Sunday, 3 July 2016

Yoga for seniors - lower back pain

Back pain can be an issue as we age due to changes in posture caused by tight hamstrings and hip flexors, tight chest and shoulder muscles. Because the spine is all connected misalignment in the upper spine can impinge on the lower back. Also as we age our core strength tends to weaken.  If imagine the core like a corset around your abdomen and lower back, you can see that weakness in the core can lead to the lower spine not being held in its correct alignment.  

The sequence below is intended to stretch tight hamstrings and hip flexors and strengthen the core muscles.  Next week we will work on the shoulders and neck and upper back.  
Please note - always check with your doctor if you have back issues before practicing yoga or any other exercises.  

You will need a chair or a wall and a block or equivalent.

Savasana - lie on your mat, feet at hip distance, little toe sides of the feet releasing down towards the mat.  Have your arms a little way from your body, palms up, fingers curling towards your palms.  Spend a few moments tuning in to your body, noticing any area that you need to be careful with as you practice.  Then bring your attention to your breath and simply watch your breath for a few minutes letting go of any thoughts, concerns or worries with each exhale.  When you are ready to start the physical part of your practice gently open your eyes and take a stretch.



Pelvic Tilts - bend your knees and rest your hands on your hip points. Breathe in and curl your pubic bone away from you creating a space under your back.  Breathe out and draw your pubic bone towards you flattening your back into the mat.



Pelvic Tilts with Shoulder Bridge -  Adding on breathe in and curl your pubic bone away from you creating a space under your back.  Breathe out and draw your pubic bone towards you flattening your back into the mat.  Breathe in lift your hips, take your arms overhead, breathe out lower your hips, bring your arms back over and repeat the sequence three more times.  



Apanasana - stretch out your legs then draw your right knee in towards your chest (if you have knee issues hold on to the back of your thigh).  Hold for a few breaths then release your leg.  Repeat second side.



Curl ups (care neck- if you have neck issues you might want to skip this one.  An alternative would be to lie on your tummy resting your head on the back of your hands.  Breathe in, let your tummy soften, breathe out draw your navel back to your spine)- bend your knees then separate your feet,  Breathe in, take your arms overhead, breathe out curl up stretching your arms forward between your legs. Repeat 5-10 times.



Cat/Cow - come to all fours.  Breathe in lift your head and chest, breathe out tuck your chin and arch your back and continue working with your breath.



Balancing Cat - come back to a neutral spine, breathe in and stretch your right leg back.  
Hold for 3 breaths then breathe out to lower.  Repeat second side.  To go further breathe in stretch out your right leg and left arm, breathe out and bring your right knee and left elbow together and repeat 3 more times.  Breathe out to come back to all fours then repeat with the left leg and right arm.


Hamstring Slide - from all fours breathe in and bring your right foot forward between your hands, breathe out and 'walk' your hands back lifting your toes but keeping your heel grounded.  The back of your leg should be straight so that you feel it in your hamstrings - if not take your hands and feet wider apart.   Breathe in to 'walk' your hands forward then repeat 3 more times.



Swan - come to the back of your mat with your big toes touching, your knees wide.  'Walk' your hands forward so that your forehead comes to the mat or a block.  Press back with your tailbone as you stretch forward from the hips.



Tadasana - stand with the feet together with the outside edges of the feet parallel (for most of us this will mean separating the heels).  Have your weight spread evenly through all four corners of the feet, the little toe side, big toe side, inner heel and outer heel. Lengthen your tail bone down towards the floor to create space in the spine, lift your chest and roll your shoulder blades back and down.  Your chin should be level with the floor, the crown of your head reaching for the ceiling.  Your arms should be relaxed by your sides, your fingers gently curled.  If it feels safe for you, close your eyes or gaze at a spot on the floor. Notice how it feels to stand with good posture.



Chair pose - open your eyes and place a block between your thighs.  Inhale lift your arms, exhale bend your knees as you squeeze your thighs to your block.  Feel like you are going to sit in a chair that is a little too far back and lengthen your tailbone towards the mat.  Hold and breathe then when you are ready to come out of the pose, inhale straighten your legs, breathe out, float your arms down.   



Back stretch with wall/chair - bring your fingertips to the back of a chair or a wall. Breathe out and walk your feet back until you come to a flat back position with your head between your arms.  Your feet should be at hip distance.  Press your tailbone back.  When you are ready to come out, breathe in walk your feet forward and slowly come up.  As a counter pose interlace your fingers behind your back, inhale lift your chest and arms, hold for a breath then breathe out to release. Please make sure your chair will not slip.



Anchored Boat - sit on the mat with your knees bent, your spine straight and your arms stretched forward. Breathe in and as you breathe out take your navel back to your spine and rock back on your sit bones. Breathe in to return to the upright position.  Repeat twice more.


Savasana - lie on your mat, feet at hip distance, little toe sides of the feet releasing down towards the mat.  Have your arms a little way from your body, palms up, fingers curling towards your palms.  Spend 5-10 minutes watching your breath as you receive the benefits of your practice.  




Namaste,
Janet x

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