No more Sit-Up Drills!
Do you remember doing sit-ups in Gym class? At my school, the boys were told to keep their legs straight and to sit up by rounding their back until it no longer touched the floor. Meanwhile, us girls were taught to keep our feet on the floor with knees bent and sit up until our elbows touched our knees.
I remember us all being under pressure to finish the drills as quickly as possible and get a passing grade. Quite the opposite of the “take your time and breathe into it” mentality of Yoga. Looking back at our form, I can only say that we were fortunate to have been young and limber enough to handle those movements. Undoubtedly, they would be downright injurious to older bodies!
Correcting Bad Habits
One day, a gentleman over 75 years old came to my Chair Yoga class hoping to resolve his chronic low back pain. His daughter convinced him to try Yoga to see if it would help. I wondered if he was doing something to continually aggravate his back. So I asked him about any movements or exercises he did on a regular basis. Obligingly, he got down on the floor to show me his exercise regimen. It actually included the kind of straight-leg sit-ups I remember from Elementary School! Oh my!
Afterward, I commended him for having an exercise regimen in the first place. But then explained how his sit-ups could be putting too much pressure on the discs of his lumbar spine. Therefore, I showed him an alternative — a version of Boat Pose, that would give him the same benefit without all that strain on his low back.
Weeks later, his daughter, who frequented my class, told me that her dad’s back pain had gone away, and that he was happily continuing his new regimen at home. I never saw him again, but he serves as a constant reminder that a tiny shift to our workout routines as we age can make a profound difference in the quality of our lives in our senior and elder years.
Continuing Physical Education in our Senior Years
A lot of people still exercise the way they did as school kids because that’s what they learned in Physical Education class. Sadly, many people didn’t learn to do the movements safely and effectively. Fast forward all these years, with PE class well behind us, and low back pain is pervasive in our society. Fortunately, the mindfulness of form and function that we practice in Yoga offers us some solid Continuing Ed on physical fitness.
If the subject of strength and endurance brings back unpleasant memories of adolescence, or if you sense that your fitness routine could use a refresher course, check out these spine-friendly core strengtheners below: