Gentle Yoga Sequence for Older Adults
Keeping our bodies strong and flexible means that we are less vulnerable to falls and other injuries. Through weight bearing exercises, adults protect against osteoporosis, a disease where the bones become weak and fragile.
As we get older we lose around 5-7lbs of muscle every decade from the age of 20 onwards. Weight bearing exercises like those listed below can help to prevent such reduction in muscle tone. The good news is too, that through strengthening the muscles we can reduce our resting blood pressure.
It goes without saying, that if we feel more fit and stronger we naturally feel more positive and happy and this helps our self-confidence and self-esteem too.
Marjasana and Bitilasana or Cat/Cow
Position yourself on all fours. Breathe in and draw the shoulders away from the ears and lift the tail bone to the ceiling whilst keeping strength and stability through the abdominal muscles. Look up at the ceiling.
Breathe out and tuck the chin towards the collar bone, the tummy lifts up towards the spine and the tailbone moves towards the nose. Repeat slowly 6 times.
This combination of postures brings flexibility and mobility to the spine and helps to co-ordinate movement and breath together. They are especially restorative in the upper back, neck, shoulders and lumbar spine. This sequence also massages and stimulate organs in the abdominal area like the kidneys and adrenal glands.
Downward Facing Dog or Adho Muka Svanasana
From all fours, ensure that hands are aligned under the shoulders and knees under the hips. Spread out the fingers and find space between the ears and shoulders by drawing the shoulders back and down. Feel length through the spine.
Breathe in and on the outbreath, curl your toes underneath you, lift your knees away from the floor, push the thighs up and back and draw your heels down towards the floor.
Ensure that the outer arms are strong and the connection down into the hands, knuckles and fingers is good.
The posture whilst challenging, can be very restorative and energising to the body, it builds strength in the arms. It can also improve a sluggish digestion following long periods of inactivity as well as being very good for insomnia. Hold for 10 breaths or more.
Plank or Kumbhakasana
From Downward Facing Dog either gently drop to the knees and using arm strength lower the upper body down to the floor or if you want to work a little more strongly, then come forward from Downward Facing Dog to align the shoulders over the wrists and lower the whole body down to the floor.
Keep a firm connection through each knuckle and each finger and engage the abdominal muscles and the quadricep muscles in the front of the thighs. Extend back through the heels and feel the inner thighs working too. To build strength and muscle tone, try and hold the pose for 5-10 breaths.
Plank is excellent for strengthening the wrists, arms and upper back muscles together with the abdominal and leg muscles. Weakness in the wrists is one reason why many older adults are not able to live alone, as they are unable to turn door handles, open jars and other daily tasks become more of an ordeal.
Cobra or Bhujangasana
Lying on abdomen, stretch feet away and place hands under the shoulders or ahead of the shoulder if upper back is very stiff.
Breathe in and on the exhale, press down into the hands and using the strength from the back muscles, elevate the body away from the floor with as little use of the hands arms as possible. Keep elbows bent and draw shoulders back and down.
Strengthens the glutes or buttock muscles, increases flexibility in the spine, arms and lower back. Releases tension in the shoulders and helps to expand the chest and stretch the pectoral muscles. Hold for 5 breaths.
Lying Twist or Jathara Parivartaranasana
Lying on the back with knees bent and feet together. Shift the pelvis slightly to the left and allow knees to drop over to the right.
Arms can be out to the side in line with the shoulders or to deepen the pose, can be interlaced under the head to further open through the shoulders and pectoral muscles. To increase the twist further the knees can be brought higher up towards the arms.
Helps to develop flexibility in the spine and back muscles. Improves digestive function, calms the mind and supports the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety. Hold for 8 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Now lie on your back with eyes closed with knees bent or legs extending away with feet wide apart. Stay for 1-2 minutes listening to the gentle movement of the breath, breathing in to the count of 4 and out to the count of 6 to help you to stay present and prevent distraction.
Allow thoughts to drift by without the need to acknowledge and engage in them. When you feel ready to move, smile without moving your mouth or lips and feel a warmth and positivity throughout your head and body.
Complete the session with a long stretch, turn on to the right side and come up to sitting with legs crossed and keep eyes closed for a few moments to enjoy the benefits of your yoga practice.