Sunday, 5 June 2016

Yoga for seniors - improving your balance

You may find that as you get older your sense of balance is not as good.  Maintaining good balance is important to prevent age related slips and falls.  Yoga can help - if we work on our balance on the mat, we can be more balanced in our daily lives.  

On the mat, there are three elements to improving balance.  The first is alignment.  We will be working with Tree Pose, a standing balance. Initially we will remove the balance aspect of the pose using a chair or a wall, while we work on the alignment of the pose.  

The second is leg strength. The best way to improve leg strength is with standing balances so I would recommend that you work with Tree pose or other standing balances regularly.

The third is attention.  If your mind wanders off while you are holding a standing balance, you will fall out of the balance.  You have to be present, be mindful. If you feel stressed, you are not going to be able to balance and this is why balance can vary so much from day to day. Drishti, a gaze point is a 'tool' that will help with attention.  In Tree pose this is straight ahead or down at a spot on the floor. You also need to bring your attention to small adjustments that you need to make to remain in the balance.  

The benefits of Tree pose include strengthening the legs, increasing focus and concentration and stress relief. If you fall out of the pose safely on the mat, you will develop your sense of humour and ability to be patient!!

Start by standing in Mountain Pose -stand with the feet together with the outside edges of the feet parallel.  Lift your kneecaps to engage your thigh muscles.  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, gently close your eyes or gaze at a spot on the floor.  Focus on balancing over all four corners of your feet, inner heels, outer heels, big toe side of the feet, little toe side of the feet.  When you are ready to come out, breathe in, breathe out drop your chin to your chest, breathe in lift your chin level with the floor and lift your gaze.

Test your balance - separate your feet, breathe in take your arms out and up, come up onto your toes, breathe out take your arms out and down, lower your heels.  

Tree Pose with wall/chair (if you are using a chair make sure that the chair will not slip) - either place your fingertips on the wall at navel height or hold the back of the chair.  Take your weight into your left leg and slowly peel the right foot away.  Place the right foot against the left ankle, against your calf or reach down and place your right foot against your left inner thigh.  Do not place your foot against your left knee.  Lift your left kneecap and press into your right foot with your left leg with the same force as you press the left leg with your right foot. Lengthen your tail bone down and lift up out of your hips.  Hold and breathe.  To come out breathe out and lower your right foot.  Repeat standing on the right leg.

Repeat and this time find a gaze point, a drishti, a spot that is not moving ahead of you.  If then you feel balanced, bring your hand to your heart.  Repeat on the second side.  

Finally, when you are confident, repeat without the wall or a chair or a wall and maybe stretch your arms up like the branches of a tree.

Please also see :-

'Yoga for seniors- An introduction'-

'Yoga for seniors - Posture 1'-

'Yoga for seniors - Posture 2'-

Janet x

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