Ask a group of older adults what they’re most afraid of as they age and almost always one of them will say, ‘falling’. Falling when you’re older often has consequences. According to a US nationwide study done by Texas A&M University Health Science Center, every 15 seconds an older adult is admitted to the emergency room for a fall.
Combined with that, they report that a third of those who find themselves in the emergency room for a fall will be back within a year for the same reason. What does that tell you? To me, it’s a wakeup call to get moving, get strong and improve stability and balance.
Cold weather brings challenges that aren’t always welcome. The freezing rain and snow that adds a bit of sparkle to the sidewalk as you gaze through your window, doesn’t make getting out and about very easy.
So how do you keep yourself from hiding inside all winter and why does it matter? The more time we spend indoors the more sedentary we are likely to become and the less active. This results in less movement, less strength and more illness. And getting out in the cold comes with many benefits.
Repeated practice of simple yoga-based movements will enhance your ability to become stronger, more agile, flexible and ultimately, more balanced, helping you maintain an active, vibrant lifestyle in any weather.
If you haven’t practiced yoga before, don’t dismay. These poses are accessible and easy to follow so that you can do them any time throughout your day. Some of these can be done at the kitchen sink, on the edge of your chair while watching TV or by the side of your bed when you first wake up.
Movement and exercise don’t have to be difficult. You don’t need to be athletic or be great at push-ups or crunches, you just need desire and motivation. You can build up your strength slowly, steadily and that way you build up your confidence as well.
You start where you are and go from there. Our bodies have an incredible capacity to change for the better and it’s time to tap into that ability.
Information between our nerves, muscles, brain, and body gets relayed more slowly with age, but engaging our senses helps improve that. When you’re starting off, eyes wide open helps. Have you ever closed your eyes and tried to maintain a balanced position? What happened? For many, this throws us off kilter and we lose our sense of equilibrium.
Good balance requires good proprioception so that we’re able to connect ourselves to what’s going on around us. Your feet are information portals that send messages to your brain about how you should react in any given situation as you walk, jump, shuffle or simply stand still.
This is a good reason to practice walking around barefoot in your home so that your feet can learn to exercise their ability to do their job well. Keeping your feet and ankles agile can carry you a long way.
(I’ve adapted the poses below to make them more accessible to all. All of them begin in a standing position and make use of chairs and walls. You can see them demonstrated in the video that accompanies this article. You’ll find additional movement tips and good practice ideas by watching.)
Stand with your feet at comfortable width apart. Toes stretched comfortably. All sides of the feet pressing down into the floor, almost as if they are sinking in warm sand. Are your hips over your ankles, your shoulders over your hips? Can you feel that centered position?
Once you’re there, relax your chin, your shoulders, your knees and imagine your inner thighs turning in and back. Do you feel an interior lift through the hips? Have the arches of your feet lifted a bit? All of these sensations are good. Notice them and notice how strong you feel.
This is your starting point for all movement; your foundation for stability. You can practice a variation seated as well, sitting upright away from the backrest and going through the exact same steps as above. This is a great way to strengthen your core while you’re at it.
From mountain pose, start to shift your weight to be heavy on your heels as you bend your knees to wherever is comfortable. Outstretch your arms in front of you, or keep your hands on your hips and hold there. Keep your back extended from the hips to the crown of your head. Use the wall or a chair as needed. This pose is strengthening for the legs and knees.
Shift all of your weight to one leg. Maintain a relaxed knee to avoid strain. Take the opposite leg and foot and raise to wherever is comfortable. Try to focus on an object in front of you; this helps you begin to balance more easily. Experiment with moving the leg in different ways and heights to see what you are capable of. You can do this at the kitchen counter, bathroom sink, against a wall or beside a chair.
Start standing behind a chair with hands resting on the back of the chair. Extend one leg straight back from mountain pose and bend the other leg down toward a 90° angle. Toward is the key word here. Whatever is possible for you is ok. Don’t shy away from using a wall or chair; it’s a great way to help you and make you stronger in the pose.
Start with your legs a little further than hip-width apart or whatever width is comfortable for you. Feet should be facing forward. Take your right foot/leg and turn it to the side if comfortable. Find where it feels best and keep it there.
The rotation is coming from the top of your leg, so don’t overdo it. Bump out your opposite hip and then side bend over the rotated leg to wherever is comfortable. Arms can be extended or at the hips. Using a chair or the wall with this pose makes it much more approachable.
Tips for Best Practice
Start these poses by holding them for a few seconds if you’re comfortable. The next time you practice add on another second and move up in increments as each week passes. This is how your body becomes stronger.
Remember, it’s important to listen to your body and not do anything that causes too much tension. If you have any medical conditions, it’s wise to consult with your health practitioner before starting any new activity.
It’s good to vary your practice by working on different exercises each day so that you can get the benefits from all of them without doing the same ones repeatedly. The more ways you move your body the more agility you develop and the more you’re able to react quickly and prevent falls. Isn’t that everyone’s goal after all?
There are many things that make us strong: the food we eat, the type of movement we do, how often we do it and how we approach all of it. This is a very broad topic, but I hope that while you’re looking out that window you’ll find this a great place to start.
If you’d like to learn further yoga appropriate for your ability, you can reach out to me or join me here on a Monday, where we build upon these movements and others to explore everyone’s full potential.
Are you afraid of falling, especially in the winter season? What are you doing to improve your strength and balance? Is it helping? Have you tried yoga for balance?
Tags Fitness Over 60