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Shoveling Giving You a Sore Back? This Might Help 

Before and after moving snow, a Bend yogini recommends these exercises

The first day of this recent big storm was magical—the white stuff piling up like lovely puffs over the grime of winter. You may have shoveled the walk a bit, mostly enjoying some time off in front of the fire.

The next day, maybe the groceries were running low. Maybe you had to go back to work—but in any case, a giant berm in front of your driveway, left by the snowplow, meant the shoveling effort had to hit DEFCON 1. Suddenly, shoveling snow was no magical task, but a grueling effort. If you have a snowblower, good on ya. But if you've been removing snow with a shovel, chances are your back and shoulders have been suffering ever since this heavy snow hit. Some basic body exercises may offer some relief.

According to the American Heart Association, shoveling snow can put certain people at risk of heart attacks—including those who are sedentary and people with existing heart conditions including heart failure, high blood pressure or cholesterol. Those people should talk with their health care provider before doing anything requiring a lot of sudden exertion. If you're someone who's in physical therapy, consulting your physician or PT is also a good idea.

But for those who weren't experiencing major pain or physical issues before this, we asked Suzie Newcome, founder and co-owner of the Namaspa Yoga Community, for a few poses to do to alleviate that soreness. Here's what she had to say:

"I chose poses that target the low back and shoulders, as these are the primary areas that take a beating due to snow shoveling. These are all easy to follow and gentle for any body or physical condition, and can be done at home. It would be good to do these before shoveling and (even more importantly) after shoveling to help loosen up and oxygenate fatigued muscles.

1st pose: Child's Pose

Target: Low back & shoulders
click to enlarge Child's pose. - NAMASPA YOGA COMMUNITY
  • Namaspa Yoga Community
  • Child's pose.
From your hands and knees, bring your forehead to the mat and press your hips over your heels. Bring your knees wide to create more ease through the hips and make room to breathe. Stretch your arms out ahead of you and press your fingertips into the mat to lift and move the shoulders.

Optional: Walk your hands as far as you can to one side and press back in to the opposite hip to stretch the side body. Take a few deep breaths, then slowly change to the other side.

2nd pose: Cat / Cow Pose

Target: Entire spine
click to enlarge Cat pose. - NAMASPA YOGA COMMUNITY
  • Namaspa Yoga Community
  • Cat pose.
click to enlarge Cow pose. - NAMASPA YOGA COMMUNITY
  • Namaspa Yoga Community
  • Cow pose.
From hands and knees, inhale and look up, lifting your tailbone up toward the ceiling. Exhale and look toward your belly button, rounding your tailbone under. Repeat several times in concert with your breath.

Optional: Bring your spine back to neutral and move your right ear toward your right hip, making a "c" with the spine. Repeat on the other side, moving with breath.

3rd pose: Thread the Needle

Target: Spine and Shoulders
click to enlarge Threading the needle pose. - NAMASPA YOGA COMMUNITY
  • Namaspa Yoga Community
  • Threading the needle pose.
From hands and knees, slide one hand under the other and come down on that arm. Press your other hand into the floor to create a gentle twist in the spine and shoulders.

Optional: Lift your other hand up toward the ceiling, and rotate that arm in small circles in one direction, and then the other.

4th pose: Straddle Fold with Arm Bind

click to enlarge Straddle fold. - NAMASPA YOGA COMMUNITY
  • Namaspa Yoga Community
  • Straddle fold.
From standing, move your feet far apart and interlace your hands behind your low back (if your shoulders are very tight, put a strap or necktie between your hands). Soften your knees and hinge forward at your hips, dropping your head below your heart. Allow your hands to fall over your head, rinsing your shoulders and forearms (if your arms don't go over your head much, use the strap to widen your hands). If your low back is sore, keep your knees bent. Tilt your weight toward your toes. Hold for a few breaths, and drop your hands to your hips to come up to standing, engaging your core muscles.

Optional: With your hands on the floor, walk them to your right foot, and lift your right arm up to twist. Repeat on the other side.

5th pose: Supported Fish

click to enlarge Supported fish. - NAMASPA YOGA COMMUNITY
  • Namaspa Yoga Community
  • Supported fish.
Lie down face up and put a yoga block or firm pillow under your upper back, between your shoulder blades. Allow your head to fall back (you can support it on another block or pillow). Open your arms out to the sides, palms facing up. Take several deep breaths, allowing your shoulders and chest to open.

Optional: Press the soles of your feet together and allow the knees to fall apart to stretch the inner thighs. If this is too intense, you can put blocks or pillows under your knees."

About The Author

Nicole Vulcan

Nicole Vulcan has been editor of the Source since 2016. (Blame her for everything since then.) Favorite car: A Trek commuter bike. Favorite cat: An adopted dog who looks like a Jedi master. Favorite things, besides responding to your comments: Downton Abbey re-runs, Aretha Franklin albums, and pink wine.
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