HEALTH AND WELLBEING: Strength and flexibility
I trawled the internet for a health awareness topic to write about this month, but the only option was National Tree Week, December 1-5 (or International Mountain Day!). How can I relate trees to health and wellness?
Tree is a classic yoga pose and it’s main elements are strength and flexibility.
Our bodies and minds are constantly looking for a state of balance; we need strong muscles to support us but they also need to be flexible to allow our joints to move in their natural range of movement, otherwise this can contribute to stiffness and arthritic tendencies.
We need a strong mind to enable us to concentrate, step out of our comfort zones and focus but we also need an open mind to be able to be accepting of change and other people.
Let’s look at back pain – the most common reason for time off – and how improving strength or flexibility might help?
Our core is our internal support structure, we need strong abdominal and back muscles to support us in an upright position, particularly as gravity is compressing our spines and shrinking us daily!
The biggest challenge of the West is the chair! Once sitting, we lean against the back and slump, so no longer use our core muscles and they become weak.
If you want to see someone using their core support to perfection, then look at a young baby who has just learned to sit upright on the floor – they never slump! (Until we sit them on a chair at school!)
Our spines also need to be flexible, we should be able to bend them forwards and backwards and twist around, however these latter movements we make very very rarely, resulting in our spines becoming locked/stiff and the discs between the vertebrae dehydrated and shrivelled.
There is an old yogic saying: “You are only as young as your spine, move it or lose it.”
In most other cultures the tendency is to squat rather than constantly sit. Did you know, the average Westerner spends up to 14.6 hours a day sitting?
A squat a day keeps the hip replacements away and ensures your spine is free to move and reduces compression.
The Tree Pose strengthens core muscles, opens out your hips, whilst strengthening the muscles in the supporting leg and increases the bone density from weight bearing.
You will also notice it opens up the chest, heart and lung area, thus improving breathing capacity and strengthens the arms and raises the heart rate (arms overhead).
Perhaps though, the most important benefit is working on your concentration or mindfulness muscles – you have to focus on deep slow breathing to maintain any balance in the pose.
Remember, however, that trees have strong deep roots, trunks and branches but are also able to move with the wind and are deeply flexible.
If we focus too much on strength we break easily, if we focus on being to soft we find it more challenging to have control physically.
Emotionally we don’t want to be considered too hard or too soft, hence we need the balance of both!
For a free video offering further guidance, visit www.carolebaker.co.uk.
--The suggestions in this article are the personal opinion of the author. Please do not take any new remedies if you are currently on any medication without the consent of your GP.