It might be stating the obvious, but groomers work long hours on their feet. Stressing joints, using the same muscles repetitively and lifting heavy dogs often cause poor posture habits. Taking frequent breaks of walking and stretching are important to help maintain healthy work routines to support a healthy body.
Lisa Ann Gold of Big Bear Yoga in Big Bear, California, says, “Whatever you physically do most every day, you need to do the opposite movements for your body’s health. If you are a pet groomer, that probably means you would normally stand facing the pet, holding your arms and hands in front of you. Focus on bringing your arms behind you, like you are spreading your ‘wings,’ opening your chest. Always move gently and listen to your body.”
The practice of Yoga encompasses much more than just stretching, including breathing and relaxation exercises, which all provide relief for tired, over–worked bodies. Here is a short, 20–minute Yoga practice specifically for groomers to do at work. These are easy stretches to help with mobility, stress and tension relief. Always consult your doctor before starting a new fitness program, and never perform a stretch that is painful. If you have a preexisting condition, please consult a professional for feedback or modifications that are best for you.
Gold emphasizes, “It is ideal to do these stretches every day, or even pick your favorite stretch to do a few times per day. Small but consistent practices are most important to producing change.”
For these stretches you will need a little standing space, wall space and a stable chair. You can also use a leash and a grooming table (optional).
To Begin: Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Start by standing in Mountain Pose, which means standing up straight. Make sure your feet are parallel, with your weight evenly distributed between right foot and left foot on the balls of your feet and the heels. Lift the kneecaps up and stack your hips over your ankles. Roll your shoulders back and down, stacking your shoulders over your hips. Try standing against a wall to check and see if you are standing like a mountain—up tall—or falling over like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. If it feels good to you, add some gentle neck stretches.
For Hands, Wrists, Elbows and Shoulders: Prayer Hands (Anjali Mudra)
Hands and wrists are used heavily in the grooming profession. Start with interlacing your fingers and rolling your wrists around to the right and left. Next, keeping your fingers interlaced, flip your palms away from you and push your arms out in front of you to stretch the wrists. If it feels good, lift the arms up towards the ceiling. Bring your hands back down and press the palms together gently in “prayer” hands. Slide the hands together right and left, deepening the stretch in the wrists, elbows and shoulders. Next, keeping the elbows bent and hands gently pressed together, slowly rotate your fingers to point away from you like you would to dive into a swimming pool. Then, slowly rotate your fingers to point down to the floor. Repeat a few times and release your arms back to your sides.
For Upper Back and Shoulders: Eagle Pose Arms (Garudasana)
Still standing in Mountain Pose, start adding more movement into the shoulders by gently shrugging your shoulders a few times, with deep inhales and exhales. Next, gently circle your shoulders around. Once you feel your shoulders are warmed up, give yourself a big hug. Bring your forearms parallel, or even touching fingers or palms. This stretch opens up the upper back. Hold for a few breaths and repeat on the other side. Release the arms down and notice how your arms, back and shoulders feel.
For Lower Back and Chest: Backbend (Pratyak Uttana)
From Mountain Pose, step the feet shoulder–width apart, bring your hands to your lower back with the fingers pointing downward. Draw your abdominal muscles in, gently press your hands into your body and let the hips melt forward. Keep your head neutral; don’t drop your head backward. Gently focus on stretching up and spreading your chest wide. Relax your face muscles, jaw and throat. Take a few normal breaths, then slowly move out of the pose. If it feels good, do it one or two more times.
For Shoulders, Hips and Ribcage: Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana) or Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)
Keeping the shoulders rolling back and down, inhale and reach one arm overhead, stretching to the opposite side. Focus on reaching up more than reaching over. Imagine there is something up high you are trying to reach. Take a few breaths, carefully come out of the movement and repeat on the other side. You can try reaching both arms overhead, making a “V” shape with your arms. When using both arms, reach to one side and make a “C” shape with your body. Repeat by swaying to the other side. You can try this stretch using a dog leash or belt by holding it taut with both hands.
For Shoulders, Ankles and Feet: Standing–on–Toes Pose (Prapada Sthana)
Coming back to Mountain Pose, start moving the feet gently by coming to half–toe, lifting one heel off the ground. Press into the ball of the foot to stretch the arch. Lower that heel down and switch to the other side. Go back and forth, pedaling the feet and ankles to prepare to balance. With an inhale, lift both heels off the ground, coming to a half–toe balance. Lift your arms overhead and breathe. Slowly lower your heels and arms back down. Repeat a few times, strengthening your ankles and feet. As you find your balance, hold a little longer.
