IF THERE’S ONE THING you can’t avoid, it’s getting older. But there’s plenty you can do to ease the aging process. Yoga, for one, can keep your body limber, ease pain and lead to greater mental clarity. Try these six poses regularly to stay vibrant at any age:
1. Side Angle
(Why: As you get older, gravity starts to take hold, and it’s common to develop bad posture. (If you feel like you’re shorter than you used to be, you may be right.) Side angle creates a stretch through the sides of your torso, which helps maintain length and mobility in your spine. Holding this pose also strengthens your legs, hips and back. Practicing this pose regularly will also release low-back pain that often creeps in as you age.
How: Start with your right foot forward in a warrior two stance. When you bend your front knee straight over your foot, make sure your thigh is parallel to the floor. Rest your right forearm on your thigh and spin your palm toward the ceiling. Square your hips and chest toward the wall you’re facing and stretch your top arm alongside your ear with your palm facing down. Make a straight diagonal line from your back heel all the way through your left fingertips. As you find your balance, slowly look up. Hold for five breaths and move to the second side.
Why: Good lower back health is paramount if you want to stay vibrant later in life. Locust requires you to lift and arch your back off of the ground, which develops mobility in your shoulders and upper back. It also builds strength in your back’s small erector spinae muscles, which tend to deteriorate over time.
How: Lie on your belly and rest your forehead on the floor with your palms turned toward the floor. Adjust your legs so you are centered on the face of your quads. Squeeze your legs together for power. If your back is tight, bring your feet hips-width apart to give your back more freedom. Inhale and lengthen your back until your shoulders are even with the base of your neck. Work your legs and arms straight, and lift your chin, arms and legs up at once. Lift your legs from the inner thighs, and press your pelvis down against the floor to get a boost in your upper back. Stay in the pose for five breaths before gently lowering back down to the floor.
3. Tree Pose
Why: If you fall when you are older, the stakes are much higher. It takes longer to heal and, if you get hurt, it could limit your range of motion for the rest of your life. Balancing poses like tree help train you to be balanced and careful on your feet. Tree pose also inspires a level of focus that keeps your mind still and relieves anxiety and stress.
How: Stand tall with your feet straight forward and hips-width apart. Shift weight into your right foot and place of the sole of your left foot above or below your knee. Press your foot against your leg and your leg against your foot to get steady and create a lift in your back. Bring your palms to touch and focus your gaze about 20 feet in front of you on the floor. Keep your chin parallel to the floor. If you’re ready to challenge your balance, shift your gaze up to eye level. Balance here for 10 deep breaths.
Why: Over the years, everyone develops some level of arthritis in their joints that leads to unwanted aches and pain. Pigeon pose is very effective at opening your outer hips, which alleviates pressure and torque on your knees. This posture also affords you a lot of stability so you can hold the stretch and open your hips deeply.
How: From down dog, bring your right knee to the right edge of your mat. Angle your shin across your mat at a steep enough angle to keep your hips square. Come onto your forearms and allow your hips to settle back toward the floor. As your hips open, slide your back leg and hips farther back. Only go as far as you can while keeping your hips square. Press your forearms down on the floor, draw your low belly in and create a lift in your mid back. Hold this position on both sides for 10 breaths.
5. Hero Pose
Why: Your psoas muscle, which stretches from your lower to upper back, tightens easily as you become less active later in life. This can lead to serious back pain and overall discomfort. Hero pose releases your psoas and opens your thighs. Over time, you will find stillness in this shape, which helps you relax and release while seated comfortably.
How: Lower your knees gently to the floor with your knees inner hips-width apart and your shins wide enough to sit between them. Look at your feet and make sure they are on a straight diagonal line with your shins. If your quads and back are tight, sit on a prop to protect your knees and ankles. As you become more open, touch the floor behind you and remove your block. Let your hips settle toward the floor. As long as your thighs can stay parallel with one another and your knees stay grounded, lower your forearms, then your back, to the floor. Draw your sternum down and breathe for 30 seconds. Carefully come out of the pose and stretch your legs out in down dog.
6. Seated Wide Angle Forward Fold
Why: As you age, if you do not stretch your hamstrings routinely, you can injure your legs and back. This seated pose is a great way to fully stretch your hamstrings while strengthening your legs and releasing your low back.
How: Sit on the ground with your legs wide and your hands behind you on the floor. Point your feet and knees straight up. Sit tall first to root your legs down and tilt your low back up out of your pelvis. As much as you can keep your legs straight and your low back lifted, bow forward. Stay in this position for 10 breaths.
The 6 Best Yoga Poses to Practice as You Ageg was originally published on U.S. Health News & World Report.
Article written by Jake Panasevich, US News. Practice with Jake Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30am and Wednesdays at 5pm. Register here!
Jake is a yoga teacher in Philly specializing in yoga for men and office workers. He is also a yoga trainer for professional athletes. Listen to Jake’s recent interview on NPR. You could also learn more about Jake in his featured articles in Men’s Health, Huffington Post and US News. Visit Jake’s website at yogawithjake.com.