Jules Hardman

Pilates and Gardening

It’s that time of year again – when the weather begins to warm, and we set our clocks forward in anticipation of longer days outside and for many of us – get in the garden. Gardening is a great form of exercise and like any form of exercise gardeners should maintain an awareness of posture and good alignment. Pilates can set the framework for building a strong body and a foundation for mindful movement in our everyday activities.

Many gardeners complain of low back pain after a hard day’s work of weeding or digging. While these tasks potentially require a lot of bending over, many gardeners do not realize that leg strength and flexibility or lack of can contribute to the overall health of your low spine. If there is a lack of flexibility in the hamstrings and hip joints then the action of bending over and flexing the spine places a lot more stress on the lumbar area.

Here are a few tips to help you with better alignment when gardening.

First, start flexing at your hip joint, knees, and ankles instead of always curving your spine to bend or get closer to the ground. By doing so, you will be using your legs to support your upper body. Start practicing with a small squat: with even weight over your feet, bend at the hip joints and knees until your spine and lower legs are at the same angle. Keep your spine straight and abdominal muscles engaged for support. Practice alternating standing and squatting, keeping all of those muscles engaged.  If squatting is uncomfortable, buy a kneeling pad to allow you to kneel close to the ground but focus on keeping your spine in neutral while on your knees and not curving forward to do your work. Lastly, vary your activities. Instead of working for extended periods of time on one task, allow yourself to change activities and positions every 30 minutes or so. Too much time in one position will often irritate the back.

Attending regular Pilates classes can help you develop good postural habits and a strong core. Pilates elongates and strengthens, improving muscle elasticity and joint mobility. A body with balanced strength and flexibility is less likely to be injured. Flexibility can be achieved only when all muscles are uniformly developed.

Pilates helps to make your movements more efficient and body awareness will help to ensure you do not push your body beyond its endurance.