Your Achin’ Back: Yoga for Snow Shoveling
Ahhhh … fresh powder. In the past few days, Utah’s been blanketed with the stuff. Even the southwestern part of the state, where snow is a once-a-decade event, got five inches that effectively shut the city of St. George down for lack of snow removal equipment. It took me about 20 minutes to dig out my car last Thursday and shovel my walks and driveway, and by the end of it, my lower back was whining a bit. Fortunately, I was headed to yoga class. Now my back is expressing gratitude.
Having grown up in the Midwest with its sopping, wet cement-like snow, I feel lucky to be shoveling Utah’s famous powder. Still, when the accumulation is high enough, the combination of forward bending, lifting and twisting can make for a cranky back.
Yoga asana practice is the perfect remedy. Most asanas will help ease a cranky low back, but I'm suggesting a few of my favorites here:
Like most standing poses, Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) is about grounding and expansion. The legs ground and support the torso, which in Trikonasana, is in a neutral position even as it extends to the side. In Trikonasana, your back is completely relaxed, lengthened and receptive to the energy coursing through your legs. The expanded arms, legs and spine counteract the forward bending motion of shoveling.
Supported Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Supported or standing alone, Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) is another great pose for counteracting the effects of bending forward in snow shoveling. The supported version, which can be practiced with bolsters, blankets or a block, has the added benefit of cooling your nervous system after the heat you’ve no doubt generated while shoveling snow. The stand-alone version (without a block, blankets or bolster) strengthens your back while expanding your chest.
Jathara Parivartanasana (Revolved Belly Pose) is a gentle, supine twist that stretches your spinal muscles one side at a time. In the pose, your arms and chest widen as gravity allows the weight of your legs to create length. Like the supported version of Setu Bandha, Jathara Parivartanasana calms your nervous system and cools excessive heat.
Of course many more asanas can be helpful in unwinding shoveling stress. What are your favorites?