One of the worst things that can happen to an elderly person is to fall.
After a fall, confidence may drop and health can rapidly decline.
Yoga can help prevent this from happening through balance postures. The elderly don’t always fall because they have lost strength and stability, but because their brain has lost the speed to correct posture once imbalance has occurred.
Usually the brain will correct an imbalance within 400 milliseconds. But for the elderly or at risk people, reaction time is much slower, and by the time the brain has sent the message to correct the posture, it’s too late.
This is how yoga can help. Every time you balance on one leg, your brain develops neurons, and your muscles build a supporting network of stability.
All yoga postures support the brain and build the body, but balance postures are especially helpful to help prevent falling and memory loss.
Balance postures can be modified to suit every age and every body.
Here is one to get you started.
Gum Tree Pose
Gum Tree Pose helps build the brain and supports the ability to stay balanced, focused and calm. It improves co-ordination, core strength and memory.
Practise Gum Tree Pose when you feel slow, scattered or out of focus.
Gum Tree Pose promotes body awareness, kinaesthetic intelligence, and spatial awareness.
Balance, focus, clarity, mindfulness, groundedness.
How to do Gum Tree Pose
Start in Mountain Pose. Stand tall on both feet. Lengthen spine, tuck in tailbone, relax shoulders. Keep core strong and stay focused on one spot to help with balance.
Breathe deeply. Move weight onto one leg and rest the other foot in front of ankle (option 1), or on the leg like a stork (option 2).
Place hands together in prayer position. Breathe in and raise hands up to the sky, and as you breathe out, open arms to become a tree in full bloom.
Feel the earth beneath you, nourishing and supporting your every breath.
Imagine you are a beautiful tree, grounded to the earth and as high as the sky. Sway in the wind, side to side, around your trunk, knowing you are flexible, sturdy and strong.
What kind of tree are you?
Can you visualise green leaves and strong branches?
Don’t forget to change sides.
Practise a balance posture every day, and very quickly your balance will improve.
Yoga teacher, author and artist