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Fitness: Four yoga moves for older adults that boost balance, ease pain and enhance health
Source: The Washington Post

The following yoga practices teach proper body alignment and breathing techniques for relaxation.

Relaxed abdominal breath

This breathing technique is one of nature's best anti-stress medicines.

1. Lie down, if possible, or sit tall.

2. Rest your palms on your belly, just below your navel.

3. Relax your abdomen and inhale fully. Notice how your belly rounds and your hands gently rise.

4. Exhale and notice how your belly releases inward and your hands gently fall.

5. Continue for several slow, full breaths while focusing on your breathing and your body. Avoid pushing your belly out or straining.

Tree pose

This balance-training pose can be useful in helping prevent falls, which are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries in older adults. Practice this pose standing near a wall, countertop or chair that you can touch lightly for support.

1. Stand with your feet hip distance apart. Extend the top of your head toward the sky and "stack" your joints so that you're standing very tall: If someone was looking at you from the side, your ear would be over your shoulder, your shoulder over your hip, your hip over your knee and your knee over your ankle.

2. Find a fixed spot at eye level and focus your gaze there. This helps stabilize your balance.

3. Imagine sending roots down into the ground through your right foot and pick up your left heel. Then bend your left knee and, keeping your toes and the ball of your foot on the ground for stability, slide the sole of your left foot against your right ankle.

4. Bring your palms together at your chest or extend your arms up to the sky, keeping your shoulders relaxed and down.

5. Balance here for a few breaths. To increase the challenge, lift your left foot off the ground and place the sole against the inside of your right leg anywhere but at the knee.

6. Balance for several breaths, then repeat with the other leg.

Seated mountain pose with shoulder shrugs

This posture teaches proper sitting alignment, which can help relieve back pain as well as enhance respiration and circulation.

1. Sit tall in your chair so that you can feel your "sit bones" — the two hard knobs at the base of your pelvis — pressing down onto the chair seat.

2. Rest your hands in your lap and your feet on the floor.

3. Extend the top of your head up toward the sky. Keep your chin parallel to the floor; avoid tilting it up or tucking it in.

4. Stack your joints so your ear is over your shoulder and your shoulder is over your hip.

5. Imagine a light shining out from your breastbone (sternum) and direct it forward, not down at the ground.

6. On an inhalation, lift your shoulders up toward your ears.

7. As you exhale, drop your shoulders down. You can also say "ha" and think about expelling all tension as you do.

8. Repeat three to five times, synchronizing your movement with your breath. Keep your arms as relaxed as possible.

Chair pose

Practicing the chair pose can improve strength and balance:

1. Sit toward the front of a chair with both feet on the floor.

2. Take an easy, full breath in, then exhale as you lean slightly forward from your hips, keeping your back straight. Press your feet into the floor and use the strength of your legs to stand. Make sure not to round your back as you do this.

3. Inhale as you extend your arms forward to shoulder height, bend your knees and lean slightly forward from your hips — not from your waist. At the same time, stick your bottom out and, without letting your back get round, lower yourself slowly back into the chair.

4. Repeat five to 10 times, coming to a standing position, then slowly lowering yourself back to sitting. Be sure to keep the breath flowing; don't hold your breath.


 

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