Standing Tall in the Senior Years

Four Ways to Improve Balance and Enhance Quality of Life
By Eryn Kirkwood

We often hear the word “balance” and think of the lofty goal of finally achieving that smooth transition between hobbies, family, fitness, healthy eating, and so on (good luck with that!). But equally important is the simple ability to stand still on our own two feet. Many of my senior yoga students have told me that the greatest benefit they’ve received from the consistent practice of yoga is the CONFIDENCE that comes with feeling steady. They’ve taken up skating on the canal with their grandchildren and other activities that they’d either stopped or not even considered.

Another not-so-obvious bi-product of poor balance is poor posture. When we feel unsteady, we tend to contract our muscles in anticipatory preparation for a fall, which means a hunched stance, leading to inhibited respiratory patterns and, consequently, a less than optimal state of mind.

Losing our ability to balance starts as early as age 50 and steadily declines from there. So, what’s the big deal? Moving into our 60s, compromised balance or being unsteady on one’s feet, is a primary reason for falling. Falls account for a large percentage of hospital admissions and the aftermath of a fall can greatly decrease our quality of life going forward. A simple injury, like a pulled hamstring, can take months and even years to recover from, let alone a broken hip.

Albeit a natural process of aging, theoretically, there are things we can do to stop the momentum and even reverse the loss already incurred. Naturally, yoga is at the top of this list.

4 Ways to Improve Your Balance:

Stand on One Leg

You can do this brushing your teeth, washing dishes, watching TV, or even standing in line at the bank!

Have a Seat

Get into and out of your chair (or even more challenging, get off the couch!)—without using your hands.

Do the Sobriety Test

Walk heel to toe for 20 paces in a straight line, as though you’re walking on a balance beam. Repeat the same but go backwards.

Close Your Eyes

With feet together, big toes and heels touching, close your eyes and stand still for 20 seconds.

Get (Un)Comfortable!

Stand on a cushion or less steady surface. Maintain your balance without wobbling for up to 1 minute. Challenge yourself even further by standing on the balls of your feet!

Doing yoga improves balance, coordination, and self-confidence because:

  • Standing poses build strength in the legs, helping to support your torso.
  • Increased flexibility allows for longer strides, which means greater mobility and range of motion.
  • Transitioning between poses and a full sequence of postures improves proprioception and coordination.

While you aspire to achieve a balanced dose of work, pleasure, and play, why not build strength, stamina and balance along the way!

Eryn Kirkwood is a local yoga teacher and the author of “Strong Body, Calm Mind: A Simple Guide to Empowering Your Life with Yoga.” She offers group classes specializing in yoga for ages 55 years and over. ErynsYoga.com for more info.