Breathe Away Back Pain
When I ask my private clients what brings them to the practice of yoga, the number one answer I hear is: back pain.
As our jobs, commutes, and lifestyles are becoming increasingly sedentary, our lower backs are becoming increasingly compressed. Eventually, our bodies start to communicate through pain and discomfort that we need to do something different.
Something like yoga.
In 2012, Occupational Medicine published the results of an eight-week study observing the effects of yoga on 74 employees within a British government office. The researchers gave one group a weekly 50-minute yoga class, and allowed a control group to remain seated as they were. At the end of the study period, the yogi test group reported significantly lower levels of stress, hostility, and sadness than the sedentary control group. The yogis also beat out their chair-bound colleagues in another key metric: less back pain.
When my clients ask me about poses for stretching their backs, I have found that they usually need to focus first on relaxing their hamstrings and hips, which in turn releases pressure in the lower back and gives them relief. My two favorite sequences to reduce back pain are supine twists and forward folds. As always, consult a doctor before trying a new exercise program.
If you have the time (which we all do!), try to practice these two poses twice a day: once in the morning and again in the evening.
Lie on your back.
Bring your knees into your chest.
Bring your arms out to a T.
Drop your knees over to the right – maybe gaze left.
Hold for a count of 30.
Repeat on the other side.
Stand nice and tall. Feet are a couple inches apart, hands are in front of your heart.
Inhale, bring your arms overhead.
Exhale, fold forward. Knees are bent.
Maybe sway back and forth, shaking your head yes and no.
Hold for a count of 30.
With knees bent, inhale. Lift your body up, raising your arms to the sky.
Bring hands back in front of your heart.
See you on the mat!
I love this quote “Cut the ties of your puppet masters and be present in the moment.” Being present is so hard these days. Have you ever found yourself talking on the phone with someone, while scrolling on your tablet, all while working on your to-do list? I have, and realized that I wasn’t giving any item my full attention. Most times I have to redo the task that I was supposed to be working on.
Being present is hard, it’s hard work in the age of multitasking to be focused on one thing at a time. I don’t think I’m a pro at being present, but I’m working on it every day.
It’s funny how life happens. I’ve been reflecting on my last two months in Southport as I was preparing for my big move half way around the world and how I decided I want to be present in my activities, work and play. On reflection I realize I did pretty well with the goal. I’m not saying I was present 100% of the time, but I know each day I was present in the moments. I was present with my body, present with others, and I looked forward cherishing each moment.
A question that I was asked almost every day, was “Are you excited, I bet you can’t wait to get there?” Yes, of course I was excited, then I’d share with them how I was really trying to stay present in the moment and enjoy my time with THEM. I’d see everyone swirling my answer around in their minds and then a smile would come across their face as they realized I was not thinking ahead but just being with them in those moments.
I tried hard to enjoy every moment, because once that moment is gone, it’s gone and you don’t get it back. So thank you to all my friends and family who took time to spend those precious moments with me. All those moments will forever be in my heart!
Love to all!
Hey all, I’m getting settled in to my new home, the beautiful island of Weno, in Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia. I’m so excited to begin teaching local yoga classes this week. I’m spending my off time working on projects that were neglected at home. It seems that getting out of the house is more productive and inspirational. Today I went to Blue Lagoon Hotel & Resort which is one of the most refreshing spots on the island.
I love realizing yoga is a universal word. It doesn’t seem to matter where you are, what language people speak, it’s a word that brings a smile to people’s faces. No matter where you are go people ask the same questions, what the benefits are, and how they can benefit from a regular practice.
The word has gotten around pretty fast that I teach yoga and I was approached by a woman and asked if yoga would help her lose weight. I thought about it for a moment and shared with her the benefits which I think are important, increased flexibility, improved balance, a sense of calmness, improved core strength and muscle tone. She said, you didn’t answer my question (so much for my stellar listening skills)! I smiled and said I didn’t expect to be asked this question in Chuuk! We laughed for a moment and I shared with her, yes, with a regular practice and being mindful of how you eat, you can lose weight. Then, the most fab words came out of her mouth, can you teach a class here?
I love it so much people here feel comfortable asking me questions about the beautiful practice of yoga. It makes my heart happy!
You might be wondering where I’m going with this…. I guess I’m trying to say, we are all the SAME. It doesn’t matter where you are, we all have the same questions, the same desires to better ourselves.
Have a great day!
Hey there! I’m writing this as I’m sitting on a plane speaking with the nicest young man who is serving our country. He was just telling me about his 12 mile run with a 60 pound pack yesterday. Wow, my hammies are hurting just thinking about that run! Hello stretch!
I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation and my fav quote from him was “I’m still young enough to just show up and don’t have to worry about stretching, yet”. Oh my, my mobility and flexibility radar must have gone off as this article from Harvard Health came to mind.
I encourage you to take a few moments to read this article as it discusses how our muscles shorten when we don’t stretch, and when our muscles shorten, the risk of falling increases. Please, no falling!
And as always, listen to your body, modify as needed and go out there and take a forward fold!
See you on the mat!
I’m thinking you probably don’t associate these words with the start of a private yoga session. Honestly, I don’t either, but I hear these words frequently from my clients, from my clients who have retired. And it got me to thinking, the majority of us are in a rush, the rush for what I don’t know, but nonetheless, a rush.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my clients, all my clients and yes, my ready set go clients! Full disclosure here, I even told them they may be the subject of a blog post.
Let’s get back to ready, go! I often find my challenge in guiding their yoga practice is not in the physical sense ie: warriors and down dogs, but in their breath work, setting intentions and savasana. I feel the energy and love that they bring to the mat, but sometimes I struggle with helping them leave the worries of the world off their mat. So, I ask them to breathe with me and notice the rise and fall of their breath.
Instead of being in a rush, let’s take a pause. And with that pause, take a breath, just one breath and notice how your mind and body respond. Take a pause on your yoga mat, at the store, at the dinner table and maybe even when we interact with those we love or with complete strangers.
Maybe, just maybe, by taking this pause, we can enjoy and be present in the moment, as this moment, only lasts a moment…
See you on the mat!
Hey there! I thought for sure my first blog post would be about our wrists in downward facing dog, but after an impromptu yoga session with my parents this morning, I want to talk about the misconception of yoga.
First, a little back story. I was visiting my parents this weekend and noticed that they were moving a little slow this morning, now, we were all on our feet yesterday for 12+ hours, but my parents are super active. I asked them what was going on and they said they felt old and stiff. I suggested that we take a few rounds of forward folds and to my dismay, they both responded, “What, I can barely bend over, let alone touch my toes”! My reply of course, was, who cares about those toes, let’s just try.
So, with a little persuasion, we all met in the living room and they allowed me to guide them in a series of forward folds, baby back bends and a few standing half moons. It was beautiful to watch, with each fold (and lots of bending at the knees) their bodies relaxed and they went deeper into their stretch.
And then, it was music to my ears when I heard, “Wow, that felt great! I feel so much better!” And then, with a little horror, I heard, “I didn’t think I could do yoga, I’m not flexible enough”. So it got me to thinking…
Everyone can do yoga, I know that, I hope you know that and now, they know that. I realize this morning was not about the physical practice of yoga, but about breaking down the barriers of what people think yoga is. To me, yoga is about feeling the best you can in your body. And it’s also about where your practice is right now. End of story.
See you on the mat!