Growing Older With Grace and Yoga
Growing old is an unavoidable circumstance that can be a beautiful and gradual process if you take care of your health. Older bodies become more susceptible to bone fractures, high blood pressure, arthritis, and other conditions of age. Even if a person has not experienced long bouts of depression before, it may occur at this stage in life. The deaths of lifelong friends, a spousal death, and declining health are all difficult to deal with, especially if the events take place around the same time in a person’s life.
When one’s physical and mental health are in a poor condition at any time during their life, they should think about taking up yoga by attending an instructional class. There are various types of yoga to suit the needs of the millions of people involved with the practice. An instructional class for beginners is the best choice for individuals who have no experience in yoga and may require additional assistance and more basic poses. Older students may choose this route for their level of comfort and health.
There are also asanas (the word yogis use for “pose”) that are ideal for older people interested in yoga that will target specific problem areas without injuring any body parts in the process. It is also important to remember that if yoga hurts at any time, you should ease out of the asana and rest until you are feeling better.
Asanas Suitable for Older Yoga Students
Corpse Pose, also called Savasana:
There are few steps involved in performing the calming corpse pose which is often held before or after each asana and at the end of the yoga session. First, lie down on your yoga mat with your arms and legs relaxed but straight and slightly away from the body. Your body should be as flat as possible. Raise your knees to your chest so your back is straight, and then return the legs to the resting position while maintaining the back’s posture. Next, lift your head off the ground so you know your upper back and shoulders are in alignment as well. Relax the head and lower it back to the ground. Take deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth and concentrate on each breath. You may feel the effects of yoga throughout your body, and pay attention to what they are. To release yourself from the Corpse Pose, bend at the knees and roll to a side, and eventually to a sit-down pose. The Corpse Pose allows for total body relaxation and helps train the mind to meditate. When in the Corpse Pose at the end of a yoga session, all of the benefits acquired during yoga are free to flood the body with positive qualities. When in this state, heart rate returns to normal, blood flows evenly throughout the body, and the mind is very calm.
Easy Pose, also called Sukhasana:
Yes! There is actually an asana called “Easy Pose”, and indeed it is simple. Easy Pose often follows Corpse Pose as you are already sitting down. If you are not sitting with your legs crossed over top of the opposite foot, do so and rest the hands on the knees. Sit up straight with good posture because that is what the Easy Pose will improve. This pose is often used for meditation, and eases the internal body and mind.
Kapalabhati, which translates into that which brings lightness to the skull:
Kapalabhati is a different way to breathe to clean the lungs and sinuses; another word for a breathing technique is Pranayama. Kapalabhati gently forces mucus from the nose and lungs by rapid breaths. These breaths should come from the diaphragm, not the chest because the chest is used to force this mucus out of the system. Pressure builds as the short, forceful breaths continue. Kapalabhati relieves pressure from the head that is caused by sinus blockage, and clears the lungs, throat and nose of excess mucus.
Cat Pose, also called Bidalasana:
The Cat Pose is an essential asana because it teaches a yoga practitioner to relate their movements to their breaths so the body and mind can connect which is essential in yoga. To begin the Cat Pose, get down on your hands and knees on your yoga mat, with the body in perfect alignment. The hands should be underneath the corresponding shoulders, and the same goes for the hips sitting directly atop the knees. The fingers are spread apart, and the eyes are focused on the floor. Inhale bringing the chest high, exhale with it lowering as the breath is released from the body. Do this a few times so you grow accustomed to the way in which the movement should feel. Next, try the Cat Tilt. Inhale a deep breath and exhale it as you arch your back, and plant your hands firmly on the ground to remain in this position. The back should be rounded, the ears even with the arms, and the buttocks should be tight and nearly above the knees, if possible. The cat pose is a great spinal exercise that flexes and strengthens each vertebrae, which become stiff with age. The pelvis is also exercised which makes hip movement more comfortable.
Dog Pose, also called Adho Mukha Shvanasana:
The Dog Pose begins exactly as the Cat Pose does, so get down on all fours with the body aligned. Perform all of the same movements as mentioned above, but be prepared for something slightly different. Inhale a breath and change the format of your stance. The back should now be curved similar to a U shape, with your belly closer to the ground than any other part of the abdomen. The head becomes part of this arch as the gaze is directed slightly, but not fully skyward. Place pressure on your hands to keep you firmly planted in the Dog Pose; this first part of Dog Pose is sometimes referred to as Dog Tilt. The next step in this pose takes the body in a slightly different direction. Take a breath in and lift your upper body off of the floor, and breathe out while shifting your hips so they allow you to perform the same action with your legs. The feet and hands should now be the only thing touching the ground and the bottom is in the air point towards the sky, ears even with the arms and the body forms a triangle. At different points in this part of the Dog Pose, the back may be arched or straight depending on the instruction the yoga class receives. The Dog Pose is beneficial to the body because it allows healthy amounts of oxygen-rich blood to circulate the brain, breathing becomes more pronounced yet relaxed, and the whole body receives a nice stretch.
Air-Releasing Pose, also called Pavanamuktasana:
The Air-Releasing Pose is essential for good digestion because it rids the body of excess air that forms uncomfortable gas inside the body. To perform this asana, lie backside down on your yoga mat. On the first inhalation bend both legs at the knee and bring them high to the chest. Breathe out and return the legs to their starting position on the mat. Repeat this exercise with each leg, one at a time. Some people prefer to lie completely still for this pose while others rock with the motions of the body. Do this pose whichever ways suits you the best. Aside from relieving the body of gas, this pose also stretches the legs and strengthens the stomach muscles.
*Because health problems are prevalent in older people, it is best to consult with your physician before beginning any type of exercise regimen or fitness routine.