There is something magical about the first real snowstorm of the season; the snow falling softly as it sifts through the pines, blanketing everything with its whispering breath, especially when you're cozied up inside sitting by the fire. It isn't until the morning that reality sinks in, when you realize you can't get out of your driveway, because overnight and into the next day, at least 20 inches of snow has dumped itself onto your yard, and until it is shoveled aside, you aren't going anywhere…
Shoveling snow, especially large amounts of snow, can challenge even the best of backs. One little tweak with the wrong twist or too much loaded on the shovel blade, can send a body spiraling into pain. Preparation before shoveling, staying mindful of how you're shoveling and stretching post shovel provides needed support and lessens the risk of wrenching your back.
Limbering up with shoulder openers, twists, cat/cow, Sphinx and downward facing dog relaxes the body so muscles do their work safely and without strain. Bending the knees when shoveling, scooping snow onto the blade, and filling it with less snow than the shovel can hold, makes the weight less likely to throw you off balance as you toss it aside. Switch hands periodically, so no one side is handling all of the weight all of the time.
And for those times when you do overdo it and have tweaked your back, or would like to finish up with some gentle yoga poses, so you don't pay for it later, here is a short restorative routine that will help support that snow shoveling body. As always, listen to those places of pain, gently explore supportive movements and/or rest if that's what's called for.
You will need a bolster, pillows or a couple of blocks and 2-5 blankets.
1. Shoulder Stretch Lie on your back with the knees up, and a lightly folded blanket under the lower back. Lift arms above the chest & clasp onto elbows. Following the breath, release the elbows to the R on the exhalation & turn the head to the L. Inhale back to center. Then release the elbows to the L as the head turns to the R. Repeat for several rounds.
2a. Knee Hugs Lying on back extend L leg down the length of the mat, keeping the heel flexed & grounded. Hug R knee into the chest, holding to the outside of the shin, in the knee crease or using a strap. Keep neutral spine in the neck, so place a folded blanket under the head if needed. Lengthen the spine & press shoulder blades into the floor. Hold for several breaths, then switch sides.
2b. Knee Hugs Hug both knees into the chest, keeping the spine long and
neutral spine in the back of the neck.
3. Supported Twist Sit sideways at the short end of a bolster or a couple of rolled blankets. Keep the buttocks on the floor & bend the knees. Turn the torso to face the bolster & lay your body down, adding a folded blanket
under your head for comfort. Turn the head the same direction the knees are facing. Rest here for 5-15 minutes, then switch sides.
4. Supported Bridge Pose Place a block under the buttocks, at its lowest or middle height right between the tail bone & the lower back. Knees are up with feet on the floor, & place feet less then hip width apart. Arms rest alongside body.
5. Sphinx Remove the bolster & come onto your belly, placing a folded blanket under the pelvis with the upper fold lined with the hip bones. Come onto forearms & lift the chest up off the floor. Cross arms briefly in front
overlapping elbows with your fingers, to bring elbows under shoulders & shoulder width apart. Keep elbows stable & pull forearms towards you, lifting & lengthening through the front body.
6. Supported Child's Pose Slide back from Sphinx into child's pose. Place a folded blanket or bolster between the legs & under the chest to slightly elevate the torso. Add a second or third folded blanket under your head.
Extend the arms forward onto the floor or rest them alongside your body. Breathe into your back around the kidney area. Rest here as long as it's comfortable.
7. Cat/Dog Come onto hands & knees to a table position with wrists under shoulders & shoulder width apart. Release between the shoulder blades & in the lower back. On the exhalation, round the back toward the ceiling, releasing
all of the air from your lungs. On the inhalation, drop the belly & extend the head & buttocks up, filling the lungs fully.
8. Supported Twist Variation Come onto your back on the floor. Place a folded blanket between the knees & on either side of your body. Lift the knees & on the exhalation release knees to the R onto the folded blanket, looking over L shoulder.
9. Legs Resting on Chair Lightly fold a blanket & place it under the spine with another folded blanket under your head. Be sure that the tailbone is resting on the floor & not on the folded blanket. Lift the legs & place the calves on a chair seat that has a lightly folded blanket across the seat. Cover yourself with another blanket & rest here for as long as you'd like.