Yoga After 50 For Dummies
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Although you may be very capable of benefiting from other Yoga routines, this article has a 15-minute seated sequence for those hindered by excessive weight or those stuck behind a desk all day. I call it Desk Yoga or Executive Yoga. This specific routine is designed to get you moving without doing any excessive folding (which may be uncomfortable for some people).

Sometimes, when you see Yoga being done from a chair, the practice itself may seem watered down. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Any type of movement can be a powerful tool, and you move plenty in this sequence.

Nothing in this routine should cause you pain. If something does or even if your intuition tells you it’s not a good idea to comply, then please don’t. Again, nobody knows better how you’re feeling than you.

Prepare for either of these routines by sitting in a chair with your back straight and your hands on your thighs. If it feels okay, close your eyes (or maybe just look at the floor).

Begin to shift your focus from events that have already happened or from items on your schedule for later to a quiet place inside. Try to link your body, breath, and mind. Again, that’s what makes this Yoga and not just another exercise routine.

Breathe through your nose, inhaling and exhaling, with your mouth closed (if possible). Every time you exhale, gently draw your belly in. I call this focus breathing.

Now, picture your alignment, with your ear, shoulder, and hip in one straight line.

Proper alignment. Proper alignment.

Form a clear intention to relax and try to maintain this focus breathing throughout the sequence.

Fifteen-minute routine

I designed this routine specifically for my clients who found traditional Yoga routines to be inconsistent with their particular body type (and I’m talking about both men and women) as well as those sitting in an office too many hours a day. My hope is that you’ll find the time to do the full routine (it should take you only about 15 minutes). Again, it’s structured for you to do most of the work while in your chair. After you go down to the mat, you need to do only a couple of poses on your back before you move into some constructive rest.

If, however, you’re constrained by time, I recommend the truncated version of the routine in the following section. It should take only about five minutes, and something is always better than nothing.

Arm raises:

  1. As you inhale, bring your right arm overhead (see the following figure).

    A soft bend in the elbow may make it more comfortable.

  2. As you exhale, bring your right arm back down.
  3. As you inhale, bring your left arm up.
  4. As you exhale, bring it down.
  5. Continue the same sequence, moving with your breath two more times.
Arm raises. Arm raises.

Arm raises with head turn:

  1. As you inhale, bring your right arm overhead and rotate your head to the left (see the following figure)
  2. As you exhale, bring your right arm back down and your head back to center.
  3. As you inhale, bring your left arm up and let your head rotate to the right.
  4. As you exhale, bring your arm down and head back to center.
  5. Repeat two more times on each side, timing your movement with your natural inhalations and exhalations.
Arm raises with head turns. Arm raises with head turns.

Wing and prayer:

  1. Bring your hands into prayer position in front of your chest (see figure A).
  2. As you inhale, take your arms out wide (see figure B).
  3. As you exhale, bring them back to where you started.
  4. As you inhale, raise your joined hands over your head, keeping your eyes on your fingertips (see figure C).
  5. As you exhale, bring your arms back down.

    Wing and a prayer pose. Wing and a prayer pose.
  6. Repeat four more times, moving with your breath.
Shoulder rolls:
  1. Let your arms hang at your sides.
  2. As you inhale, bring your shoulders up toward your ears and let them draw back (see the following figure).
  3. As you exhale, bring them back down.

    Shoulder rolls. Shoulder rolls.
  4. Repeat three to four more times, moving with your breath.
  5. Reverse the direction.
  6. As you inhale, bring your shoulders up toward your ears.
  7. As you exhale, let them fall forward and all the way back down.
  8. Repeat three to four more times in this direction, moving with your breath.
Chair twist:
  1. Sit sideways in your chair.
  2. Bring your back up tall as you hold on to the back of your chair (see the following figure).

    Use your inhale to help you sit more upright.

  3. As you exhale, twist toward the back, mainly with your shoulders.

    Don’t try to use your neck because this step is not intended to stretch your neck muscles. Let each inhalation take you upright, and every exhalation takes you deeper into the twist.

