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Safe Yoga for Seniors

` Yoga has become a popular means of exercise for older adults. And no wonder. It makes their bodies fitter and their minds calmer. Seniors benefit from improvements in balance, stronger muscles, reduced joint pain and more energy.

Modifications should be made to the various yoga poses for seniors with ostoporosis and joint problems. Instructors should be knowledgable about these necessary modifications.

Here are some pointers for older adults to consider when participating in yoga:

* Keep proper spinal alignment with each pose.

* Avoid poses that require forward flexion (bending forward at the waist).

* Move slowly and gently from one pose to the next.

* Poses should feel comfortable and steady.

* Rest when needed.

* Use a chair or wall for balance exercises as required.

Following is a short list of the vinyasas, or yoga pose sequences suitable for a participant with osteoporosis or joint problems:

* Corpse Pose. Begins breath work and decompresses the spine. Breathing is used for inward focus. Use a pillow or bolster as needed.

* Supine Shoulder Press. Strengthens the shoulder girdle and stretches the front of the shoulder. Coordinate with breathing. Use a pillow under the elbows if needed.

* Rib Lift. Strengthens back muscles and stretches the front muscles. If you are weak in this area use the bolster for support.

* Supine Bridging. Strengthens core muscles and stretches the front thigh muscle. Vary with heel raises or leg raises. Place a yoga block between thighs for support.

* Cobra Pose. Stretches anterior muscles. Move carefully throughout the full range of motion.

* Warrior 2 Pose. Strengthens legs and opens chest. Use chair for support if needed.

* Legs Up The Wall Pose. Decompresses spine, improves circulation and promotes relaxation. Maintain good posture. Use blankets or bolsters as needed.

Yoga has many benefits to offer senior citizens. Some of the regular moves, however, aren't suitable for older adults, especially those with joint problems or osteoporosis. The modifications are small and don't take much away from the original move. Making a few safety changes to your yoga program will reduce injury and allow you to reap all the outstanding benefits of yoga practice.

About the Author: Dr. Lanny Schaffer is an Exercise Physiologist and President of The International Fitness Academy. For more cutting edge fitness ideas go to

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