Yoga and Aging, Part II: The hip bone’s connected to the…

As we get older, our bodies seem to forget how they’re supposed to work: tendons, ligaments, muscles, and blood vessels should be supple, but they become less elastic; teeth and bones, which should be hard, soften or become brittle. So in order to remain healthy and strong, we have to pay extra attention to those wayward body parts. It’s important to keep muscles toned so that they help to hold our bones and joints in proper alignment, to strengthen bones so they don’t fracture, to cultivate awareness to help prevent falls, which are more dangerous to aging, fragile bones. And we have to do all of these things slowly and carefully, so as not to damage our already compromised tendons, muscles, cartilage, and ligaments.

I’ve had a number of yoga clients who had been active in sports all their lives, but now suffer from back pain, shoulder pain, arthritis, and other similar ailments. This can happen due to repetitive stress (think, for example, about the golf swing – which tends to stress one shoulder and hip, or about the pounding a runner’s feet and knees take). And there are others who’ve done little exercise but now realize, perhaps because of a physician’s stern warning, that they need to get moving!  It could be helpful for people in both categories to be physically active, but in a mindful way. The techniques we use in Viniyoga – using the breath as a guide, and repeating movements, perhaps going deeper into the movement with each successive repetition – can be very useful.

I’d like to offer a short practice to help strengthen muscles and bones.