(It’s time to reflect 2019 and welcome 2020. I have a mixed bag of feelings and this year-end reflection doesn’t seem very joyful. Below involves what’s happening in Hong Kong and you may not want to read it.)
In 2019, it is complicated. Living in Perth, I basically do what I want in everyday life. My study and yoga teaching occupy almost all my time. Yet I have time to do some fun stuff, having weekend brunch, walking my dog, meeting friends and family. I call this a simple good life and it is enjoyable, yet I feel so unsettled. I have been watching news about Hong Kong protest in horror and Hong Kong people pay high price for their civil rights. I know I live in a parallel universe. I am not very well when my family and friends, or anyone in the Hong Kong community are not well. I am not able to express my sadness in words.
Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. If I had experienced what Hong Kong people went through in 2019, it would be:
It’s heartbreaking. The authoritarian state turns the society upside down and continues to stay strong. I know I need to be part of this civil rights movement. I am a believer of the butterfly effect. A small positive vibration can change the entire cosmos. Although I was not able to be at the forefront of the movement, I conveyed a message of yoga poses for mental health to the Hong Kong community. That’s the best thing I’ve done in 2019, if anyone in Hong Kong can feel better in this constant unrest.
I cherish a simple life more than ever. I love my social capital from the yoga community and my family. However, life can never be simple when I see what’s going on in the world on a destroying path. I have to do something. I have to do something bigger.
Everyone has a place in the world. I can make yoga and occupational therapy solutions accessible and help people face practical aspects of life. Inner strength and physical strength are key elements for any bigger-than-life missions. Yoga helps people connect body and mind, finding pace to reach your goal. In occupational therapy, people learn new ways to cope with daily challenges after injury or disease. Down the path, I’d like to focus on community rehabilitation and chronic disease management, blending yoga and occupational therapy together.
Although I am an agnostic person, I am going to learn from a serenity prayer. “ God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” I hope I have clarity of mind to pour my time and energy to what truly matters. That will be my challenges in coming 2020.
Scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine), osteoarthritis (wear and tear of the joints) or degenerative disc disease (ageing process leading to rupture) are associated with low back pain. Surprisingly, many causes of low back pain are non-specific. That can be quite annoying. You may be standing in pain, sitting in pain laying flat in pain for no reason. It is frustrating as you are no longer able to concentrate on work or study. You need to keep adjusting your position so as to reduce the discomfort.
Daniel Lieberman thinks non-specific lower back pain is caused by hours of sitting in modern lifestyle. Even I am a yoga teacher, I can’t avoid long hours of sitting when studying anatomy in my occupational therapy course. With prolonged chair rest, we do not need to use our muscles to support body weight. This weakens core muscles of the back and abdomen. In addition, many hours of sitting mean bending hips for many hours. With the shortened hip flexors, we overarch our back to compensate while standing and walking. Regular stretching and strengthening back muscles are important to our back health.
I’ve read a research article about the effect of occupational therapy and yoga in non-specific lower back pain. Occupational therapy intervention includes sleeping position for back health, postural training of sitting, standing and lifting and core strengthening exercise. After 10 week of training, it shows that people with non-specific low back pain indicate improvements in back strength and range of motion of the spine, with the combination of occupational therapy and yoga. Here are a few yoga poses shown for lower back pain.
1. Reclining hand-to-big toe pose
Tips: It changes the pelvic tilt when lifting one leg up towards the ceiling. Keep your spine in neutral position. Ideally, lower back touches the mat and chin to chest. So, it doesn’t hyperextend the lower back and the neck.
Benefits: Reposition the lower back for a better alignment to relieve back muscles tension
2. Extended triangle pose
- Externally rotate the left thigh muscles when you take your left hand towards the left foot. Activate your legs.
- Open up the right shoulder to deepen the side body stretch
- Strengthen the thighs muscles to carry upper body weight or lift a heavy object
- Strengthen the abdomen to support the muscles surrounding the lower back
- Stretch the side body to relieve lower back pain (stretching the muscle attached to lumbar spine)
3. Bridge pose
- Maintain the knees and ankles hip width apart when lifting the buttocks off the mat.
- Pressing down the arms when lifting the buttocks off the mat
Lengthen hip flexors to balance out this muscle group. The hip flexors have attachments to lumbar spine (lower back), pelvis and femur. Shortened hip flexors cause unnatural curve of the lumbar spine and compression.
You may be worried about making any move because of the pain. Listen to your body and just do what you feel good. With limited range of movement, muscles become shortened and tighten. Other parts of the body will compensate the shorten muscle group. The idea of back pain relief is about strengthening and stretching the muscles associated with the back.
Daniel Lieberman, (2013), The Story of the human body, the Penguin Group
Rachel is the founder of VAI YOGA. She follows her yoga journey from Hong Kong to Fiji and Australia. She is now sharing the joy of yoga and continues down this path in Perth.