Sunday, 29 May 2016

Yoga for seniors - Posture 2

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 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 mal-alignment 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 mal-alignment. The sequence below is for seniors who do not have problems with mobility.  Last week we did a sequence for posture which would be suitable for seniors with some mobility problems. 

You will need a block or equivalent and belt or dressing gown tie.

Start lying on your mat and spend a few minutes tuning into your body and watching your breath.  

Supta Padagusthasana (stretches hamstrings) - bend both knees and drawing the right knee towards the chest, place a belt around the ball of the right foot so that you are holding the belt in two hands.  Bring your knees back in line and straighten the back of the right leg.  If you have no lower back issues you can straighten the left leg.  Work with the breath - inhale and as your body relaxes on the exhale you might find that you can draw the leg a little further in.  If your leg starts to bend, you need to release your leg a little.  To come out of the pose, bend the right knee, remove the belt and come back to your start position.  Notice how the right leg feels compared to the left.   Repeat second side.

Shoulder Bridge (gently stretches the chest and shoulder muscles) - lie with your knees bent. Inhale, lift your hips, take your arms overhead, exhale dot your spine back down on the mat and bring your arms back over.  Continue working with your breath for several movements. To finish hug your knees into your chest then roll onto your right side to come up.

Cow Face Arms (stretches the shoulder muscles, helping to correct rounding of the shoulders)- sit in a cross-legged position with your hips elevated on a block.  Place a belt over your right shoulder. Breathe in, stretch your right arm up, breathe out take your right hand down your back so that your palm faces your back.  Breathe in stretch your left arm forward, breathe out externally rotate your left arm up your back.  If you can join your hands in a yogic grip with your fingers curled around each other.  If you cannot reach take hold of the belt and creep the fingers towards each other.  Do not pull on the belt which will take the fingers further apart.  Make sure your right elbow is not pressing your head forward. Breathe out to release. Circle your shoulders up by your ears then back and down. Repeat second side.

The photo on the right shows the modified version with the belt

Downward Facing Dog variation (stretches the hamstrings and lengthens the spine)- come onto all fours, breathe in, breathe out and lift your knees a few inches from the ground. Press your chest back to your thighs to lengthen your spine then start to straighten your legs.  

Lunge (stretches the quadriceps and psoas) - breathe in and bring your right foot forward between your hands (if your foot falls short of your hands, take hold of it and help it forward), breathe out and drop your back knee down to the mat (place a cushion under your knee if you need to).  Breathe in and bring your hand to your front knee and lean into your front leg to feel a stretch in your back thigh.  When you are ready, breathe out take your hands to the mat, breathe in tuck your back toes and lift your knee, breathe out step back to Downward Facing Dog.  Repeat the lunge with the left leg.

Child's pose variation - from Downward Facing Dog, breathe in, drop your knees, breathe out, take your bottom back to your heels extending your arms forward. Stay here for a few breaths then return to Downward Facing Dog.

Tadasna - from Downward Facing Dog, walk your feet forward and when your shoulders come over your hands, take hold of your elbows and slowly roll up. Stand with the feet together with the outside edges of the feet parallel (for most of us this willl mean separating the heels).  Have your weight spread evenly through all four corners of the feet, the little toe side, big toe side, inner heel and outer heel.  Lift your insteps (if you can lift your middle three toes, this will help). Lift your kneecaps to engage your thigh muscles and give you the strong foundation.  Lengthen your tail bone down towards the floor to create space in the spine, lift your chest and roll your shoulder blades back and down.  Your chin should be level with the floor, the crown of your head reaching for the ceiling.  Your arms should be relaxed by your sides, your fingers gently curled.  If it feels safe for you close your eyes or lower your eyes to gaze at a spot on the floor.

Triangle (engages the core muscles which support the pelvis, opens the shoulders and side body)- stand in the middle of the mat and step your feet a leg length apart.  Turn the the right leg out and the toes of the left foot in 45 degrees.  Ladies should line up front heel to back heel, men front heel to back instep.  Breathe in and bring your arms to shoulder height, breathe out and bring your right hand to your right leg (not against your knee) and your left arm up.  Hold and breathe. To come out breathe in, bring your arms back up to shoulder height, breathe out bring your hands to your heart in prayer position, turn your feet to face forward.  Repeat second side.  

Zig Zag twist (opens the shoulders and chest)- sit on a block and take your left foot wide of your left hip then bring your right foot to the inside of your left thigh.  Adjust your block if you need to to level your hips. Breathe in, lengthen your spine, breathe out twist to the right. Bring your left hand to your right leg.  Hold and breathe for a few breaths then breathe in to release. Repeat second side. 

Seated Forward Fold variation- (opens the hamstrings and calms the mind ready for relaxation) sit on a block with your legs forward and bend your knees.  Lean forward and take hold of your feet or ankles so that your chest is in contact with your thighs.  Slide your feet forward until your thighs and chest start to part then release the crown of your head down.  Hold for 5 breaths then breathe in to release.  

Savasana (receive the benefits of your practice)- lie back on your mat with your eyes closed to receive the benefits of your practice. Spend a few minutes watching your breath then when you are ready wriggle your fingers and toes or take a stretch and a yawn before turning onto your right side.  Spend a minute on your right side then open your eyes and slowly come up to continue with your day. 

Please also see :-

'Yoga for seniors - Posture 1'- 

Janet x

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