And sometimes, in our enthusiasm to keep the garden looking bright and beautiful in summer, we go overboard with the digging and weeding …and lifting…and pulling…and planting…and generally putting unusual pressure on our backs.
Spring and summer is when we Brits are hit hard by the gardening bug and, unfortunately, it’s also the time when “bad backs” abound. That can mean anything from an ache low down, to a general bruised feeling across the midsection, to stiff shoulders, to downright immobility, where it hurts to stand up straight, let alone walk about.
The reasons for a bad back are as varied as the weeds you pulled: you could have put sudden undue pressure on one area because you’ve been digging and “just want to get that last bit done” instead of standing straight and stretching. Or perhaps you lifted too many heavy sacks of compost or soil, or crouched down for ages to do the weeding.
Happily, avoiding a bad back can be as simple as doing a few simple yoga stretches after your garden workout to help your muscles to relax naturally; it’s often possible to create a customised preventative yoga routine that you can do every day or every other day that will help develop your core strength and make you less vulnerable to muscle strain.
You could do worse than take a leaf out of Jim’s* book: a keen gardener in his late 70s, he always does a lovely, restful sequence of yoga postures after any strenuous gardening and his back is supple and strong as a result. Or Sally*, also in her 70s, who finds yoga two or three times a week keeps her supple and strong enough to enable to start gardening again for the first time in years. She says: “I wish I’d started years ago!”
*genuine yoga enthusiasts, but not their real names.
Amanda Turner is a qualified British Wheel of Yoga teacher with more than 25 years experience in yoga. She teaches yoga at Shambhala Studios in Leigh on Sea.
You know the feeling: you’re driving and you need to check what’s happening behind you before you pull into the stream of traffic. You check the rear-view mirror, fine. You turn to look over your shoulder and realise you have to turn your whole body – your neck and shoulders have suddenly become fixed.
Sometimes this lack of flexibility is caused by a sedentary lifestyle, sometimes it can be caused through an injury, but commonly arthritis can be the culprit. Arthritic joints are painful and our natural instinct is to protect the joint by not moving it, but unfortunately the less you move these joints, the less you are able to move these joints because the synovial fluid lubricating them is not being stimulated. What stimulates production of this vital fluid? Yes, that’s right – movement!
And so the downward spiral into immobility develops. You move the joint less and less and it becomes tender or inflamed so you become more protective of it; your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs or painkillers. You may even have to undergo x-rays to try to discover where the problem is originating.
And yet there’s a simple way to offset this lack of flexibility with a course of gentle movement and stretching that has been around for hundreds of years and is now beginning to be recognised as a truly holistic, healthy, natural form of exercise.
Practising yoga brings a full range of movement into the joints and while some prefer the more energetic forms, there is a yoga style and a yoga class to suit everyone: from the 50-year-old who hasn’t exercised since school, to the 18-year-old who wants to improve muscle tone to the 70-year-old who wants to avoid a second knee arthroscopy.
By Amanda Turner
YOGA for the LIVER
The liver is one of our vital organs and practicing yoga can have a positive influence on its function.
A Few Facts:
The liver is the largest organ inside our bodies; it holds approximately 13% of our total blood supply at any one given moment and is the only organ that has the ability to regenerate itself!
It has over 500 functions including:
Fighting infection and disease
Destroying poisons and drugs (including alcohol)
Cleaning the blood
Controlling the amount of cholesterol
Processing food once it has been digested
Storing minerals, nutrients and vitamins
Yoga postures can maintain and enhance the health of this vital organ. Yoga’s approach to well-being doesn’t focus merely on the visible physical health but on the ‘whole body’ including the relationship between physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Yoga cannot of course exercise the liver itself; rather, the practice of yoga can stimulate, regulate and enhance the function of it. Many yoga postures place pressure on the abdominal region which acts as a gentle massage to the organ helping to stimulate it, improve blood flow and tissue exchange. Twisting postures create the ‘squeeze and soak’ effect, squeezing blood out of the organ and replacing with renewed oxygen rich blood. Other postures work to stretch and strengthen the abdominal muscles which again have a gentle massaging effect on the liver whilst improving strength supports the abdominal cavity reducing the strain on all the internal organs.
Yoga postures improve circulation and the function of our nervous system and yoga breathing also enhances circulation and gaseous exchange deep within our cells. The relaxation aspect of yoga moves us into ‘rest and repair’ (the parasympathetic nervous response) further improving the function of our internal system. This ‘whole body’ influence yoga has improves liver function by balancing the various functions that have a direct effect on the liver.
Forward bending postures: gently massages the liver and other internal organs. Stimulates blood flow and can promote detoxification.
Twisting postures: The wringing effect squeezes the liver so there is an outward rush of venous blood. Fresh blood flows back in when released renewing and nourishing.
Amanda Turner – Yoga Teacher BWY.Dip
Amanda Turner is a qualified British Wheel of Yoga teacher with more than 25 years experience in yoga. Contact her via Shambhala, Leigh on Sea’s premier yoga studio, on 01702 478924.