Having spent a good few hours hoeing, or driving, carrying a pack, or sitting at a keyboard, sooner or later various parts will start to grumble.
What they'd really like, is for you to pay them some attention , even whilst you do those things.
Using your body to achieve the desired end, without hurting it so much in the first place.
But that takes a level of bodily awareness that is beyond (initially at least) most of us.
We become so intently focussed on the task before us, that very often, we forget that it is our body that is doing the thing.
It almost seems ungrateful, the way in which we become so detactched from this reality.
So we can try to be a bit kinder to ourselves whilst we work, or play, and give a little more thought to efficiency, and balance perhaps.
But also after working, even just a few minutes of doing some systematic stretching to realign things, and extend the joints, muscle and connective tissue in a body positive fashion, will help.
Particularly if you have been doing hard physical labour, the muscles will have warmed up and be receptive to these movements, at this time.
|First find a suitable lake, and some flattish ground. for Adho mukha virasana|
This posture is how we very often start a class.
You may need something under the front of your ankles such as a rolled towel laid crosswise, if the ankles are too stiff to lay flat comfortably..
Sit symmetrically with your buttock bones on your heels, big toes joined.
The width between your inner knees is equivalent to the width of your rib cage.
Stay sitting back on your heels then put you finger tips on the floor in front of your knees.
Lift the chest and stretch front edge of spine forwards, and up, using your hands to help.
Take your hands further forwards keeping them shoulder width apart.
Whole of palm pressed down. particularly the mound of the thumb.
Fingers spread apart
Straighten arms as much as possible, by pulling in your outer elbows towards the midline, aiming eventually for the elbows to be fully locked straight.
This may not be easy at first, but you will see improvements with persistance.
Eventually we want the elbow joint to straighten fully - this is how the joint is strongest, and best for load bearing.
Rest your forehead on the floor if the head reaches easily, but it is quite likely that the the head will need support, if your shoulders are stiff, so put a well folded blanket or similar there, so head and neck can release.
Stay for a couple of minutes, hands spread and pressing down, arms lifting away from centre of the earth, but torso extending forwards and descending down. Shoulder blades flattening into the back.
If buttocks won't stay contacting the heels - then put something there too - the extension should be as much back as forwards.
Really important to relax your jaw, neck, eyes and brain.
Think more of allowing the stretch rather than forcing it...
Dog pose ( Adho muka svanasana)
From the first pose, first come up onto your hands and knees, keeping same distance between hands and feet.
Take feet hip width apart, and then turn under toes,
Brace arms by drawing outer elbows in again.
If shoulders are very stiff then turn hands and fingers to slant outwards diagonally.
this will help the arms to straighten.
On an outbreath lift up off knees, keep legs bent to raise the hips and buttock bones as high as possible..
Start to straighten the legs, but they may be reluctant, if the hamstrings have become shortened by life in general.
Don't expect heels to come to ground, posture pictured above is mainly result of few thousand repetitions..... What you're aiming for one day, but maybe not just yet.
Always breathe, and keep in mind that you are doing this for your benefit, not to impress anyone else.
Yoga is supposed to be good for you, its not a case of you being good at it...
A lot of 'yoga' pictured on the internet is actually sloppily done for an ego boost, shape making, and is mainly pictured to showcase a new brand of leggings... Forgive them, they're most likely very young, and you're not that easily fooled....
Aiming to have the heels under the hips, and allowing shoulder blades to flatten into the back.
Keep the head in line with the arms dont pull it down .
This method may be easier for learning the action of straightening the legs fully.
Kneecaps should lift up through these actions, using the frontal thigh muscles. to open the backs of the knees, and broaden the back thighs from inside to out...
Again a fully straightened leg leads to healthier knee joints, and longer hamstrings,
Parvatasana in Sukhasana
So this arm movement can be done in any number of sitting positions, or even standing up, or lying prone.
At first this will be a real challenge to the shoulders, and most people struggle to get the arms to straighten.
But this posture works in such a way as to counteract the tendency to overwork certain parts of the arms, whilst neglecting others.
The key thing to remember is that the collar bones should stay broad, chest be lifted, not caving in.
That way the dorsal spine ( upper back) which often curves out and becomes rounded, is made to move back to its proper place.
So sit, or stand evenly, crossed legs is good, but you will probably need to sit on a firm support so that the knees are at almost the same height as the hips.
First extend arms forwards, interlock fingers right up to the base, palms facing chest, thumb tips joined.
Then rotate palms away from face, so thumb tips point toward floor.
Straighten arms fully - again by squeezing outer elbows in.
Then keeping shoulders back, and chest broad, raise the arms so that upper arms are besides ears.
Pushing up strongly with the thumb edge of the hand.
This is where the shoulders will start to resist, and you may find it difficult to straighten arms, but go on squeezing in the outer arms, and make sure thumb tips stay together - thus equalising the arm action.
Then bring arms down, change the interlock of fingers, and cross of legs.
Repeat, several times if you can
If you are doing this whilst standing, then keep legs very straight, thighs lifted and back, and sides of waist moving back too.. standing with inner heels and toe bases connected makes you lift the inner legs... These have a tendency to be lazy if allowed.
Another arm action done in cross legs. note sitting on sufficient height so that the back body can lift up and move in.
Here we've used a dry bag stuffed with spare clothes, and a sleeping bag to fill the gap between feet and knees.
Doing this allows the thighs and inner groins to release down.
The hips really appreciate this.
Also note that the feet are fairly well forwards, so that they are under the knees.
The arms here attempt to straighten by squeezing inwards, towards the midline.
Don't overdo the downward pull of the knuckles, but do lift the chest and move in the dorsal spine again.
This last move is more for the lower back, but does act on the shoulders too.
Head and neck support have been given here, often useful where shoulders are stiff. You should be able to see your chest without straining your eyeballs !
Start lying down evenly, spine in a straight line, with feet flat on floor knees bent up.
The object here is to keep the upper part of buttock on the ground.
This is not an abdominal crunch, type move, the abdomen should stay soft, the navel deepening
We are trying to broaden the back body both lengthwise and crosswise.
So when we hold onto the shins we are drawing them down parallel to the ground, not attempting to get the knees to chest.
As with our starting pose, the inner thighs are contacting the outer rib cage, shins and knees are are hip width apart.
Work your shoulders down towards the floor, tuck them under towards the waist, away from the back of the skull.
Again keeping front chest open.
Relax whole face especially the jaw.
Keep tongue resting in lower palate.
Soften the interior of the throat to allow the breath to move freely.
Often when we clasp something with the hands, we unconsciously grip the jaw too. this may have been a useful move way back in our evolution, but nowadays it tends to lead to stiff necks, headaches, and expensive dentistry bills.
Relax your face, and breathe quietly through the nose.
I'm a great fan of steam trains, but impersonating them has no place in a yoga practice.
Once you've completed this move place your feet back on the floor, hip width apart, let your knees rest evenly against each other.
Think about the midline of your self i.e. the central alignment of your spine, and allow equal release and volume on each side.
You can close your eyes and observe the movement of the breath for a few minutes too.
Allow the back body to spread , and be fully supported by the floor.
Allow the front body to settle quietly onto the back body.
Next time we'll look at some things we can do to lengthen those stubborn, but not really that complicated nuisances, short hamstrings.
Restrictions in that area may cause all sorts of problems, but we can, if not completely rebuild them, then definitely make some big improvements.