By Mandy Ingber, author of Yogalosophy: 28 Days to the Ultimate Mind-Body Makeover
As we grow older, daily yoga practice can help strengthen bones, keep tendons and ligaments loose, muscles supple, and the mind open. Yoga attunes us to our bodies and the process of living, allowing us to remain flexible through the winding road of life. It also allows us to grow and age gracefully while maintaining balance and gratitude for the moment.
Here are four simple poses to facilitate healthy aging through mindfulness, strength, balance, and flexibility.
Meditation is a simple mindful awareness of the moment.
1. Sit in a chair with both feet flat on the floor, making sure your hips are above your knees. Palms can be turned upwards, resting on your thighs.
2. Lengthen your spine and make sure that it is straight.
3. Breathe slowly and deeply, in and out of your nose, paying special attention to the space between the inhalation and exhalation.
4. When you notice your thoughts, simply bring your awareness back to your breath.
You can do the above pose for 5 minutes daily.
Plank position in yoga strengthens bones and helps with balance and core strength. You may choose to use light weights and incorporate curls and flys into this exercise, or simply use your own body weight. You may modify this position by placing your knees on the floor.
1. Begin on your hands and knees with palms directly below the shoulders.
2. Extend one leg behind you on the mat, with toes curled under, and then do the same for the other leg.
3. Rebound off of the mat by pressing down into your palms. Hips and shoulders should be aligned. Do not sway your lower back or let your upper back scrunch up.
4. If you need to modify, bring your knees to the mat with your body at a diagonal.
5. Hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat twice.
One of the most common changes as we age is the ability to balance. Tree pose is a wonderful way to work on proprioception, which is your body’s relationship to its place in space. The three keys to balance are extension, the gazing point, and the breath. Imagine a vertical line of energy that is dynamic and moving your body in two directions simultaneously. Make sure when you are in a balance pose to fix your gaze on a point that does not move. Focus on your breathing to stay centered and calm.
1. From a standing position, find your gazing point and connect with your breath.
2. Shift your weight to your right leg and bend your left knee.
3. Draw the sole of your left foot to either your right calf or bring the foot all the way up to your inner thigh with the left knee opened out to the side.
4. Press your palms together at your heart as if in a prayer, as you press the sole of the left foot into the right inner thigh.
5. If you want more of a challenge, reach your arms tall with palms facing each other shoulder width apart.
6. Breathe and repeat on side two for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
In order to maintain mobility in our joints, we must stretch. Something as simple as a forward bend will do the trick, but it must be done consistently. I suggest 20 minutes of simple stretching daily. The reclining pigeon is my favorite stretch.
1. Lay down on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor, parallel and hip width apart.
2. Keep your right knee bent, and cross your left ankle over the right knee with the left foot flexed.
3. Draw the right knee towards your chest and thread your hands through the space, each hand gently wrapping around the right hamstring.
4. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides.
If your chin is jutting up, try folding a blanket and placing it underneath your head. You may also leave the right foot on the floor, and simply allow the left knee to open. Use your hand to increase the stretch if needed.
*Yogalosophy is available for $1.99 wherever eBooks are sold from September 15th, 2014, to October 3rd, 2014.
Check out more articles on healthy aging by Seal authors, or learn more about healthy aging and Healthy Aging Month® at HealthyAging.net