“40 and falling apart” was the first blog I ever wrote. It claimed that at 40, your body starts telling you what you’ve been doing in your life. Little did I know what 50 was going to bring! At 50, I have to use my yoga practice to support my body, rather than the other way round. Attention to posture has become important, same as upper back and neck care. With this blog, I’d like to give you some tips to be the healthiest version of you. These yoga tips to stay healthy and well will not make you stand on your head or bend like a pretzel. This is yoga for better blood circulation, deeper breathing, better balance and mobility, and less stress. It is yoga that helps you feel more confident and happy.
When it comes to healthy ageing, there are some broad rules, to do with sleep, food, exercise. But while we hear a lot about those, what else can we do to feel truly good in our body? How would it be to get up in the morning without feeling stiff? How would it be to keep doing your favourite activities without any discomfort? It is never too late or too early to improve our health and wellbeing, but over 50 may feel like a good time to harness our energy, to nourish our mind and stay strong and flexible.
I give some general suggestions below, but if you’d like your own tailored programme, do contact me here to discuss private yoga sessions: https://beneyoga.co.uk/contact-for-yoga-classes-in-chiswick/. In five sessions, you will learn how to improve your flexibility and strength. But that’s not all, as it is not just the body that needs more care, but the mind gets bombarded with mental and emotional input. That’s why yoga is such a great companion for the body as well as the mind: it sharpens your concentration, soothes with breathing and relaxation and generally gives you a greater peace of mind.
Keep your joints healthy
Yoga invites you to move your joints in their whole range of movement, in ways that you are probably not used to doing in daily life or in your favourite sports. It helps the joints to stay lubricated and the muscles less tight.
The practice below rotates the spine and can release tightness the shoulder joints. It feels playful and fun.
Stand with your feet hip-width or further apart and rotate to look behind you, keep going from side to side 5 to 7x. Allow the arms to flop from side to side.
Regular, targeted strengthening is necessary for everyone, to stay mobile, keep stamina and avoid falls as we age. Our muscles become weaker with age and we may lose 3% to 5% every decade from age 30 onwards. We also need to work more to maintain the same muscle mass.
Luckily, yoga is not all about flexibility. Many of the poses, such as plank, dog, and lunge require a lot of strength. For many yoga movements, we need strong arms. We can strengthen them in a targeted way with the exercises below. Whether you do this arm strengthening with a wall, bench or on the ground, start with the level that feels right for you. Read more in this blog about other variations: https://beneyoga.co.uk/how-to-strengthen-your-upper-arms/.
In any level of push-up exercise for the arms, keep the abdominal muscles strong. So moving forwards to the wall, bench or ground, keep you body in one line, as a rigid plank.
This brings us to strong core muscles, of course, which you can read more about here: https://beneyoga.co.uk/core-strength-and-stabitlity-stronger-and-more-relaxed-in-2020/. If you would like to strengthen your core but don’t know where to start, my 5 videos can help you step by step, from easy beginnings to stronger options. Read all about it here: https://beneyoga.co.uk/videos/
Improving your flexibility
We all feel more flexible in some areas of our body and tighter in others. To some extent that’s normal and cannot be changed radically. What we want to avoid is our muscles becoming tight due to under-use. Yoga is most known for its effects on flexibility but a healthy yoga session allows you to find your measure, your unique balance between strength and flexibility.
Having rotated the spine in the practice above, let’s stretch the spine laterally:
Inhale and raise both arms. Hold the wrist and turn the palm up. Gently pull the wrist up and slightly over. Don’t go as far as you can go to the side; think of lengthening the spine upward instead.
Exhale and retune to the centre. Repeat a few times to both sides.
I’ve written many times about the power of rest to rejuvenate the body and the mind. It’s part of an all-round yoga practice, although it will feel more essential in those times in your life when you feel overwhelmed or exhausted. When your nights are interrupted a half hour rest in a restorative position can do wonders. It’s not just any rest: there are particular positions that are particularly restful and restorative. Read more about them in this blog: https://beneyoga.co.uk/restorative-yoga/.
Keep your mind clear and calm
When we are stressed, but also when we age, it may feel harder to control our mind. Whirling, repeated thoughts and habitual ways of reacting cloud our clarity and peace of mind. Observing the breath is one way to provide a focal point for the mind, so we can find more clarity. Especially when we lead busy lives, or when we are confronted with loss and illness, being in the present with our breath can be of enormous support. We don’t always have the answers. There are things we cannot change. But we can stop our crowded thoughts for a few moments and feel more at peace.
Try it right now: sit in a comfortable position and feel the inhalation without changing it. Follow the exhalation. Observe the whole journey of each breath. Watch the rhythm that is there right now. The cool air going in, warmer air out. Observe the different qualities between the inhalation and the exhalation. The breath automatically slows down but keep your breathing natural and free.
Your mind will bring up thoughts all. the. time. That’s what it’s supposed to do. Simply bring your attention back to the breath as soon as you notice that you are thinking. Start with just 5 minutes, every day. Then see if you can do this mindful breathing for a few minutes longer. Quality is better than quantity.
If this is your time to look after yourself in a better or different way, and become a healthier version of you, contact me here to discuss private yoga sessions: https://beneyoga.co.uk/contact-for-yoga-classes-in-chiswick/. Whether you have done yoga or not, these sessions are targeted at your needs and taught at your level. Five sessions will make you feel more flexible, stronger and more relaxed, ready to tackle other life challenges.