Many senior clients come to their first modified yoga class lacking leg strength and with balance issues. On average, older individuals deal with many leg and feet issues, including hip and knee replacements, spider veins, sciatica, and ankle and feet challenges. By participating in a modified mat or modified chair yoga class consistently, most start developing their leg muscles, which immediately helps with balance, agility, their gait, and circulation. It’s not just the seniors who can benefit. An inactive person, and one who sits too long, will have leg challenges. An overweight individual may also have some leg challenges. Others who have a leg or knee injury. A person with diabetes could have leg challenges.
Everyone who takes a modified yoga class will feel their legs getting stronger. In a modified yoga class, we also implement the use of straps, to aid in flexibility and isometric exercises challenges. By using a strap we are using the body’s force against itself, and it causes leverage. In my experience, hamstrings are one of the tightest areas for most clients. Once they start loosening up the hamstrings, participants can usually do more weight-bearing, and lunging type of poses, and begin to develop more strength, agility and flexibility. By working against a wall, we can also create isometric poses, which aid in the strength building and flexibility.
It takes some discipline and practice to work your legs and protect your knees at the same time. Quad muscles are also tight for many clients. Think that everything is connected. From your lower back, hips, hamstrings, and quads, to your knees. If you have tight hamstrings and thighs, your knees and hips may also become challenged. If you have a knee challenge, you tend not to move too much because you are in pain. The quad muscles actually start atrophying from lack of use. You can’t actually stretch your knee. Its bone, and cartilage. To heal your knee, a person will work on strengthening the thigh muscle, and the little muscles and ligaments on the outside or inside of your knee, and the hamstrings.
Leg lifts, done one leg at a time, with your knee slightly bent, while you are sitting, is just one exercise that will strengthen your quad muscles. A lateral leg movement to the side, will strengthen the muscle group on the side. Deep low lunges and presses like modified push-ups, or plank, side plank also build your legs. The warrior or triangle pose is another great strength builder. And these poses just don’t strengthen your legs, but your gluts and your free your hip connectors.
I smile when beginners come to me with the idea, about yoga that it is just breathing, meditation, and some arm stretching. I listened politely and then ask, “What about the push-ups? Have you ever tried yoga? You will feel it like a work out.” Even a modified yoga class; will create stamina, strength, and looser muscles. You will not feel the ache, of having just worked out with weights. But your own body becomes your weight. We do weight-bearing exercises, like push-ups that build the arms and legs.
Modified means that you can use straps, and you can do alternatives to poses, or a less strenuous version of a pose. But most clients feel a modified yoga class like a work out. It’s a practice, it’s a discipline. But modified yoga is very deceptive. You’re not really aware that your body is getting stronger, until one day you notice that you can do more, that you have better stamina, that your legs are stronger. Perhaps it’s when you took that long hike. Or after you did weight lifting, and realized that you had better focus, or breath control.
One client, eighty-two years young, was hiking through Asia, when she realized just how strong her legs had become. She said that sometimes she climbed over or under fences, and across walls, and up huge staircases to the temples, in very remote areas. All the travelers were about the same age, but she passed some resting along the way. She stopped and realized how strong her legs had become with our yoga classes.
The craze of power yoga, is like the fascination of an extreme sport. I advocate, yoga as a strength building, calming and healing the mind and body. Yoga to me, is ALREADY powerful. I don’t think it’s necessary to emphasize POWER YOGA. So if you don’t want a Power yoga class, and you want something that is more modified. Modified yoga will work on your physical, mental and well-being. It will develop your overall strength, including your legs, ankles and hips and almost every other part as well. You can do it at your own pace, and modifying poses as you can. Are you ready to strengthen your legs, and do some modified yoga?