Gardening - A Backbreaking Labor of Love

Gardening can be one of the toughest things that we do to our backs all year. It’s a labor of love for many though. Standing back and seeing all of your work come to fruition can be quiet rewarding. For many, it’s their ‘yoga’. A form of meditation, a time to relax and get de-stress.

It’s my job to keep you working away at these things that you love AND not be in pain when the job is done. Even if you don’t love gardening and just do it because you have a yard and something needed to be in it – here are some tips to keep your back mobile and pain free while you work away in your yard.

We want to avoid long periods of lumbar flexion (that stuff leads to bulged disc, sciatica, radiculopathies and other long time healing back issues).  So the best way to do this – get closer to your work. If its clay pots or boxes that you are planting, take them to a table and sit down to fill them. If you are working in a traditional garden, try sitting down, kneeling, going onto all fours. Yes, this puts your entire body closer to the bugs – but get into it! One with nature and all.

You could also spend some time trying to improve your hip flexion. Careful to not do it for too long, or you’ll end up with sore hips. But if bending over, do it with a straight (or fairly straight knee), then don’t allow your spine to round as you bend over. Keep a flat back. For some, you’ll be able to bend over fairly far with this flat back sensation. For others, it’ll take some time to improve flexibility. Improving the flexibility in your hips only means wonderful things for you back health though.

After care is a great idea as well. Once your gardening day is over and all you’d like to do is flop with a cold drink – just wait! Only 5-10min of counter movements can really make all the difference for your back. So I have included two easy yoga poses that you might want to do before your day is up.

Wide Leg Child Pose -Benefits of  Wide-Leg Child's Pose. Child's Pose helps to stretch the hips, thighs, and ankles. It gently relaxes the muscles on the front of the body while softly and passively stretching the muscles of the back torso. Great for tight hip flexors, and also as a method of softening the belly.

From table position (on your hands and knees), bring the big toes together to touch. Walk the knees out as wide as feels comfortable.  Soften the hips down towards the heels. Walk your finger-tips forward, lowering your chest to the ground. If your chest doesn’t touch the ground, then place a pillow under your chest for support. Arms stretch forward, but pay attention to the space between your shoulder blades. Bend the elbows and bring them in towards your body if this helps your shoulders to relax. Let your belly soften into the space between your thighs.

Cat- Cows - Start in table (on hands and knees). Knees under hips. Wrists under shoulders. Flat back. Fingers pointed forward, elbow creases face each other.

INHALE – Lower belly button to ground, open the heart center, lift forehead to sky, tip sit bones up. Complete inhale to the top of the lungs, hold for a moment. Back bend.

EXHALE – Reverse the movement. Draw belly button to spine, tuck chin to chest, arch the back. Complete exhale empty the lungs. Look like an angry cat.

**Make the movements as deep or as shallow as feels right for you** Keep it up for 3-5 minutes

Stabilizes the sacrum to release lower back pain -Supports back by engaging abs -Stretches the low, mid and upper back, the front torso, the hips and the neck -Loosens spine -Stretches hips -Improves spinal flexibility

Whether your gardening for the love and sense of self-accomplishment, or just because you don’t have much of a choice, with a little self-care while in the yard and with just 5-10 minutes of stretches before you call it a day and flop, you can do this seasonal task without causing long-term pain.

*Stayed tuned, in just a few short months my blog will be ‘Shovelling – The Necessary Evil’ (UH!)  -if its not one backbreaking seasonal event, it’s another!





Dana Smith