Stay young with yoga
Mature aging is not so bad. Physically, however, it seems to be the fall after 18 years. We lose flexibility, balance and strength , and especially after the 30 years, pains and aches appear.
Want an easy way to keep your body in shape over the decades? Yoga could be what you are looking for. It’s a low-impact method to strengthen and stretch you. Yoga can be practiced anytime and anywhere. We asked Christine Felstead , a Toronto yoga teacher and our model, to show us some postures that slow down aging.
For best results, do a complete sequence a few times a week , when it suits you. Hold each posture for five deep breaths and increase from there when you feel ready. If doing the whole sequence at once is too much, take one of the postures during an exercise. And if you are tense, a condition that makes you age faster, or need a break during the session, try the children’s posture (pictured left). The knees can be moved closer together or away from each other and the arms can be extended along the body, as in the picture or lying forward. Concentrate on your breathing and relax.
As always, if you have concerns about starting a new routine, talk to your doctor. A qualified yoga teacher will be able to answer your questions about the details of the postures. And do not forget to breathe!
1. On an equal footing
Ms. Felstead says that this pose will help you develop the notion of postural tendencies.
• Barefoot, stand on a yoga mat or on the floor with feet parallel, close together or hip-width, arms sideways.
• Focus on the feet and how your body weight is distributed. Without lifting the feet off the ground, move the body weight forward, back and on each side until it returns to the center.
• By focusing your attention on the upper body, feel that your hips are above your ankles and your shoulders above your hips. Move the chin back so that the skull is balanced on the spine . Find a balance that allows as little muscle strength as possible to keep you up.
• Imagine a chain attached to your head pulls you up. If you are slumped, straighten without soft muscles, like glutes.
Variation: Close your eyes and observe your balance changes. Or try doing the posture in front of a mirror and compare how you feel, how much you look straight and balanced.
2. The tree
“The balance is notoriously harder to reach as you get older,” says Felstead. The tree is a simple balance posture that helps maintain that ability.
• Stand, place most of your weight on the foot and right leg. Bring your hands to the prayer position in front of your chest.
• Open the hip and left leg.
• In case of instability, keep the toes of the left foot on the ground, the left heel against the inside of the right calf. If you feel stable enough, lift the left foot and place it against the inside of the right calf or thigh, not on the knee.
• Hold posture for a few breaths, then slowly lower. Repeat on the second side.
Variation: Increase the difficulty by bringing the arms over the head or looking at the ceiling.
“Strong thigh muscles protect the knees from pain and injury,” says Felstead.
• Start in the posture with your feet together and your arms dangling.
• Keeping your knees and feet together, act as if you are sitting on a chair. Go as far as possible while remaining comfortable and balanced, but challenge your muscles. In order to protect your knees, make sure they are behind the toes, not in front of them.
• Keep arms outstretched in front of you to help balance.
Variation: If this is easier, take this posture by spreading the feet to the width of the hips. Make sure the knees are pointing in the same direction as the toes, not inwards. See how far you can go while keeping your spine upright and your knees comfortable.
4. The dog
This well known classic yoga posture, the dog, increases upper body strength, promotes a healthy spine and stretches the back .
• Start on the hands and knees, wrists under the shoulders and knees under the hips. The fingers should be apart, the middle finger pointing forward. Look behind you and make sure your feet are the width of your hips.
• Lift the coccyx as if to reach the ceiling. At this point, keep your heels off the ground and knees bent.
• Gently raise your knees and lower your heels (they are unlikely to touch) until you feel a slight stretch in the back of your legs and back. If it’s too demanding, bend your knees until you feel more comfortable. Less flexible people will want to spread their feet.
• Rather than putting the weight on your shoulders, spread it between your hands and feet. Place your hands and arms as if to throw them forward. Tuck the navel back to the spine and use the trunk instead of your ribs.
Variation : For more flexibility, especially in the morning, pedal by stretching one leg and then the other. If you feel strong enough and your shoulders are not blocked, you can gently move from the dog’s posture to the board’s posture.
5. The board
This posture “works” the upper body and the intrinsic strength, both of which may decline as we get older.
• Start on the hands and knees, wrists directly under the shoulders and firm hands.
• At level one, raise your knees to the right, from your knees to your shoulders. Tuck your belly button back to the spine and use the trunk muscles to support the hips . Make sure the wrists are directly under the shoulders.
• At level two, raise your knees, balancing on your toes so that the entire body forms a straight line from shoulders to heels.
Variation: If your wrists hurt, press your forearms, clasped hands and elbows under your shoulders. Once the level two posture becomes easy, challenge yourself to lift your feet alternately for one or two breaths.
Twisting helps keep your spine healthy and can relieve tense back muscles.
• Sit in a comfortable position with your legs crossed and your spine straight. If you are uncomfortable or curled, place a folded blanket, cushion, or yoga block under your hips.
• Inhale and stand as straight as possible. When exhaling, gently turn to the right from the base of the spine upwards. Place your left hand on your right knee and your right hand behind you for balance. Move the head alone last and to the extent that it can turn without tension.
• With each inspiration, lengthen the spine – you will probably lose a bit of twisting. At each expiration, turn a little more.
• Return to the center at the inspiration, then start again on the left, taking care to reverse the position of your legs.