Yoga Poses for Your Whole Self

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Yoga Poses and Workouts

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Meditation may be all well and good, but maybe you want to get moving first. Great! Any poses you enjoy will be good for your soul, but consider including poses that build bone strength, muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and concentration to keep your muscles, bones, and mind strong.

While we certainly don't assume that just because you are over 65, you are less able to do any pose in this book than someone who is 25, we have adapted some of the following poses to meet the needs of seniors who are new to yoga; may have been living a sedentary life; or suffer from bone loss, muscle weakness, or joint pain. Feel free to take the following suggestions—or not—according to your individual needs.

The following poses are excellent additions to any yoga routine but can be particularly beneficial for seniors (check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program):

> Standing poses are great for developing strength and physical control (see Chapter 13, "What Do You Stand For?"). Try the mountain pose, the three warrior poses, and the lightning bolt pose to start.

> Balance poses (Chapter 13) are excellent for building strength and, once you've mastered them, confidence. They hone concentration, giving your brain a workout right along with your bones and muscles. The tree pose is a good balance pose to start with. Be patient with yourself. Balance poses will become easier with practice. Don't worry about holding any pose for a long time. Use a wall or chair for support at first if it helps you, then move a few inches away once you feel secure. You can practice other poses while sitting in a chair. Use your imagination, and do what your body tells you it can do.

> Practice the downward facing dog (see Chapter 18, "Take the Forward Path") each day. It builds upper and lower body strength, and it also has many of the advantages of the inversions. Keep your knees bent. Increase


If you have a serious medical condition, begin your yoga practice with care. Inform both your primary care physician and your yoga instructor, so that your yoga practice can be personalized to take your medical needs into full account. In this way, your yoga practice will be more likely to help and not to hinder your path toward healing and well-being.

Balance poses require such minute and complex coordination of so many different muscles and nerves that these poses are as much a workout for the brain as the body. So keep that brain in shape! Crossword puzzles and new learning experiences are great, but add a few balance poses to your daily brain workout, too!

A Yoga Minute

Balance poses require such minute and complex coordination of so many different muscles and nerves that these poses are as much a workout for the brain as the body. So keep that brain in shape! Crossword puzzles and new learning experiences are great, but add a few balance poses to your daily brain workout, too!

the time in the pose by increasing your breaths. For example, "This week I'll hold the pose for two deep breaths. Next week (or month) I'll take three deep breaths in the pose."

> If your legs tend to be weak, try standing in front of a sturdy chair (preferably one without arms) and practicing the lightning bolt pose (Chapter 13). Each time you try the lightning bolt variation, come down just a little bit lower. If your legs start to feel weak or shaky, sit down in the chair and take a smile break. Stand up and try again. Slowly develop your thigh and ankle strength this way. If you have trouble reaching your arms over your head, place your hands in namaste (prayer) position.

A variation of the lightning bolt pose to strengthen your thighs and ankles.

> You might also find inversions strengthening and empowering. Once you feel steady and strong in the mountain pose (Chapter 13), move to the bridge, then the shoulderstand, then the plough, and then the headstand (all in Chapter 15, "Come on, Body, Let's Do the Twist"). The headstand isn't as hard as you might think, once you are centered and strong. Don't try it before you feel ready, but once you've done it, do it as often as you can. It will help you feel rejuvenated. Get your doctor's okay on this. Once he or she sees how strong yoga practice is making you, your doctor may want a few yoga lessons!

> When appropriate or necessary, practice sitting poses in a chair for support, but make sure you maintain good posture! If your back muscles aren't used to working, it may feel better to slump, but bad posture is ultimately more taxing and detrimental to your physical health than good posture. Imagine a string pulling you upward from the crown of your head. Feel as if you are suspended from the string, barely touching the seat of the chair. The longer you do this, the easier it gets and the better it feels.

Stop slumping in that easy chair! Practice sitting poses in a straight-backed chair to keep your spine and back muscles healthy and properly in line. Notice how the chest and internal organs of digestion are compressed in a slouch? Sitting up straight offers your organs a chance to work more efficiently. With practice, you'll find that sitting up straight is more comfortable than a couch potato slouch.

> Practice the sun salutation (Chapter 16, "A Continuous Flow") each morning, and reflect on the sun's power and beauty. Other vinyasa are great for keeping muscles limber and joints mobile, but if any movement or pose is painful, don't continue with it. Arthritis responds well to exercise, but particularly inflamed joints shouldn't be aggravated.

> Water yoga is lots of fun and helps protect bones, muscles, and joints from jarring or taking on too much weight. Many yoga poses can be adapted for different depths of water. Try standing poses in chest-deep water, sitting poses in shallow water (see the following figures). Let the water help you with the poses, and let the water's movement soothe and relax you. Your yoga teacher might even be willing to hold an occasional class at the pool or the beach. It never hurts to ask!

> Who says walking can't be yoga? Walk with intention, focus, concentration, and mindfulness, and your daily walk in the fresh air can become a meditation session and a lesson in life. So much to see, hear, smell, feel, so much beauty, so much activity or quiet, so many or so few people or animals. Let your surroundings speak to you, teach you, communicate with you. Walk through the world awake, with your mind and your eyes wide open. Talk about a great workout!

> The child's pose is incredibly relaxing, but it may be hard on your knees. Try the child's pose on two chairs with folded blankets or pillows for cushioning (see the following figure). Why shouldn't you do the child's pose? You are young at heart!

> Lie still in shavasana (see Chapter 19, "Dead to the World") every day for at least 10 minutes. This pose teaches your body and your mind how to release their tensions and troubles, simplifying your existence and moving toward unity. Everything will work better after a little shavasana!

Overall, keep in mind your particular areas of strength and weakness, then tailor your yoga program to balance both. Having lived on the earth for an impressive number of years should not keep you from attempting yoga. In fact, many yogis live to be over 100 years old and still practice each day. Don't forget breathing exercises and meditation, as well as reflections on the yamas and niyamas (see Chapter 6, "Walking Yoga's Eightfold Path"). Practice outside whenever you can, and pay attention to the natural world around you. Your fitness program, as well as your life, will be whole, balanced, peaceful, and filled with bliss.

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Mind Health Secrets

Mind Health Secrets

A pool of fresh water is special. It's special as it’s a bit like our consciousness. If you try hard you may be able to see really little waves or ripples in the water. They’re really slight. The surface of the water is like the surface of your consciousness. The part that you're cognizant of.

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