By : Dr. Rita Khanna
(36 experience in Teaching Yoga)
Yoga for Senior Citizens
Life starts at 60, as you are passing through just another beautiful phase in life. The responsibilities are over & the time to be at ease has begun. In fact, it is a stage when you have so much more time to devote to yourself. This is also the time to do futuristic planning for a very healthy older life by initiating yourself into regular Yoga, Pranayama, Meditation & a host of hobbies like gardening, swimming, reading & writing.
THE PHYSIOLOGY OF AGEING
As we age, our bodies undergo a number of degenerative physiological changes in the skin, bones, heart, blood vessels, lungs, nerves and other organs and tissues. Ailments that are linked to old age are joints inflexibility, poor blood circulation, arthritis, vision problems, blood pressure, lower back pain, osteoporosis, digestive disorders, difficulty in breathing, stress-related problems, unable to sleep peacefully & chronic pains. The reasons of many of these problems may be insufficient exercise, unwise eating habits and shallow breathing. Three conditions that are very common in the older people are arthritis, osteoporosis & hypertension.
Arthritis is a medical condition that affects the joints and causes pain, swelling and stiffness. Two of the most common types that affect are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS (RA)
RA is a chronic inflammation of the joint lining (synovium), which leads to weakness, loss of mobility and eventual destruction and deformity of the joints. Because RA is a systemic disease, it affects other organs in the body. Yoga improves musculoskeletal flexibility and range of motion (ROM) which helps to restore flexibility and improve circulation to joints. Systematic yoga exercise relaxes and softens contracted muscles, ligaments and other tissues and tones up those, which are weakened. Asanas such as the bound angle pose (butterfly) increase the space within the joints, cat pose provides both extension and flexion and the tree pose strengthens surrounding ligaments and tissues.
OSTEO ARTHRITIS (OA)
OA is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage in the part of the joint that cushions the ends of bones. This causes the bones to rub directly against each other, causing pain and limiting movement. OA affects the hands and weight-bearing joints, such as those in the knees, hips, feet and back. OA can lead to long-term joint damage, chronic pain, loss of function and disability. Yoga is a weight-bearing exercise that can help stimulate bone growth in people of all ages. By contracting the muscles around the bones, yoga poses create a force that encourages bone maintenance throughout all areas of the body. By strengthening the muscles supporting the joints and providing balance training, yoga can also reduce the risk of falls, a major concern for the old. Postures such as cobra, quadruped opposite arm and leg raises and modified camel pose increase muscular strength around the spine, improve posture and relieve spinal compression.
HYPERTENSIONBlood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of the arteries. Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers; the top value (120) is the systolic blood pressure, which measures the force of blood in the arteries as the heart beats, whereas the bottom value (80) is the diastolic blood pressure, which records the force of blood as the heart relaxes during beats. It is important to remember that blood pressure rises and falls throughout the day. However, when blood pressure stays elevated over time, it is classified as hypertension or high blood pressure. Hypertension is dangerous because it causes the heart to work too hard, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. A blood pressure level of 140/90 mmHg or above is considered hypertensive. Hypertension is usually the result of lifestyle factors, such as obesity, stress, high alcohol and sodium intake or genetics. Hypertension can be treated with Pranayama, guided relaxation, meditation, diet and exercise. Pranayama such as Anulome- Vilome, Sheetali & Bhramari are very good in hypertension. These techniques relax the mind & help in returning both systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels to normal more quickly. Breath retentions (pausing at the end of the inhalation or exhalation) are not recommended for hypertensive participants.
SIMPLE YOGA BREATHING PRACTICE
This simple exercise can reduce stress, teach mindfulness and relieve spinal compression. It is beneficial for people with arthritis, hypertension and osteoporosis.
Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep knees and feet hip-width apart, hands by the side of the body and palms facing upward. Be comfortable (you can use a small pillow to support the head if you want).
Close the eyes and observe your natural breath…
You will notice that your stomach is moving up & down with each breath…
As you inhale, it is rising… as you exhale, it is falling…
Take slow, deep, unforced breaths…
Avoid straining to increase the length of inhalations or exhalations…
Keep watch on each breath…
Do this practice 10-12 times …
When ready to come out of this position, roll onto one side & sit up as slow as possible.
DUTIES OF CHILDREN
At this stage, the grown up children have to take proper care of their parents and they should not forget that these senior people have brought them up by facing many difficulties. These seniors have given them protection and education. Now is the time for them to shower all the love that their parents deserve. It will really help in boosting their confidence. If the future generation takes care of their parents, the old age will not be lonely, difficult or painful. In fact, children can take advantage from the experiences & treasure of knowledge of their parents and grand parents.