… maybe fabulous!
If you have ever had a slipped disk, you probably know how it is to feel excruciating pain in the lower back and shooting pain down your leg. Sometimes combined with reduced sensation, tingling and weakness in the leg, this crippling pain may have put you out of action for at least a few weeks. In the best possible scenario, a slipped disk is diagnosed early and you are told which movements exacerbate the condition and which exercises may heal the spine. If, on the other hand, you keep doing the wrong things such as slouching and lifting, you may suffer long-term pain and eventually further deterioration of the spine. Physiotherapists, osteopaths or chiropractors offer different treatments, with varying results. This blog discusses the intervention by yoga therapy, which can teach you relaxation, the movements to avoid and, most importantly, the exercises suitable for each stage of the recovery.
If you would like to strengthen your upper arms but, like me, you are not into weight lifting and you find push-ups too hard, this blog is for you. You may wonder what arm strengthening has to do with yoga, and with yoga for back pain. Quite a lot actually: weak arms prevent us from doing yoga poses such as dog pose and plank pose efficiently. When done with good alignment, these poses benefit the back and abdominal muscles, strengthening muscles as well as bones. Moreover, strong arms assist us in carrying things, so the back and shoulders don’t have to do overwork. Our muscle mass reduces with age so if we want our body to keep functioning well it is important to give strengthening some attention.
… you are in the right place!
My video can show you how to begin in a safe and gentle way, especially if:
-you haven’t done a lot of core work before, or not successfully.
-you find strong abdominal exercises intimidating.
-your body feels tight and weak.
-your breathing is shallow.
-your back hurts.
If you find any of the above true for you, I hope my free video can teach you some building blocks and give you confidence.