Tending to your flowers and vegetables as the summer sun shines down is a glorious feeling indeed... until your back starts to hurt, or your neck and shoulders. Or when you try to stand up after bending down to pluck out the weeds, you feel like you have aged twenty years.
There are a few simple things you can do to keep your body happy while you are keeping your garden happy. Gardening is a therapeutic activity that slows us down and reconnects us to the rhythm of nature. Combining the mindfulness of how we move and hold our body along with the sensory experience of placing our hands in the dirt, gazing at a multitude of colours and breathing in nature's fragrances all add up to a very nourishing experience on all levels.
1. When in Doubt, Stick Your Butt Out
Most of us tend to bend over just a little bit from the hips and mostly from the back. What does that look like? You get a tucked tailbone and pelvis with a deep rounding of the spine. Bending down this way places a lot of unnecessary pressure on the spine. The source of many people's low back pain comes from moving (and sitting) this way.
Un-tuck your pelvis and keep the weight back over your heels so that your leg bones and posterior leg muscles (your butt muscles and hamstrings) are doing the important job of holding you up. How do you know if you are un-tucking your pelvis? You want to make sure you have that lovely lumbar curve in your lower back. To maintain your lumbar curve when bending over, tilt forward from your pelvis, stick your butt out and back. Keep in mind for maximum happy body and minimum pain, only bend as far as you can maintain that lumbar curve. Try it in front of a mirror if you are not sure how far you can really go.
2. Change Positions Often
Staying in the same positions for too long. Even in a more aligned position, your body and joints are the most happy when they can move in all sorts of ways. Often when we get in immersed in an activity such as gardening, we tend to always sit or move in our habitual ways. That hunched standing and sitting often becomes the default position.
Change it up and change it frequently. A good reminder to change positions is when your body starts to get uncomfortable. Listen to those signals and find a new way to move.
3. Stretch Your Hips & Keep Your Joints Happy
Tight hips will affect your ability to have a happy forward bend and joint range of motion. And even with the best of intentions, your back might still hurt after spending a few hours in your garden.
Try out these two happy hip openers:
What are you growing and loving in your garden this summer? What do you do to keep your body happy? Please share in the comments. Happy gardening everyone!