New book eases older adults into yoga

By Nancy Szokan

The Washington Post

Plagued by stiff or painful joints as we age, some of us consider yoga. We sign up for a “gentle” yoga class but find ourselves pushing too hard to keep up, feeling inadequate, becoming more rigid instead of more relaxed. So we try a yoga video, which we can do alone at home. But there’s still that incredibly flexible teacher on the screen, effortlessly making us feel tense and clumsy.

In contrast, there’s something soothingly achievable about a recently published book titled “Relax into Yoga for Seniors: A Six-Week Program for Strength, Balance, Flexibility and Pain Relief.”

Maybe it’s the illustrations, simple black-and-white line drawings of slightly pudgy people in baggy T-shirts and pants doing really simple maneuvers.

Maybe it’s the large type with lots of open space (the book is a largish paperback) or the way it stays open so we can prop it up to follow as we practice. Maybe it’s the refreshing lack of jargon, either medical or spiritual.

Whatever it is, it goes down easily. Authors Kimberly Carson and Carol Krucoff, who specialize in therapeutic yoga and who run a teaching network called Yoga for Seniors, guide you through six weeks of step-by-step, manageable exercises.

Everything you do the first week can be done lying on your back in bed — a three-part breath sequence to “reset” your state of mind, a range-of-motion sequence to gently stretch your neck, arms, legs and spine, and a period of mindful relaxation.

The next week, you get some simple standing poses. The next week, you drop those and try a few things you do while sitting down. And so on.

While some of the poses and exercises have classic yoga names (mountain, warrior, etc.), others just describe what the motion — for example, the “as-if chair” exercise involves sitting upright in a chair, tensing your thigh muscles as if you were going to stand and then relaxing.

When you’ve gone through the six weeks, the authors suggest you create your own routines from the menu of dozens of exercises you’ve learned.

And look! You’re doing yoga.

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