Today I will share 5 other exercises.
CERVICAL STRETCH & MUSCLE STRENGTHENING
Damage to the cervical spine is most dangerous because everything below the neck can be compromised. Cervical spondylosis is a common diagnosis, and minor degrees are detected in many people. Those severely affected have to wear neck collars to support their damaged cervical spines. Unfortunately this remedy may instead weaken the neck muscles that must support the cervical spine at all times. However, for fear of nerve damage and paralysis, the doctors have no choice but to recommend this for them. Once they are able to take the collars off, it is imperative that they stretch their cervical spines and strengthen their neck muscles. But don’t wait until you become like them. Start doing these exercises now:
Stand in the basic Qigong stance. Support your chin with your right palm and support the base of the skull with the left hand. Inhale deeply ( chest breathing ), tuck in your abdomen, push your chin upwards while stretching your cervical spine as well as the spine below. Keep pushing for as long as you can hold your breath. Then relax as you slowly exhale. Repeat 3 times.
Next turn the head to your right and repeat the exercise. Finally, change hands ( ie. left palm supporting the chin and right hand behind ) and turn the head to the left to repeat the exercise.
How do you strengthen the neck muscles? Put your hands on your forehead ( one on top of the other ). Inhale deeply ( chest breathing ). Hold your breath and push your head forwards while forcibly resisting with your hands. Relax as you exhale. Repeat 3 times.
Next rest your right palm on your right parietal area ( above the ear ). Inhale deeply. While holding your breath, push your head sideways against your resisting right hand. Relax as you exhale. Repeat 3 times. Then repeat with the left hand on the left side.
Finally, support the back of your head ( occiput ) with both your hands. Inhale deeply. Hold your breath and push your head backwards against your resisting hands. Repeat 3 times. Keep the head horizontal at all times.
These exercises can also be done while sitting down, but make sure your back is upright and not slouching! You should do these often throughout the day to prevent and ease neck problems.
SIMPLE SPINAL STRETCH
This is perhaps the simplest spinal stretching exercise: Rest your hands on your hips. Inhale deeply and tuck in your tummy. Hold your breath and stretch your spine while pushing your hands down against your hips. Relax as you exhale. Repeat 3 to 10 times. This exercise can be done while standing or sitting. Those of you who are stuck in your chairs at work should do this exercise at regular intervals. It is of course preferable to stand and walk to stretch your legs as well.
For many of us, lumbar lordosis ( excessive incurving of the lumbar or lower spine ) due to bad posture causes backache or pain that is a recurrent problem. This problem is worsened in those who have big tummies, as the additional weight of the abdominal-wall fat causes more strain on the backbone. To undo this aberration, the following exercise should be done. If you’re obese, you should of course lose weight also.
Stand in the basic Qigong stance and bend down forwards slowly ( same as the first move for “carrying the moon” exercise described previously ). Grasp the legs just above the ankles ( with the thumbs in front and the other fingers grasping the Achilles tendon ). Take a deep breath, pause, and push the body backwards as far as possible, stabilizing yourself with your grip on the legs. Keep the legs bent at all times. You can really feel the lumbar spine stretching and re-aligning. Some of you can feel and hear a “click” as the vertebrae correct their alignment. Relax as you exhale. Then slowly straighten up to the basic stance as you inhale. Feel the relief in your lumbar region. Do this at least once a day.
Please note that this exercise can congest your face and is therefore not recommended for those with high blood pressure. You should not do this exercise if your back is hurting ( the proper remedy is rest and take analgesics first ), and you should stop immediately if you feel any pain while attempting the manoeuvre. To be safe, do it gently at first, and gradually increase the tension. Once you feel the benefit, you may get “hooked” on this exercise!
Except for the cervical stretching, the previous exercises only stretch the spine along the antero-posterior ( front-back ) plane. For full flexibility, you must also do exercises that stretch the spine sideways, and also twist it on its axis. There are many exercises that stretch and twist the spine, but it is easier to modify those that you already know.
The side-stretching can be done during the “lifting the sky” exercise. Lean towards the sides alternately as you inhale and fully stretch your spine. Return to the centre as you relax and exhale. You can even lean backwards. Be careful to lean only slightly at first. Those of you who are out of condition may experience cramps or pain. You can lean more as you become more supple.
The twisting can also done by modifying the “lifting the sky” exercise. Twist your body at the waist to face sideways as you inhale and fully stretch your spine. Relax and return to facing the centre as you exhale. Repeat by turning to the other side alternately.
NUTRITION FOR BONES AND JOINTS
We must not forget the role of nutrition in maintaining bone and joint health. Calcium-rich foods ( milk, yoghurt, green vegetables, soybeans, mackerel, sardines, etc. ) should be encouraged from childhood. There is much controversy now about the goodness of dairy milk products, but there are other good sources of dietary calcium. However, most Malaysians do not take enough calcium.
Women should start preventing osteoporosis when they are young when bone-building is maximum, and not when they are approaching menopause when it is actually too late since very little bone-formation occurs then. I recommend that women start taking calcium supplements from the teenage years onwards, to ensure the strongest bones are formed. Pregnant and nursing mothers are particularly vulnerable to losing bone mass. If you are older and have not started yet, it is better late than never.
If your diet is good and you have sufficient exposure to sunlight, then your body probably manufactures enough vitamin D. However, it is still safer to guarantee its sufficiency by taking vitamin D-enriched supplements.
Several hormones are involved in bone metabolism, and all these must be present in their optimum levels. Qigong exercises help balance these hormones.
The real stimulus for bone formation is weight-bearing exercises ( even carrying your own weight around, which explains why fat people tend to have stronger bones ).
For the joints, glucosamine, chondroitin sulphate and MSM ( methyl sulphonyl methane ) are now popular supplements for slowing down the wear and tear that occur with aging and injuries. We need healthy joints for all our activities.
In the next article I will teach exercises that energize the spine.