It’s that time of year again – when the weather begins to warm, and we set our clocks forward in anticipation of longer days to play outside, be active, and for many of us – get in the garden! Gardening is a great form of exercise utilizing the legs, back, abdominals and arms to move dirt, dig weeds, plant and prune. And like any form of exercise, gardeners should maintain an awareness of posture and good alignment when tackling yard work. Pilates can set the framework for building a strong body and a foundation for mindful movement in our everyday activities.

“Oh, my aching back!”
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 thereof) 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 discs and muscles of the lumbar area. In addition to poor function of the legs and hips, the deeper stabilizers of the back and the abdominal muscles may not be working in concert to support your body in a flexed position.  

Practically Speaking
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. Make sure your gluteal and quadriceps muscles are engaged. 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 ,thus, positions every 30 minutes or so. Too much time in one position will often irritate the back.

Pain Free Movement through Pilates
Practicing good alignment and mindful movement is the essence of bringing Pilates into your everyday activities. For more information about Pilates or to schedule a session, visit the website at, or contact me directly at 206-914-9144.

Happy and Safe gardening!