Wednesday, 14 October 2020

A Beginners Guide To Making Your Back More Flexible

Strong, flexible back
Photo credit: Unsplash - Strong back muscles


Your back is one of many crucial components of the body. Not only does it help with balance and posture, but it also connects various parts of the body such as the torso with the hips, the shoulders and neck, and the buttocks. 

Still, while the back is a very important muscle, it is often taken for granted and neglected. Strengthening your back has a multitude of benefits which I will mention a bit later on in this post. 

What causes back pain?

Photo credit: Unsplash - Back pain treatment

Bad posture is often a major culprit and the cause of back pain. Poor posture when sitting down, standing, or lifting things can lead to long-term chronic back pain. Strengthening the back muscles will not only enhance aesthetics, but also improve your wellness and reduce the chances of injury and strain. 

Why is a flexible back a good thing? 

Photo credit: Unsplash - Flexible back

Flexibility is essential for all muscles in the body, but for this post, I want to focus on the large back muscle. Daily poor posture can result in muscle strain. This includes sitting for long periods of time. The strain exerted on the back can cause shoulder and lower back pain. 

Reduced risk for injuries 

When your back is more flexible and you practice proper posture, then the chances of injuries to your back is reduced. 

It may speed up the healing time of back sprain

If you've hurt your back by straining it, it takes very long to heal and hampers your normal movement abilities. But, when it comes to a flexible back, you'll notice a faster healing time.   

Better posture and balance 

With a flexible back, it will help to improve your posture naturally as well as balance. This is good news and thus reducing the risk of falls especially in the elderly. 

Easy poses to help increase flexibility in your back: Beginners are  welcomed 

Photo credit: Unsplash - Improve balance 

Sphynx pose 

This gentle back pose is excellent for beginners and intermediates. To do the sphynx pose: 

Lie on your stomach 

Lift your arms up under your shoulders and rest your forearms on the ground (similar to a plank) 

Stay in the pose breathing 5 to 10 breaths 

Cat/Cow pose 

On all fours hands and knees get into this position

With an inhale flex your back towards the ground turning your gaze towards the ceiling

On the exhaled breath, arch your back extending it towards the ceiling 

Do this for 5 breaths 

Bow pose 

Lie on your stomach and bring your legs up at the back to grab your ankles 

With your chest lifted away from the ground make sure the knees are apart

Hold this pose for 5 breaths or longer if you can

Supported bridge 

While lying on your back, lift your hips and support your weight with your feet

The bridge pose with support should have a block underneath your hips to create support 

You can hold this pose for 5 to 10 breaths 

Senior yoga or chair yoga

Photo credit: Pexels - Senior yoga

Age is just a number and you can still take care of your wellness throughout your years. The wonderful practice of senior yoga is excellent and improves posture, balance and range for elderly folks. What's more is that there isn't strain and overexertion during the poses because it is low impact yet effective. 

Furthermore chair yoga can also:

Reduce muscle and joint stiffness

May help improve blood pressure

Improves blood circulation

Improve coordination

May help to reduce inflammation and arthritis pain 

The conclusion about why your back aught to be more flexible

Photo credit: Unsplash - exercise for back pain
Photo credit: Unsplash - Exercise for back pain

Sometimes when working an office job, sitting behind a desk is part of the process. But when you change your seating area and create a more ergonomically comfortable space, your posture and back will thank you later. 

If your regular exercise routine doesn't feature these back strengthening and flexible exercises,  then implementing it will help. You can add it to your routine along with the breathing techniques following through.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

4 Effective Breathing Exercises To Relax, Ease Anxiety, And Cope With Depression

Breathing for wellness
Deep breathing is good for your wellbeing 

Mental wellness is very important and during the current age and times we're living in, there is a huge concern for the mental wellness of people. Often, adapting to some kind of new normal is harder than it looks. 

Part of what makes these difficult times harder includes people having lost their jobs, businesses forced to shut their doors, an inability to freely go out, the coronavirus, and things are just not the same way as what we could relate to before. 

Focusing on natural ways to lower stress levels, anxiety, and depression will go a long way to help improve mental wellness. 

