Staying strong after 40: best way to stand up

 

Can you squat down to the floor and come up again with a straight back? Coming up from a squat while keeping the back straight is the best way to stand up if you want to keep your back healthy and legs strong. It is a safe way of coming up from the floor if you have back pain. This movement strengthens the legs and keeps the back in a neutral position, thus allowing you to pick things of the floor or lift without straining your back. In my yoga therapy work I have found that many people, with or without back pain, find it challenging to come up in this way. This blog demonstrates how to master coming up from the squatting position in 5 easy steps.

My first ever blog is called “40 and falling apart” and deals with the flexibility we start losing if we don’t stretch a little every day after a certain age. After 40 (it can be a bit earlier or later for some people), the body starts telling you what you have been doing all your life and starts to complain about repetitive movements or too much sitting. If you don’t address the issue, you risk increasing stiffness and weakness. For people who don’t exercise regularly, muscular strength begins to falter as well.

When the leg muscles, gluts and back muscles lose strength, and when balance becomes difficult, people start coming up from the floor via a forward bend, leaving the hands near the floor as long as possible. Especially if you have back pain this is not a beneficial movement. It is better to re-learn and keep practising to come up with the strength in your legs whenever you can as this protects your lower back, strengthens leg muscles and improves balance. Below is a step-by-step guide to re-learn this way of standing up. First master one stage before moving to the next.

Once you can squat down and get up easily, use it to pick things of the floor, load the dishwasher, play with your children/grandchildren on the floor, tie your shoelaces, lift things, etc.

 

  1. Strengthen the muscles around the knee

This exercise is not only good to strengthen the muscles around the knee, but also to correct any weakness on one side of your knee.

-Hold on to the back of a chair or a wall.

-Stand on one leg with the toes pointing forward.

-Bend the knee while making sure the centre of the knee tracks over the centre of the foot (or the second toe, to be precise).

-Straighten the leg.

-Repeat 6-10 times with each leg, exhaling as you bend the knee, inhaling as you straighten it.

-Repeat with the other leg.

 

  1. Semi-squat

-Place your feet about 20-30 cm apart.

-Hold on to something if necessary.

-Bend both legs as if you are going to sit down on a chair. The toes and knees have to point in the same direction.

-Keep the upper body straight and look ahead, not down.

-Repeat up to 10x

 

  1. Full squat with support

-Place your feet about 20-30 cm apart.

-Hold on to one or two chairs. If your legs are still very weak it is good to have a chair on either side of you.

-Squat all the way down to the floor.

-Come up with the help of your one or two supports.

-Practise this daily a few times.

 

  1. Squat with hands on the knees

 

-Place your feet 20-30 cm apart.

-Squat down to the floor.

-Place one hand on each knee.

-Come up by pushing on your knees but keep the back straight.

-It helps to look straight ahead and not down.

-After the initial push with the hands on the knees, slide them up your legs until you are upright. This gives a feeling of security but also ensures that your back stays upright.

 

  1. Full squat without support

If you can do all the previous exercises, don’t let a day go by without practising a few squats; keeping the back straight and coming up with the strength of your legs.

If acute back pain or your knees don’t allow you to squat, do take a look at my video here. It starts by showing how to go down to the floor and come up again with one leg at a time.

 

Namaste

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