Yoga for an elderly student

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Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 2:25 am
Location: Vancouver

Yoga for an elderly student

Post by Bernie »

I was recently asked the following:
  • Hi Bernie - This is concerning a senior student (75 years old), who has many physical limitations: severe scoliosis, very stiff and tight body, survivor of two heart attacks and cancer. He comes to class every time we teach Yin Yoga and tries his best, but most of the time that he tries the postures, he is really very far from even trying the right way. He is much better when we do postures with our back on the floor or Wall Yin. What do you suggest? I was thinking on having him do only postures with his back on the floor, even if the other students are in different postures. Could you recommend maybe one ore more flows specifically for him? I am still a little shy on creating my own flows. I am always teaching from your flows I learn from your website, Yoga International or Gaia.

    Have a very nice Yin/Yang day. Gloria

Hi Gloria

It is great that your student is so dedicated! That reflects well on him and you. He is obviously gaining something from your teaching. Remember, not all the benefits are physical. Even if he can't do a single pose “correctly,, he may still be benefiting greatly just by getting out of the house, being with others, watching sensations, etc. The social aspect of life is equally important as the physical.

For the physical aspect, however, also remember that what he looks like in the pose is irrelevant. I would continually ask him what he is feeling while in the poses. As long as he is creating sensation in the desired areas, it doesn't matter if it looks like he is doing the pose right or not. The only right way to do a pose is to do it in the way that creates the desired sensation. So, don't worry too much if it looks like he isn't doing the postures “right,. What is he feeling?

If he isn't feeling the stress in the targeted areas, then-yes, you will need to give him other poses. Given his age, I would suggest simple postures that move the spine and hips in all their possible directions. For the spine: Sphinx (maybe supported with bolster under armpits); Caterpillar with knees bent a lot, sitting on cushions; Bananasana; Reclining Twists. For the hips: Straddle with knees bent, feet on floor; Twisted Roots; Reclining Windshield Wipers. Use as many props as are necessary to allow him to linger for 2~3 minutes in each pose.

I hope this helps
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