Sunday, 22 May 2016

Yoga for seniors-Posture 1

As we get older years of sitting, walking etc takes its toll on our posture if we do not take steps to stretch the muscles that daily living tightens. 

Our shoulders are drawn forward by such daily tasks as driving, working at a desk or on a computer, cooking and many, many more.  This leads to tightened shoulder and chest muscles and rounding in the upper back which not only makes you look older but also may restrict breathing which in turn may lead to fatigue and stress.

Daily activities such as walking may also lead to tight hamstrings which tip the pelvis backwards or if the hip flexors and quadriceps are tight due to sitting, the pelvis may tip forward which again may cause misalignment of the spine in the lower back.  The result is often back pain.  Also your centre of gravity changes as a result of the changing position of the pelvis which may cause you to hold your head differently leading to neck problems and contributing to problems with balance in seniors.  If the pelvis is not correctly aligned, then this may even affect the knee causing problems here (more on this to come).

Yoga can help by not only teaching us good posture but stretching the tight muscles which have caused postural misalignment. The sequence below is for seniors who have limited mobility.  It encourages the shoulder blades to move back and down and stretches the hamstrings and hip flexors.  Next week's sequence will be for seniors who have more mobility to help improve posture.

Safety note-Make sure that your chair will not slip.

Seated Dandasana - sit on a chair, a little forward of the back and with your feet placed on blocks (or books) if you need to so that your knees are level with your hips. Lengthen your spine by pressing your hands into the sides of the chair seat.  Roll your shoulders up by your ears then release them back and down.  Have your neck in line with your spine and chin level with the floor. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. 

Shoulder rolls - warm up your shoulders before doing the stretches with a belt by rolling your shoulders up by your ears then back and down.  Continue for several movements.
Shoulder stretches with belt - sit forward on your chair and hold the yoga strap (or dressing gown tie so that your hands are wider than your shoulders.  Inhale stretch your arms up, exhale take the belt down your back.  Inhale lift your arms up, exhale bring your hands down in front of you.  Repeat twice more.

Shoulder stretches with belt - take hold of the belt so that your hands are wider than your shoulders. Inhale stretch your arms up, exhale take the belt behind your back. Inhale stretch your arms back up, exhale return to the start position. Repeat twice more. 

Tadasana with wall - stand with your back against the wall so that the back of your head, your shoulders, your hips and the back of your heels are touching the wall.  If you can stay here for a few minutes.

Downward Facing Dog variation with chair - stand with the back of the chair facing you. Make sure that the chair will not slip.  Hold the top of the chair back and walk your feet back.  Your head should be positioned between your arms and your feet at hip distance. Keeping your hips level, breathe in and lift your right leg.  You should feel a stretch at the back of your left leg.  Breathe out to lower your right leg then repeat with your left leg. Breathe in to lift back up to standing.

Intense Side Stretch variation with chair - stand a little way from the chair (you may have to adjust) with your feet at hip distance.  Turn the toes of your left foot out and step forward with your right foot.  Level up your hips so that both hips are pointing forward.  Fold forward bringing your hands to the back of the chair and your head between your arms - you will need to bend your elbows out to the sides.  Keep the back leg straight. You should feel a stretch down the back of your legs.  Breathe in to come up, breathe out to step your feet together.  Repeat second side.

Dancer - stand with your right hand on the back of the chair.  Bend your left knee and take hold of your left foot with your left hand.  You should feel a stretch in the muscle at the front of the thigh (quadricep).  For a more intense stretch, press your left foot up and back. Repeat second side.

Apanasana - sit back on your chair and lift the right leg interlacing your fingers below your knee or if you have knee issues at the back of your thigh.  Draw your leg close in to your chest to stretch out your back.  Repeat second side.

To finish meditate for a few minutes by sitting and watching your breath.

Please also see, 'Yoga for seniors- An introduction'-

Janet x 

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