There are hundreds of reasons why we might suffer back pain and problems with our posture. Many of us simply don’t stand or sit with a balanced posture and have the resulting pain and inflammation that come from the unnecessary strain we put on our joints and muscles. Some of us have these problems because of injury or just the way we were born causes posture imbalances. And there are others who develop conditions like multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease which can affect the brain and spinal cord. People commonly suffer with lower back pain, especially those who’ve had children, because of overwork, carrying on even when exhausted and lifting heavy things without bending our knees. Traditional Chinese Medicine addresses and improves all of these areas. Both restoring our health and well being and preventing future issues. I currently have two private students who require specific strengthening and restorative exercises for their backs. Keep reading for some simple exercises.
Considering the obvious importance of keeping our bodies strong and flexible, most of us either do very little or too much to maintain a good posture or robust but agile frame. We’re not taught how to connect with our body and notice how we’re sitting and standing as children, when it would be most useful to have this knowledge. We sit for long periods due to work or home comfort, often not considering how we’re sitting and the effects this has in the long term. Other times we go to the other extreme and put strain on our body by doing exercise that has a high impact on our joints and again don’t think about long term damage.
Yoga is the commonly accepted exercise most people take to improve flexibility, and qigong is the Chinese form of yoga. Qi gong means ‘energy work’ or ‘accumulating energy’ and has been around for thousands of years. Combining movement, mindful concentration and breathing techniques to increase and balance your vital energy while also increasing the flexibility of joints, strengthening the body from the inside out, and increasing our mental and emotional balance. All qigong exercises gently and safely readjust and balance the skeleton along with the energy flow in the body.
Part of a whole traditional self-healing system along with massage techniques, qigong has been used for around 4000 years to maintain and also restore good health and vitality. Most of us in the West come to qigong and Traditional Chinese Medicine only after our body has been through the stresses and strains of what we believe is a ‘normal’ way live. We’re not taught in our Western medical system that not only is it possible to keep your body strong and healthy, but it’s also really easy to do so. We used to know these things intuitively, just like all ancient civilisations. But there’s a lot of money to be made in a system that teaches us that we don’t have power over or understanding of how to keep our bodies strong and healthy. Western medicine often deals with sickness, looking to solve a problem once it’s already occurred. Traditional Chinese Medicine deals with health and wellbeing, maintaining and strengthening our body, mind and spirit to make sure we don’t become seriously ill. At the same time, TCM restores any damage to our energy and health and rebalances our whole system, body, mind and spirit.
Here is some useful guidance for how to connect with your body and readjust your posture –
- Stand, or sit if you’re unable to stand, with your tailbone pointing down, so that your lower spine is slightly extended. Don’t tilt your pelvis too much, and also don’t stick your bottom out behind you, just find the centre. Lengthen your whole spine upwards, as if a piece of string is lifting it from the top of your neck.
- Check that you aren’t leaning to one side or the other, or putting more weight on one hip or foot than the other, and make sure the whole surface of your feet are in contact with the floor. Notice how your feet are connected with the ground.
- If you’re standing, make sure your weight is going down the backs of your legs into your heels, and let your arms hang loosely at your sides.
- If you’re sitting, rest your hands loosely in your lap, elbows open so there’s space for you to breathe easily. Make sure your knees and feet are about in line with your hips.
- Stand or sit and just notice how your body feels while keeping your spine lengthened, etc. Is there any tension to release? Could you lengthen your spine upwards a bit more?
- Keeping all of your muscles relaxed, breathe deeply in through your nose allowing your belly to expand like a balloon. On each out breath think about releasing any tension you still feel in your body. Don’t force the breath or push your belly out, just allow the muscles to relax so this happens naturally.
The more relaxed we are, the more easily oxygen, blood and energy flow around the body, supporting our whole physical system as well as our emotional wellbeing.
This is how I begin every qigong and meditation class I teach. Repeat this often to get in the habit of sitting and standing in a balanced stance that supports your whole body.
There are many qigong exercises that can be practiced either standing or sitting cross legged (or on a low seat with no arms or back) which help to gently loosen, readjust and strengthen the spine and whole bone structure of your body. The instructions are too complicated and open to misinterpretation to write down on their own (as I’ve found when getting my sons to try follow written instructions without me showing them what I mean), so take a look at the videos already available on my Facebook and Instagram pages, and I will share a short video demonstrating qigong exercises that specifically help the spine. Contact me for personalised support if you have a spine or pelvic injury.