Tag Archive | yoga and ageing

Yoga for Cramps

Tree pose in the woods

Yoga can be practiced anywhere

Do you know the feeling of toes rigidly curling up and would not release or the calf muscle pains and you have to jump out of bed, walk a bit before returning to bed?

My students (just like me) are over the age of 50. In class sometimes students get a cramp, generally in the foot (toes) or legs (calves).

Cramp is a painful, involuntary contracting (shortening) of part or all of a muscle, or several muscles in a group.

Cramps of the extremities, especially the legs and feet, and most particularly the calf, are extremely common. Other common areas for muscle cramps include: back and front of the thigh, hands, arms, abdomen, and rib cage muscles.

The actual cause cramps in the legs and feet is not known, but it may be caused by conditions or activities such as overuse of muscles, dehydration, nerve compression, mineral deficiency and cold weather.

Foot cramps are more common in older adults and sometimes they happen at night. Nerves and muscles can wear out as aging occurs, causing cramping. Stretching, staying active, and eating a nutritious diet can help older adults prevent leg cramps.
People of any age who lead a sedentary lifestyle are also at higher risk for leg and foot cramps.

I would like to share my favourite poses which – if practiced regularly will significantly reduce cramps and will strengthen your ankles as well. These poses (as yoga in general) can be practiced almost anywhere. The photos were taken on a recent trip to the Wollomombi area of North/West New South Wales.

Raising both heels:

Ankle ~ standing on toes

Start with standing tall in the mountain pose. Keep the spine erect, chin parallel to the ground. Roll the shoulders back, bring the shoulder blades in and left the chest.

If you can keep your ankles together and come up on your toes. Release and bring the heels back to the ground. This is one cycle. Repeat fifteen times. It is recommended to do three sets in a day.  This pose will strengthen the ankles and the muscles in the sole of your feet and in the toes.

Releasing one heel:

Release one heel

Come up on your toes (as in previous pose) and release one heel to the ground. Raise the heel so now both heels are off the ground. Release the other heel then raise it. This is one cycle. Repeat it ten times, several times a day.

Stretching the calves:

Calf stretch~one leg straight

Part one:
Place the toes of one foot against the wall or a solid structure. Have your hands on the wall or a solid structure. Keep the front leg bent, shin vertical. Step back with the other leg to a distance where the ankle is on the ground. Do not bring the foot across our midline, try to keep the foot in line with the hip. Feel the stretch in calf. Keep your back straight (take in your spinal processors), chest open and shoulder are wide. Hold it for say 10 cycles of your breath, i.e. one inhalation and one exhalation are one cycle.

Calf and ankle stretch

Part two:
Keep the front leg as it and step forward with the other leg. This will bend both of your ankle. Stay in the pose for 10 cycles of your breath. This variation will also strengthen your ankles, good for bushwalkers going down the hill.
Repeat on the other side (i.e. have the other foot at front).

I hope regular practice of these poses will help you to manage the cramps.

Mary

How is “yoga over 50” different?

lotus yoga

A few years ago a marketing guru suggested to us (yoga teachers) that we should identify our “ideal student” and instead of trying to please everybody we need to concentrate on servicing these “ideal” people.

For me it has been the “over 50’s”, the baby-boomers.  Party because I belong to this group and partly because my lower back problem excludes me from doing and demonstrating the fancier poses.

Due to the “over 50” label when I get an enquiry about my classes most people start with telling me their age.  I reassure them that I won’t ask for their birth certificate and during my 26 years of practicing yoga I have learnt how to modify the poses to suit the individual.

The question I am aiming to answer is “how is yoga over 50 is different (from other yoga)?”

Our classes are gentle in comparison to the dynamic ashtanga / power or yang yoga practices.  Gentle means that we might go a bit slower (have a rest anytime you need to).  When it comes to inverted poses we do the preparation for headstand and shoulder stand instead of the full version.  Due to the higher number of medical conditions in the class we might have more than two variations for a pose – so every student can practice safely on their own level.

In my view our attention to detail exceeds what I have seen in big “general” classes.  If we go into balancing standing poses with grace (i.e. hands on the wall until we feel secure standing on one leg) we stand straighter than a lot of people half of our age!

For an ageing / stiffer body it takes a bit longer to warm up so we start by warming up all of our joints (neck, shoulders, fingers, hips, knees, ankles and toes).  With the colder weather we experience cramps more often than in summer and more often than the younger generations.  This could indicate that we might not stretch enough or we have magnesium deficiency.

In my class we use a lot of props (blocks, belts, bolsters, blankets and chairs) which reflects more my Iyengar style practice than the age of the students.

Most of us have passed the “working long hours and exhausted all the time” stage in our lives and no one falls asleep (no one snores) during Savasana at the end of the class.  We enjoy our tranquillity!

As in any class – some over 50’s prefer open windows / fans whilst others feel the cold – my aim to please most people.  There are excellent breathing techniques to cool off hot flushes.

There is more and more medical research and evidence into the health benefits of yoga, including how it slows down the ageing.

Apart from the stretching and strengthening exercises yoga requires and improves concentration, stamina, reduces stress and some students appreciate the social aspect of practising together with likeminded people. There is no difference whether you are young or over 50!

In summary:

I believe if a yoga class is marked for over 50’s, seniors or golden yogis – it is suitable for anybody who wants to practice in a small class with a senior teacher who most likely has seen a lot on the mat and off the mat.

People of all ages and with various pre-existing conditions (or recovering from injury or operation) would benefit from attending these classes.  Students who new to yoga could learn the basics before joining in faster paced classes.  Once you know how to do a pose safely you can prevent injuries.

I would almost promote the over 50’s classes as a type of therapy class!

Keep up and enjoy your practice!

Namaste

Mary

yoga mat