Mental wellness has an effect on our physical wellbeing

When our mental wellness is effected, it tends to have a bearing on our physical wellbeing. For example, anxiety may increase stress hormones which leads to even more stress and emotional instability. 

Oftentimes, people develop chronic health conditions as a result of stressful jobs or lifestyles. These can include high blood pressure (hypertension), insomnia, headaches, palpitations, and may increase allergies. 

Some factors that contribute to stress include financial stress, poor health, sedentary lifestyles, unemployment, low income, and a lack of education to name a few. 

By changing your lifestyle, it improves the chances of better health and overall wellness. This is often easier said than done, but slowly implementing positive changes will produce positive results. 

Why do we need oxygen?

Oxygen into your lungs: Unsplash

Breathing is a natural response of the body. We breathe and inhale oxygen into our lungs. Oxygenated blood travels through to the organs and provides it with essential O2 helping it to function. O2 also contributes to the process of energy production and the breaking down of sugars and fats. 

But how we breathe also plays a very important role in how we feel. For example, shallow breaths or (chest breaths) increases cortisol and adrenalin. These chemicals are needed in fight-or-flight responses and not as part of regular breathing. 

But because when we're faced with difficult situations, our body tends to respond in this manner. The best way to adjust this is to practice proper deep breathing or what's also known as "diaphragmic breathing."

You'll notice in yoga or martial arts for that matter, that deep breathing plays an integral part of focus and energy. 

Breathing for wellness

Breathing for wellness
Deep breathing promotes focus and clears the mind: Image Unsplash

#1 Take deeper breaths 

While breathing properly is very important, breathing deeper is highly recommended for it's health benefits. Full diaphragmatic breathing is when you  feel your stomach and chest expand upon inhalation and contract when exhaling. 


It can help to lower your stress levels naturally by redirecting or altering the chemical reactions. 

Deep breathing is also invigorating and may improve your ability to feel awake and energised. 

It helps to manage pain by increasing serotonin and dopamine hormones

#2 Alternate nostril breathing 

Alternate nostril breathing is an effective way to instil a sense of calmness and focus. This is a wonderful practice to help lower anxiety, as well as improve mental focus. It's easy to do and can be done at anytime and anywhere.


It works to help your body to calm down

You'll feel less anxious 

It may improve cardiovascular function

#3 "Ujjayi Breath" aka Victorious breath (yoga pranayama breathing)

Breathing (pranayama): Image Unspalsh

This is a very good breathing exercise and is usually paired with yoga vinyasa. The Ujjayi breath is a relaxing practice with many advantages. Along with the yoga poses or vinyasa, the breath helps to create focus and mental clarity. 


Activates energy for mental focus and clarity

It increases concentration throughout the yoga practice  

It may help to release tension in the body 

#4  7/11 Breathing or 2:1 breathing

You've probably heard of this breathing exercise because it does wonders to create a feeling of instant calmness.  This is especially effective when you're anxious and it can help you to feel more relaxed. Hyperventilation is also sometimes due to anxiety amongst other possible contributors.

When our breath is shallow and rapid it's often due to stress or feeling anxious. As mentioned, to help reduce this reaction, its important to breathe properly. 

Two-to-one (2:1) breathing is breathing in for a shorter count and exhaling on a longer count. This is the same principal for 7/11 or 3/5 breathing. It's a long breath in and longer exhale to almost empty your lungs as much as possible. 


2:1 enhances relaxation and prolongs the parasympathetic responses throughout the breathing practice 

It helps to quiet the mind and improve focus 

May help the body to manage and reduce hypertension 


Your body starts to find balance: Image Unsplash 

While stress, anxiety, and depression form part of the most common mental conditions in the world, following a road to healing and wellness is important. 2020 Is and has been a very difficult year and for many of us, and as a result, an increase of emotional stressors. 

Practicing these breathing exercises for wellness may not be an overnight change, but will definitely improve your life and wellbeing. The key is to help condition the body to tap into its already present ability to "heal" itself. At the same time your body will adapt to finding balance.