Hello everyone. Today’s guest post comes from Scott Cole – America’s Premier Wellness Expert.
We often associate ageing with lack of movement, debilitation, and planned body obsolescence. Don’t buy into it. In my 25 years of working with ageing populations, I know that progress can be made at any age, and the mind working WITH the body has EVERYTHING to do with it.
I always lovingly “threaten” my classes and clients that I am going to wear a t-shirt that says: “BREATHE and BEND YOUR KNEES.” It’s true. Lack of breathing blocks your “Chi” (energy) from moving through your body.
When I did my segment on The Doctors, I taught the audience exactly what I teach my clients: “to exhale as you stand up,” which releases tension in the joints allowing your muscles to do their job. Like the smooth breath-filled movements of Tai Chi, this principle of slow, breath-synchronized movement can be applied to functional tasks like standing, sitting, getting in and out of a car, and many other daily tasks.
I also teach people to train themselves to sit down SLOWLY, using the legs and core efficiently and effectively so that EVERY TIME you sit or stand, you are doing so with breath-filled efficiency, which, over the long-term is very strengthening and vitally important to maintaining balance and mobility.
TIP: A fun way to train yourself to do this is to vocalize as you exhale—an “aaaaaaaahhh,” or “hmmmmm,” as you sit and stand, remembering to inhale on the preparation and exhale INTO the exertion (the standing up AND the sitting down). Also notice if you are tensing up your shoulders and neck, because this is common when people are stressed or afraid of a task, and is also a big energy blocker that can be avoided by identifying it, and bringing on the BREATH. Also, no more “plopping down in a chair.” Think elegant, graceful, smooth, standing and sitting.
Bending your knees is vital to maintaining optimal leg strength (quadriceps, glutes, hip flexors). Many older adults obviously have stiff joints, and are NOT bending their knees nearly enough to strengthen their legs on a daily basis. IT IS CRUCIAL to incorporate Squats and Plies into any Balance and Mobility Program, not only to build needed muscle strength, but also to relieve the mind and have the internal mantra of:
BALANCE AFFIRMATION: “All is well—I am confident, strong, and able to breathe and move easily without fear.”
Remember, fear creates lack of breath, which creates tension, which can REALLY contribute to falling, so when in doubt, BREATHE and BEND YOUR KNEES.
The following Balance and Mobility exercises are highly effective and easy to do:
1) SINKING THE CHI (CHI KUNG)
Feet parallel shoulder distance apart in “Horse Stance,” knees slightly bent, inhale as your arms float palms up towards the sky, exhaling as elbows bend and palms turn down towards the Earth. Each inhale is an “invitation” for new energy (Chi), each exhale is a release or a “letting go.” Perform 9 times, seamlessly connecting the breath with the movement.
2) STANDING SQUAT (WITH OR WITHOUT CHAIR)
Feet parallel shoulder distance (or slightly wider) apart, bend your knees and “sit” into your leg base. You can do 10-20 repetitions slowly, or sit into the squat and isometrically “hold” the pose for 5-10 seconds, breathing slowly and fully in each version.
3) STANDING PLIE (WITH OR WITHOUT A CHAIR)
Same as the Squat but with your feet turned out to 45-degree angles and a little wider stance. Your chest should remain mostly up, spine lengthened, and knees should not go beyond the toes as you “sit” into your leg base. No need to take your hips/buttocks any lower than knee level.
4) TABLETOP (YOGA)
In the Plie (Plee-ayyy) stance, placing your hands on your inner thighs, bending your knees slowly, sink down and into your ultimate balance stance, extending your spine parallel to the ground, gently pressing into your thighs. Be conscious of lengthening your neck as you breathe, maintaining and sinking into the pose as long as feels comfortable, then rolling up slowly, one vertebra at a time.
5) GOLDEN ROOSTER (TAI CHI)
Shifting from one leg to the next, inhaling as you shift weight, exhaling as the knee rises, keeping the base leg slightly bent, this traditional Yang-style Tai Chi posture explores asymmetrical balance. Keeping “in motion” is part of the balancing effect, so try not to force and hold, but move freely through each leg, laying a new “blueprint of relaxed strong balanced movement.
About the Author:
America’s Premier Wellness Expert, Scott Cole, is creator of America’s top-selling Discover Tai Chi DVD series, and is a frequent television wellness guest: LIVE with Regis and Kelly, CNN Headline News, The View, The Early Show, The Food Network, HGTV, E!, and more. His goal is to “increase wellness literacy and help America stay happy, healthy, and strong at any age.” Visit him at www.scottcole.com.