    This twist is intended to relax your muscles and not strain them. Your movements may be slight, even imperceptible. If it hurts at all, don’t do it.

  4. Repeat for several smooth breaths and then slowly unwind.
  5. Turn completely to the other side of the chair and repeat.
Chair twist. Chair twist.

Forward fold using the chair:

  1. Slowly come to a standing position and then turn and face the chair.
  2. Bring your arms straight out and adjust your distance from the chair so that your extended fingertips hover above the edge of the chair.
  3. Bring your arms to your sides.
  4. As you inhale, bring your arms straight up over your head.
  5. As you exhale, gently bend from your hips, bringing your hands to the chair, allowing your knees to comfortably bend and your head to relax (see the following figure).
  6. As you inhale, bring your arms back up, over your head, standing tall.
  7. Exhale back down.
  8. Keep moving up and down, with your breath, for four more rounds.
Forward fold using a chair. Forward fold using a chair.

Cat/cow is a great routine that continues to lengthen out your spine and warm up your hip and shoulder joints. This pose requires you to come to your hands and knees, so feel free to cushion any place that makes the pose more comfortable — especially your knees.

  1. Come to your hands and knees, with the heels of your hands just down from your shoulders and your knees hip-width apart, just under your hips.
  2. Bring your arms to your sides.
  3. As you inhale, arch your back as you look up.
  4. As you exhale, round your back, draw your belly in, and look down.
  5. Repeat three more times and then hold in the rounded position with your belly in.

You decide how long to hold this one.

Cat/cow. Cat/cow.

Hip circles:

  1. From your hands and knees, circle your hips about four times, moving forward and back as you do (see the following figure).
  2. Reverse the direction of the circle for four times.

As you circle, explore your range of motion. Again, nothing should hurt. If it does, you’re pushing too hard.

Hip circles. Hip circles.

Balancing cat:

  1. Slide your right hand forward and your left hand back.
  2. Lift both of the extended limbs up and out (thumb up on your arm).

    Ideally, your right hand and left foot are at about the same height (see the following figure). Remember to keep breathing.

  3. Hold this position until you decide when to come down.
  4. Repeat on the other side.
Balancing cat. Balancing cat.

For the remainder of this 15-minute routine, lie on your mat with your back to the floor.

Supine arms and legs raise:

  1. Bend your knees and place your feet on the ground and your palms face down at your sides.
  2. Take a deep breath and as you exhale, draw your knees into your chest.
  3. As you inhale, slowly straighten your legs and bring your arms overhead, ideally touching the ground behind you with your fingertips (see Figure 6-11).
  4. As you exhale, bend your knees into the chest and bring your arms back down to your sides.
  5. Repeat four more times.

Try to put a definite pause at the top of the movement and at the bottom.

Supine arms/legs raise. Supine arms/legs raise.

Corpse pose:

  1. Still lying on your back, comfortably extend your arms and legs.
  2. Turn the palms of your hands up; let your feet fall to the sides.
  3. Relax.

Often, closing your eyes will help you be more relaxed. Also, if it’s more comfortable on your spine, feel free to bend your knees.

Corpse pose. Corpse pose.

Five-minute routine

Sometimes your busy life leaves you little time for working out. If you fall into that category, this quick routine is perfect for you. While my hope remains that you find the time to do the 15-minute routine, the shortened version should take you only about five minutes.

To complete this routine, simply do the first five poses of the longer routine. These poses are

  • Arm raises
  • Arm raises with head turn
  • Wing and a prayer
  • Shoulder rolls
  • Chair twist
  • Forward fold using a chair

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Larry Payne, PhD, is the president of The International Association of Yoga Therapists. He founded Samata International Yoga and Health Center and is the author of Yoga After 50 For Dummies. Don Henry is a Yoga therapist who has been teaching Yoga for more than a decade. He is a member of the Writer’s Guild of America.

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