Yoga and Stretching

In addition to seeing an Osteopath, and having Osteopathy and/or Acupuncture to help recover from injury, it is essential to do some form of exercise.  Yes, it it true that regular Osteopathy and/or Acupuncture may help maintain function and prevent pain — but even here you will gain far more and make much better progress if you are proactive in your own fitness and well-being, and this includes regular exercise.

What we often think of as exercise, is what I would call 'recreation'.  Team games can give excellent cardiovascular fitness (and of course, lead to team-building and group cohesion) and most gyms tend to emphasize 'strength' training.  The modern fitness industry, however, is less that 100 years old — and there are 'traditional' training systems that go back centuries.  Here I am thinking of things like yoga, qigong, Tai chi and the martial arts — what I would call 'intelligent' exercise, and these training systems are particularly appropriate for the 'ageing' athlete.  The ageing process can go well, and we can maintain our cardiovascular fitness and 'strength' but the loss is generally of flexibility, as we find our muscles become tighter and stiffer.

Often rehabilitation exercises are given that emphasize muscle strength and tone. This may well be justified where a muscle group has become weak due to injury or disuse. For example, rotator-cuff shoulder muscle strengthening exercises (using a resistance band), or back-strengthening (back-bending) to develop paraspinal muscle (perhaps after a disc injury).

Show video: Mindfully (carefully) getting up from lying down

However, often our muscles become over-tight and shortened. This can often happen around the neck and shoulders, muscles we tend to overuse, and rarely relax fully.

Other muscles, the so called core-muscles of the abdomen habitually tend to weaken in some individuals — within the body, as in nature, there is always a balance in some way. There is often a relationship between hamstring length and lower back pain: one pattern is short hamstrings, tight calf muscles and weak core strength.

Show video: Knee hug back stretch

Generally it is good to emphasize stretching in addition to tone, length as well as strength. It’s a good idea to stretch everything (especially the back muscles — not just arms and legs) and it’s unwise to omit stretching from your training. This is where systems like yoga are worthy of study — as they have had thousands of years to work out how the body works as a unit, and how to stretch whole muscle chains, not just an isolated muscle (as we often see in modern ‘sports’ stretches)

Show video: Side lying twist for back

Pilates emphasizes strength and core-stability over length or stretch — yet there is some overlap between the two training systems. Good yoga (correct Iyengar training is the best example) will have plenty of core-strength within its postures (Asana) when performed correctly.

Show video: Astronaut position for back pain and disk injury

It is sensible, actually essential, to stretch the upper back muscles (which often overtighten) even if one’s prime objective is to increase abdominal muscle tone (e.g. pilates and core-strength) and one is wishing to avoid recurrence of lower back pain.

Show video: Feet up the wall (inversion) lymphatic drainage exercise

Mindfulness in movement

In the Videos I use the word ‘mindfulness’ to attempt to convey this: listen carefully to your body’s wisdom, and let it decide what is right for you. Pay attention to every movement at each moment.

Never rush. Please avoid the temptation to ask ‘how many repetitions?’ This is the mind talking — not the body. Try not push yourself like a robot. Stay with each movement and see how far and how much is right for today. There is always tomorrow for more.

Show video: Horizontal shoulder stand (lying on bolster) to stretch upper back

Regular practice will achieve results — not least of which is ‘mindfulness’ of your body and a confidence and knowledge of the soft edge of any pain-barrier, or area that feels sore or stiff. Slowly, slowly. Be gentle, with yourself also, as with all living things.

Show video: Cat and Cow back stretch

All exercise needs to be in balance and in proportion: cardiovascular, strength, endurance, core-strength — and most important of all (especially for the older person!) is stretching!

Again wherever possible it is of course always best to find a professional teacher and proper exercise class, to gain maximum benefit.

Suggested Resources:

For Yoga:

All I would say here is for good yoga stay away from what looks like large (gym) classes, and what I light call a 'corporate' set up (with an owner, and paid sessional personal trainers, run as a business, with a profit motive as primary).  In this kind of set-up there is less (or no) individual 'ownership', 'accountability' and 'investment' from any individual trainer.  They make their money from the (large) numbers in the room, and the class runs on 'mass' volume. So there there will be less individual attention to your own specific learning needs, in a larger 'mass-produced' class of this type.  
But I suppose it is possible that this might suit your needs in terms of location and times. 

All I would say is that a smaller class, with a dedicated teacher (not working for someone else, or a corporate) may be able to make a greater investment in your individual learning needs, and the yoga (pilates) positions will be taught with far more precision with far greater attention to detail. 

This is particularly true if you are an older person, or are perhaps recovering from injury.  If you want precise instruction, then chose carefully: but if you just want the 'buzz' and a large group energy (you like the 'atmosphere') then you might enjoy the cardiovascular group workout of large classes, where it's almost a free for all and you're left to fend for yourself, because no one will bother to come and correct you — or even stop you doing anything incorrectly, that could result in injury. 

All exercise is good — but exercise is a 'science'.  Attention to detail is necessary.

Apollo Power Yoga is in/near the CBD (Salisbury St).  Flow Hot Yoga is in Mandeville St, Riccarton.  Christchurch East Yoga in Brighton, and YogaBase in Linwood, very close to my Osteopathy and Acupuncture clinic here in Linwood Ave, as is Grassroots yoga at the Tannery in Woolston.

Please forgive me repeating this caveat: try to find a smaller class with a specialist teacher for the best training. If you have a gym membership then by all means check out any classes in your gym as they will be free, included in your membership.

Although you may enjoy the 'buzz'  and atmosphere of a large class (typically at a gym), these large classes are often of 'variable' (i.e. poor) quality — as 20 to 30 people  (sometimes 50 +  !)  in a big class can only ‘muddle through’ and try to see the teacher at the front, who will not have time to make ‘corrections’ and give you any individual attention. If you have an injury it is also difficult in a large class for the teacher to keep an eye on you.

For precise, high quality training, then obviously a smaller class  (maybe 6 -12 people) with a specialist teacher — who will give you plenty of correction and individual attention is ideal. Please see the Yoga websites listed above

Try to find a class in your local area, for yoga especially needs precision, and individual attention to refine and correct your practice (please see links above for local classes) if you have nothing else, e.g. you may live in a very remote area, and there are no classes available, then you can find some resources on the internet and You Tube. Here is one:

Also please feel free to browse the many video clips on this, and the other pages of this Self-Care Chapter. These are easy, relatively safe, and suitable for people who may not currently have good levels of fitness, or who are recovering from injury.

Disclaimer: whilst every effort has been made to demonstrate these movements (as shown in the video clips) in as safe a way as possible, no responsibility can be taken for any injury caused, or aggravated, by doing, or attempting to do, any of these movements or exercises. A major reason for presenting the video clips in this Chapter is to present as safe a series of exercises as possible. However, please use your own judgement, and only do, or attempt to do something that you feel OK with, without any pain or stiffness.

Ideally, always try to find a local class, with a competent and qualified teacher. This also ensures ‘safety’ as someone can keep an eye on you, to ensure you are doing everything properly, safely, and getting the best from your practice.



christchurch   osteopathy   acupuncture

mike inman   osteopath


book now

essential/emergency, text

021 043 6282

022 571 0118