YOGA FOR POSTURE AT AGE 70
I decided that I had gone as far as I could in my 3 day a week, Silver Sneakers yoga practice and needed some one on one instruction in order to progress. My head sits forward, my shoulders tend to slump and I have issues with my body that are caused by this misalignment. At 70, I am more fit and toned than I have been for some time, but could not get my posture “repaired.”
When I’m in a class, my attention is always on posture and form, but I was uncertain as to how to position my body correctly. In my ballet training, I had learned to turn out my feet. To accomplish this you must tuck your behind under very tightly and lock your knees firmly in order to keep your feet from pronating in this unnatural position. I accepted this as being proper posture and tried to stand this way for 6 decades.
Even with all this work, I became more and more slumped because I didn’t know how to properly align my body.
One day I was speaking to my brother on the phone mentioning my need for a more structured yoga class. His best friend of some 40 years is with a yoga teacher and my brother attends her week long retreat almost every year. He suggested the type of yoga that she practices which was developed by B.K. S. Iyengar who created a practice which builds physical stamina and flexibility, with alignment being the core focus.
Later in his life, a scooter accident dislocated his spine, so based on the stories of yogis using trees for support, Iyengar began exploring the use of props such as chairs, straps and rolled blankets to help disabled people practice Yoga. Iyengar is a great practice for those who are fit, but has many poses developed for rehabilitation.
FINDING A YOGA TEACHER FOCUSED ON POSTURE AND ALIGHNMENT
I searched for an Iyengar teacher in my area and the closest one was an hour drive from my house. Not practical.
I had met a woman some years earlier who teaches yoga so I decided to bite the $ bullet for private classes. I was surprised to learn that she is trained and certified as a teacher in Iyengar’s techniques, Megan’s schooling included years of perfecting her own practice, and a thorough grounding in anatomy and physiology. This has formed the basis for her understanding the problems and challenges faced by each individual student, allowing her to adjust the props to accommodate their needs as they begin, and progress, becoming stronger and increasing their flexibility.
Megan adds to the mix her high degree of caring and strong interest in others and her bright spirit. Her assessments of the non-optimum conditions of the body and the steps needed to correct them are quick and perceptive. She is free with her praises of what is right and builds upon those strengths to develop a personalized program.
As I mentioned, my chief concern was my posture. Megan demonstrated the correct stance and gently guided my body into this position. Although it is difficult to stand this way, all the effort comes from my core. Exerting my core muscles to hold myself erect, my body lines right up- ears over shoulders over hips over ankles. I don’t feel like I have to pull my head back or push my shoulders down- they just go there. Raising my belly and my chest makes my bit of a belly draw in and up, correctly tilting my pelvic basket which supports my abdominal organs. Additionally, this position opens the space for my ribs to operate so I am able to fully fill and empty my lungs and it pulls my rib cage up out of my digestive organs so that their flows are not suppressed. Quite a lovely feeling!
Then she showed me a yoga pose developed specifically to correct forward head. Strangely, it’s a resting pose, but it is very difficult to do it and maintain it correctly. My tendency is to lift my nose up which amazingly puts a tremendous curve in my spine. She wants me to do it on a hard surface, only a mat on a wood floor. My bones don’t like it, especially my head, but I aim to do it a minimum of 5 minutes a day. She says that it will help handle my incipient hump for which I have no fondness.
All the poses that we did addressed the posture issues. I did angel wings against the wall and again on the floor. I stretched my chest and head up and my tailbone down, feeling very long indeed. I wear little yoga sox with grippers on the bottom so that I have the freedom of being barefoot, but my toes stay warm and I don’t slide.
Our last exercise of the day is a delightful balance exercise- the graceful ballerina walk. Megan and I are both trained in ballet and have great affinity for this art form. Stepping across the living room with her brings back the feeling of being on stage, under the lights, wearing a fluffy tutu, peering at the audience of entranced children from under heavy false eyelashes, moving softly in tandem with the rest of the corps de ballet to the music of the Waltz of the Flowers. That was over half a century ago but dancing in my living room, there is no time.
I finished my first lesson feeling revitalized, like I have all the physical resources needed to overcome the various body barriers accrued over 70 years of activity as well as the rust of non-activity. Whew!