November 9, 2007

Goin' to the dogs - 2nd interlude

When anyone mentions the negative effects the "Tibetans" might have, back pain is usually at the top of the list. As I mentioned in a previous posting, this is most likely due to two factors. The first is that the exercises quickly strengthen the abdominal muscles without balancing this out by strengthening the back (especially the lower-back) muscles. The second factor is that our contemporary lifestyle, with all those hours seated in front of a computer, gives us weak back muscles to begin with.

To counteract this tendency of the "Tibetans", I have incorporated the following exercise into my morning routine. I learned it from my chiropractor (who occasionally needs to give my head a swift jerk to pop my neck back into place; old aikido injury, don'tcha know).

My chiropractor demonstrated it on a table with his legs hanging over the edge from the hips down, but in a house with four children, I never seem to find an uncluttered table with enough leg clearance on one end, so I started doing the exercise with a simple chair. It works.

So... you start by lying across the chair on your stomach, and grasping the bottoms of two chair legs, like so:

Keeping your trunk and head as parallel to the ground as possible, raise your legs as slowly as you can while you inhale, until your legs are parallel to the ground, like so:
Then slowly let your legs back down to the floor as you exhale (still holding them out straight), until your toes touch the floor.

I recommend doing as many repetitions of this exercise as you do of the five "rites", so that your lower back gets as strong as your abdomen and chest.

Even if you don't do the "Tibetans", it might be a good idea to start doing this exercise if you spend lots of time staring at computer screens. Like you're doing at this very moment.

4 comments:

Henitsirk said...

My back aches just looking at those photos! But I can see that they would be tremendously strengthening.

Hellibrarian said...

Maybe I should try it! I was very proud of my not-bad back until last year when lugging all those newly donated books around did it in. Do you think it might work with those giant exercise balls too?

Adrienne said...

When I saw your photos I wondered if you couldn't get some of the same benefits from a Locust Pose? Although you're starting flat and pulling the legs up, it's similar in the way it makes your abs work, I would think...

Theo Huffman said...

I took a look at the locust post on this page: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/789

I tried it this morning, and I think I'm going to add it to my routine. It looks like it would be safer for most people, too.

The advantage of the table/chair exercise is that it works on those muscles while the legs are in front of the torso, just as they are when you are sitting, which makes it the perfect exercise for desk jockies.