This is precisely what Hans thought. Hans is 80 years old and age had brought about more than one physical restriction. By now, though, he enthusiastically visits a yoga class once a week and practices at home on an all but daily basis. He usually walks to the school, the short distance takes him almost half an hour. When you're older, things don't go that fast anymore, he says. But yoga makes him feel good, which is why he regularly joins the class every week. He feels the marked increase in his quality of life every day and is happy that there a some days when he hardly feels any pain at all. He would never have thought that he might feel that good again.
Welcome! Join me for a yoga class …
For me, it is of great importance to choose exercises which can still be performed with ease also in old age since only what is fun will be practiced. For my participants, getting down on the floor would be troublesome and in certain cases even painful. I want my participants to feel as agile and lithe as possible instead of helplessly bumping on the floor. For this reason, I start my yoga class with everybody sitting on a chair. I have deliberately chosen a simple chair as a tool since it makes it easy for participants to practice at home as well. I regularly encourage my participants to do so because in order to promote the existing potential efficiently and to achieve a graspable mental or physical change, one thing is needed above all: regular practice!
Starting position: standing mindfully
Now get up, turn the chair around and and stand behind it with your feet positioned directly next to the seat. Try to keep your feet as parallel as possible. If it is possible for you, the balls of your toes may touch but the heels stay about two fingers' breadth apart. (Image 2.0).
Movement 1: Reaching up
With your next inhalation, lift your arms laterally but in an arc-shape. Your palms are pointing upwards while your elbows have an inward and forward tendency. Use the whole range of motion that feels comfortable for you before lowering your arms again on exhalation. Repeat the same movement a couple of times in tune with your breathing rhythm. Feel how your breath deepens. Here, it is of secondary importance whether you're breathing through your nose or half-closed mouth (Image 2.1).
On your next exhalation, bow down and grip the sides of the seat. Erect your back again on your next inhalation. Always keep a firm grip on the sides of your chair (Images 2.2 and 2.3)
Movements 4 and 5: Angry and happy cat
With your next exhalation, step one small step back. Again, your feet should be in a parallel, symmetric position and be approximately under your hip. Keep exhaling and round your back as much as possible. With the next inhalation, arch your spine. Repeat the angry cat - happy cat movement a couple of times. Try to make sure that arching and curling covers the entire spine and brings it into an even, dynamic movement (Images 2.4 and 2.5).
Movements 6 and 7: Diagonal curl and stretch
On exhalation, place your left hand on the seat. Lift your right hand and your left foot from the ground. Keep exhaling and diagonally move your knee towards your elbow. Inhale and diagonally stretch your right hand forwards and your left leg backwards. Make sure that your thumb is higher than your little finger when moving forwards. Repeat this movement like the others a couple of times with calm, even breaths (Images 2.6 and 2.7).
Movements 8 to13: Continue the flow
We continue with movements we already know. Get into the angry cat position on exhalation (movement 4), followed by the happy cat position on inhalation (movement 5). Repeat the diagonal curl and stretch with your left elbow and right knee a couple of times in tune with your breathing rhythm (curl on exhalation (movement 6) and stretch on inhalation (movement 7)). Exhale and come into the angry cat position (movement 4) and, on inhalation, the happy cat position (movement 5) once again.
Movement 14: Playful dog
With your next exhalation, step back even further. Hold on to the edge of the chair with both hands. Enjoy how your back lengthens and and the pleasant stretch in the back of your legs for about five breaths (Image 2.14).
Background: As you will have noticed, things are becoming more dynamic and do require a bit of an effort. As studies prove, only a dynamic form of yoga practice is an efficient training for the cardiovascular system. What is more, science teaches us that only 30 minutes of cardiovascular training per week reduce the risk of a heart attack by approximately 30%. The study refers to patients who had already suffered a heart attack before. Many participants of my senior classes belong to this group. Therefore, keeping the heart healthy is one of the most important preventive aspects for me. This means that I'm happy when participants start to sweat.
Movements 15 - 17: Complete the flow
With your next inhalation, come back to the chair. Keep your arms straight and your gaze straight ahead (see movement 3). On exhalation, bow down deeply (see movement 2). Inhale, slightly bend your knees and rise up with a straight back. Simultaneously lift up your arms over the sides (see movement 1). An exhalation brings you back to the starting position. Start into another round of sun salutations from here. Repeat the motion sequence a couple of times in your own breathing rhythm.
Finish your practice by taking a couple of calm, deep breaths in an upright sitting position. For the following relaxation, simply lean comfortably back in the chair (Image 3).