Week 2 with VetYogi – Let’s focus on the back!
Week 2 – Back 19/8/20
Here we are at week 2, hopefully you are all still with me! This session is a really important one as it focuses our awareness on strengthening and stretching our backs. I should have actually called this week ‘back and core’, as the way I like to think of ‘core’ is as a cylinder including the back and side body, as well as the abdominal regions typically associated with core. The muscles of the back and core work together and antagonistically to provide us with strength and stability, and in a job where we do a lot of bending and lifting, or working with animals which far exceed our own bodyweight, protecting those muscles, and importantly, our spinal health, is absolutely crucial.
Anecdotally I am sure we all know a vet or a nurse who has struggled with chronic back pain or acute back injuries, perhaps even having to move away from clinical practice as a result. As someone who has suffered a back injury myself (to the extent where I struggled to touch my knees when I bent over) I can really vouch that it is never too soon or too late to start taking care of your back!
As many of you will be aware, the spine comprises of 4 key areas: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral vertebrae. When we are thinking about back health it is important to address each area, however, given that last week we focussed on the cervical region as part of our ‘Neck and Shoulders’ class, and next week will see our awareness target our sacral area in the ‘Hips’ sequence, this class primarily targets strengthening and lengthening our thoracic and lumbar sections and the front, back and side body which surrounds them. A key goal is to support the natural curvature of the spine, whilst trying to optimise the alignment of your body, which for many reasons may differ from others.
Please go at your own pace
It is vital that you take this class (and all classes) at your own pace, and do not do anything that feels painful. A bit of mild discomfort can be fine, as often experienced when we use muscles we haven’t worked for a while, or lengthen areas that have tightened up, but sometimes our pride or ego will encourage us to go beyond that, so please do not feel the need to push your body into pain! One of the downsides of teaching online is that I cannot help you directly, so please be mindful of your own limits, and take the modifications offered as much as you need to, easing back if it starts to feel too much.
I often teach that the lessons we learn on our yoga mat are there for the taking off the yoga mat in our daily and working lives, and hopefully with enough practice this awareness of how our back feels, and what positions we are putting it through, will start to translate as we go about our work. For instance, it sounds so simple but it has become second nature now for me to request alterations to the height of the surgical table in order to protect my body, whereas in the past I would have forgot about it as I concentrated solely on my patient. The bottom line is that I am a better surgeon when I am comfortable and healthy. Often we put ourselves at the bottom of the queue for our own care and consideration, with patients, clients, colleagues, friends and family, coming first, and yoga is a tool we have to prioritise our own self-care, a way to get some much-needed ‘me time’.
Week 2 Feature Pose: Locust Pose
One of my favourite and most versatile yoga asanas, Locust Pose (Shalabasana) works on every aspect of our cylindrical core; lengthening and opening the front and side body, strengthening and stabilising the back, and with so many variations that there is something for everyone. We will explore several of the options in class this week, and you can also check out the step-by-step guide here: https://vetyogi.com/blog-details/locust-animal-yoga-pose-series
If your back needs a little pick me up throughout the week, try one of the 5-minute sequences for back and core via the VetYogi YouTube channel. These bite-sized classes can be done during even a short lunch break!
Upper back: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHrNHA8cNyg
Lower back: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSjyCKMhz9E
If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow VetYogi on social media for more info.
‘See’ you on the mat!
A few reminders for the next class:
- A yoga mat (but a vet bed or towel will work if necessary!)
- A water bottle
- Comfortable clothing which allows for movement
- A block or a rolled up towel
- A bolster/pillow (maybe a couple)
- In these viral times wash/sanitise hands before and after stepping on your mat.
- If you have any injuries or issues, please be mindful as obviously online I won’t be able to help you directly.
- These classes are not designed for pregnancy; however, if you have an existing pre-natal practice and know how to modify postures yourself, then take care.