Maintenance for the Human Machine
The human body needs routine maintenance like any other machine. Proactive stretching and restorative yoga can be an ideal complement to those of us who plan to be outside weeding, planting and harvesting for the seasons to come.
This month, we went to a local expert for her advice on methods of maintenance designed especially for farmers and gardeners. Kelly Dressen not only managers a hot yoga studio in our area where she customizes the practice to meet the needs of a variety of clients, but she is also an avid gardener. She knows from personal experience what injuries you can accrue from overuse. Here are some of the most common.
The motions the body goes through during gardening can cause repetitive strain and overuse injuries. Activities such as digging, raking and weeding, can strain the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the back. So Kelly shares some easy practices to avoid common complaints.
This simple move is a great stretch for the end of the day, especially if you have spent a significant portion of that day bending over getting your seeds in the ground. This move strengthens and stretches the spine and neck, the hips, and abdomen.
On hands and knees–inhale, look forward and drop your belly. Exhale, round your back and drop your head to gaze towards your belly. 5-6 breaths.
This stretches the muscles along your shoulders and down through your back. It helps to alleviate any tension and to improve your overall posture. This pose increases strength, power, and mobility in the feet, legs, and hips. It also relieves sciatica.
Reach arms up and with your right hand grab your left wrist, lean to right. 3-4 breaths and then switch wrist. 3-4 breaths. Interlace your hands at your lower back and fold forward over your legs, bending your knees slightly for 3-4 more breaths.
Downward Facing Dog
This move is a staple in every yoga practice for good reason. It targets your upper and lower body at the same time, so you’ll feel it in your hands, arms, shoulders, back, calves, hamstrings and even the arches of your feet. This pose strengthens arms and chest, elongates the spine, promotes blood circulation and enhances digestion.
Bend at the waist so your hands are flat on the ground. Hands should be 6 to 12 inches apart. Knees bent, about hip-width apart and heels off the ground. Lift your sit bones toward the sky so that your body makes an inverted V.
Wide-Legged Forward Bend
This move can be challenging for those with less flexibility, but the more often you practice the easier it will become. This pose stretches and strengthens the hamstrings, calves, hips, low back, and spine. The various arm positions stretch your shoulders, wrists, forearms, and upper back.
Take the feet wide and hinge forward at the hips. Keep shoulder bones hugging together. 3-4 breaths. Walk hands over to your right ankle and press chest close to thighs. 3-4 breaths and then switch to left ankle.
This move targets some of the areas most affected by continuously bending forward and its benefits are greater if you’ve warmed your muscles up through the previous poses. This pose opens your hips, stretches your ankles, lower hamstrings, back and neck. It tones your abdominals, aids in digestion, strengthens your metabolism, and keeps your pelvic and hip joints healthy.
This is a great pose for releasing tension in the lower back, unless you have knee issues then avoid this pose. Take feet hip width apart or further and squat all the way down. Bring your hands to your heart center for 3-4 breaths.
This move is one of everyone’s favorites because it is easy and if feels so good. The main benefit from this pose is that it releases tension in the lower back. It also opens tight shoulders (a chronic problem for most farmers) and elongates supporting back muscles.
Lay on your back and lift your feet off the ground and bend your knees to 90 degrees while you bring your arms to the ground in a T position. Drop both knees to right and glance left. 3-4 breaths. Switch sides.
This final move of all yoga flows serves the purpose of simply relaxing all muscles and clearing the mind which makes it an ideal practice before going to bed. This pose also reduces headaches and helps to lower blood pressure.
Lay fat on your back, close your eyes and allow your hands to rest palms up at your sides. Try to clear your mind of intruding thoughts and breathe normally. Focus on relaxing specific body parts. Continue for 3-5 minutes or until asleep!