Today I’m addressing a question and concern that many of you may have.
This came from someone in the Posture Queen community, she said:
I would like to know your opinion on yoga. Is it good for the body or not? For over a decade I did daily yoga but I still have lower back pain. Maybe I caused it with yoga. Is stretching bad in general? There is so much “you need to strech your hip flexors” and similar videos and recommendations out there and I am simply not sure what is right. What “daily workout” routine would you recommend? Feldenkrais itself is not really a workout, is it?
I hear a lot about people’s disappointments with yoga or pilates.
These usually come from people aged 40+ that have done little or no exercise before.
They are suffering from back pain and other aches and pains and feeling old.
As a result, they try yoga or pilates classes for a while.
The experience, for a lot of people, isn’t good. The poses they are asked to do don’t suit their fitness levels or their body design and they end up feeling a failure.
Awkward twists in the spine and pelvis can only aggravate back issues and bring other problems with them.
There is also too much focus on core strength and stretching which doesn’t help with back issues.
So, if yoga and pilates are supposed to be so good for us why the heck don’t everyone feel great?
The short answer is: your body isn’t prepared for it and you don’t know how to stay safe during the poses/exercises.
How many people do you know that go the gym but suffer from back pain or have an injury as a result of an exercise they did?
Maybe a few.
That is because they have little knowledge of how the body is designed to work and how to stay safe while they exercise.
Yoga, pilates or any other form of exercise is only good for you if, first and foremost, you enjoy doing it. Secondly, you know what you are doing and do it safely. And thirdly, it is in agreement with your body’s abilities and limitations.
In yoga classes, it is a common sight to see people, for instance, doing sitting twists with a rounded spine. That can only damage the (spinal) discs and puts strain in the sacrum so pain and injury are bound to happen. And, if you already have back issues, these will only be aggravated.
There many other common poses (you see it in most classes) in yoga, such as trikonasana (and some variations) that aren’t suitable for the body. This is due to the way they twist the sacrum and knees that can only cause strain and eventually damage in the joints and ligaments.
Another very common pose is squatting, which is one of the best daily exercises to do but it’s very easy to do it in a way that strains your ankles and knees badly i.e. when your knees go in opposite direction to your toes.
The list is endless…
Don’t get me wrong, I love yoga and I’m a yoga teacher too but with the Feldenkrais Method I’ve gained the knowledge and skills to keep myself and my clients safe when practing yoga. I, also, don’t do or teach many common yoga poses or I adopt a different way to do them to stay safe – there are many other movement teachers out there doing the same.
If you are 40+, have not done much exercise before, have back issues or other health issues, my suggestion, to stay safe and gain confidence, is to start by doing Feldenkrais regularly.
The Feldenkrais Method is safe and will untie all those knots you have created through lack of exercise or doing it in ways that have caused you strain or injury.
However, you may think that Feldenkrais isn’t a workout or is not enough of a workout for you and you want to know what ‘workout’ you can do safely.
There is only one answer to this: it is up to you to see what you enjoy. Don’t do anything that doesn’t bring you satisfaction or that ‘it feels good’ kind of reaction.
Whatever you choose, swimming, running, aerobics, cycling, yoga, pilates, make sure it feels right to you and suits you fitness level.
Poeple that practice Fedenkrais often say that their regular physical activity (walking, swimming, golf, running, yoga, etc) has improved dramatically since doing Feldenkrais.
Whatever you do as a workout you will do it much better and more safely when you have a Feldenkrais practice on the side.
That is because the movements you do in Feldenrais teaches your nervous system how to move efficiently, as per the human body design. You will increase range of movement and re-align the skeleton, creating better posture. This allows the body to operate more efficiently and you will notice it as you go about life.
When the body is wonky it can’t operate well hence the aches and pains.
Just like if your tripod is wonky, it won’t secure your camera and you probably won’t want your nice camera sitting on a wonky tripod…
You only have to try it for yourself.
(I will address stretching in another post).
(Leave me a comment!)