What are the Guidelines for Forward Flexion for Seniors?
Have you heard these familiar words of caution?
- Seniors should not bend
- No Spinal Flexion for Seniors
- No Bending for anyone with Osteoporosis
- Keep the thoracic spine flat to avoid fractures
- Those with Osteoporosis should NEVER twist!
During my Chair Yoga Class this week, 94-year old Rose dropped a kleenex and she quietly and gracefully bent down to the floor in front of her to pick it up!
Oh No… I thought! Seniors aren’t supposed to bend!
At least that is what I thought when I first started teaching to the 50+ population over 15 years ago. I understand the cautions and I understand the reasoning behind them. But, in the real world, I was starting to see things differently.
Bending is part of our natural movement pattern. From bending down to pick up things, to leaning forward to watch something more closely, to cutting our toenails, feeding our pets and tying our shoes. What? Seniors can no longer do those things? We might as well put them away where they can be safe and secure.
We Saw the Consequences of a Frozen Thoracic Spine!
During our Cadaver dissection, Justine and I saw a thoracic spine that was so locked-in that they had to use a saw to unlock the facet joints and open the vertebral column!
The thoracic spine is naturally limited by its range of motion because of its attachment to the ribs. But it is built to be flexed and extended the way nature intended.
What Movements are good for the Thoracic Spine of Seniors?
- Think of a luscious cat/cow which gently moves all three spinal curves bringing prana, synovial fluid, mobility and imbibing the intervertebral discs with fluid.
- Twisting and lateral bending is also good to open up space between the vertebrae and imbibe the discs to keep the spine mobile and functional.
- Breathing and expanding into the area between the shoulder blades helps to keep rigidity from setting in.
- And yes, even forward bending (flexion) with mindfulness and proper alignment is beneficial for everyday functionality.
For those with Osteoporosis, caution should surely be employed. But remember the adage ‘move it or lose it’ – if we stop employing healthy movement, we get more stagnation, accumulation of metabolic debris, and dis-ease/discomfort in our body that can turn into disease in our body.
Extension of the spine is key – both axial extension as well as extension (gentle back bends). Opening the front of the chest as well as strengthening the rhomboids (that draw the shoulder blades together) to help balance kyphosis. Leveraged twists are risky (for any of us, really!) but using core strength to rotate around the axis of our spine is important for keeping mobility in the spine and spinal musculature.
We owe it to our students to mimic the actions of daily life in our classes. No twisting means they can no longer turn enough to back out of their driveway. No spinal flexion practiced in class means if they drop their keys, no driving home because they can’t bend to pick them up. Yes, we want to educate them on the cautions in life……AND, we want to teach them how to do these movements in a healthy way so they can stay independent and active.
Educating and instilling fear are two different things! One year for our Yoga Vista Academy CEU Weekend we had a panel of seniors, ages 74-85 years young. Guess what they wanted the teachers MAIN takeaway to be. ‘We are not weak, we are not fragile. We have survived this long! Treat us like people, we have earned it.”
Sherry and Justine
He Can’t Bend Down to Feed the Cat! How One Wife got her Husband to Try Yoga!
After watching in horror as her 72-yr old husband was trying to bend down to feed the cats, Karin knew that she had to intervene and help her husband get more limber. But, like most people who have never tried yoga… he dismissed it as “not for him”. With a little wifely encouragement and example-setting, things have changed for the better and the cats can now be fed!
Forward Bending Can Make or Break your Back: Gentle Yoga Tips for Bending Safely
Back injuries and back pain can get aggravated by improper alignment when bending forward, and not just in a Yoga class. In every day life, we bend to pick and lift things up, put on our shoes, unplug a wall socket or get the dust bunnies from under the couch. These tips from Gentle Yoga Teachers, Justine Shelton and Sherry Zak Morris, will help keep your back safe when bending – whether standing or sitting.
Strong Bones for Midlifers: Yoga for the Upper Back & Neck with Sherry Zak Morris
Let’s get rid of a slumping posture, forward head carriage and the beginnings of kyphosis (abnormal rounding of the upper back). This short 15 practice will free up space in your upper back and neck and give you more mobility and less tension. I share easy to remember Yoga poses you can do throughout your day to help get your posture straight and tall again!