For Back, Shoulders and Hamstrings: Right Angle Pose or Modified Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Face a grooming table, chair or wall. Place your hands shoulder–width apart and carefully step back, creating a right angle with your body. Keep your shoulders moving away from your ears so your neck is long and comfortable between your arms. Move your hips over your ankles. If your hamstrings are tight, you can gently bend your knees. Take a few breaths and focus on lengthening your spine, creating a long, flat back. After a few breaths, carefully bend your knees and step forward, coming up to standing. Repeat this a few times.
For Back and Hips: Cat Cow Pose (Bitilasana or Marjaryasana)
You can do this spinal undulation standing, seated or on hands and knees (in Yoga, this is called Table Pose, or Bharmanasana). If you are standing or seated, step the feet hip–width apart, bend the knees and place your hands on your thighs. Start with a long, flat back. Create the look of a cat hissing in dismay; tuck the tailbone under, curve the spine up and bring the chin to the chest. Next, create the look of a mooing cow with a sway back; bring the hips up, let the spine arch and bring the face and eyes upwards. Repeat this flowing movement back and forth with your breath and then carefully come up to standing.
For Thighs, Upper Back, Arms and Abdominal Muscles: Goddess Victory Squat Pose (Vijaya Asana or Utkata Konasana)
Standing with feet further than hip–width apart, turn toes out and bend your knees. Engage the outer thighs and buttocks to draw your knees over your ankles. Keeping the shoulders pressing back and down, bring your arms up like a goal post, coming to a high squat. Slightly draw your abdominal muscles in. Hold for a few counts, then extend the legs and reach the arms overhead, stretching. Repeat a few times. When done, release the arms and heel–toe the feet together back to Mountain Pose.
For Shoulders, Elbows, Chest, Upper Back, and Legs: Archer Pose (Dhanurdhara Asana)
Step one foot forward and one foot back, about three ft. apart. The front foot points straight ahead, while the back foot turns out slightly. Comfortably face the hips forward. Bend the front knee to stack on top of the ankle. Keep the back leg straight and strong. Reach both arms straight out in front of you, making fists facing each other. Note which foot is forward and keep the same arm as foot reaching forward, as if holding the grip of a bow. Draw the other hand back, as if pulling the string on a bow back, slightly twisting the torso until the hand touches the shoulder. Gaze over the front thumb as if you are taking sight to shoot an arrow. Engage your abdominal muscles slightly and hold for a few breaths. Release the imaginary string of the bow, both hands meeting out in front of you. Bring the arms down and step the feet together. Repeat on the other side.
For Ankles, Calves, Thighs, Arms and Abdominal Muscles: Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
From Mountain Pose, simply bend your knees as if you were going to sit down in an imaginary chair. Create a zig–zag shape with your body. Hands can be on your hips, straight out in front of you or even overhead. Gently squeeze your thighs together and sit back a little deeper. Don’t go beyond a 90 degree bend at the knees. Gently engage your abdominal muscles. Relax any tension in the neck. To come out of the pose, lift up from your fingertips and draw yourself to standing with arms overhead, reaching up. Release your arms back down to your sides.
For Back: Modified Standing Head–to–Knee Pose (Utthitta Hasta Padangusthasana)
Facing a stable chair, bend one knee, lift it up and set your foot on the seat of the chair. Find your balance. If needed, hold onto the back of the chair. Inhale, reach your arms up overhead, exhale and fold over the bent knee. Let your back relax. If it feels good, hold onto the seat of the chair or the back of the chair and hug your chest closer to the knee and thigh for a deeper stretch. Stay for a few breaths, and then slowly, using your arms to push your torso up, come back to standing. Repeat this movement a few times. When done, step the foot that is on the seat down to the floor and repeat the movement with the other side.
For Lower Back, Legs and Abdominal Muscles: Standing Pelvic Tilt (Paryutthita Vastinirvlina)
Stand with your back against the wall, in Mountain Pose. Step your feet a few inches away from the wall and bend your knees slightly. Gently contract your abdominal muscles, tilt your tailbone down and press your lower back into the wall. You can take this deeper with Bent Knee Pelvic Tilt (Nikubjajanu Vastinirvlina) by stepping your feet a little further away from the wall, bending your knees deeper and sliding down the wall a little bit more.
After the Standing Pelvic Tilt, slide your back up the wall and lean heavy into the wall to relax. Alternatively, sit in a chair or, if possible, lie down. Take a few minutes to let go and just breathe.
Practicing these poses every day or a few times a week will really benefit and provide relief to those over–used and stressed areas of the body commonly used by groomers. Try setting the alarm on your phone to remind you to take a break and stretch during the workday, or even schedule stretch breaks into your grooming appointment schedule! ✂️