Yoga is such a versatile form of exercise. It can simply loosen you up and improve flexibility, or it can be used to actually build strength. All of which is vital to preventing falls. Above all, yoga can help reduce stress, pain and fatigue, and the level of difficulty is controlled by you. Sure, yoga requires some balance to start with, but yoga in a chair or exercising on the floor is a great way of minimising any risk of injury or falling.
If you need to sit down, grab yourself a sturdy chair, preferably one that doesn’t wobble or have wheels, and plant yourself firmly in the centre of the seat. If you’re worried about falling from a chair, try sitting on the floor first. Once you’ve mastered the chair, you can upgrade to an exercise ball to raise the difficulty a little. Either way, here are our favourite exercises:
1. Seated Mountain and Warrior Pose
- While seated, have your legs in front of you with your knees above your ankles.
- Sit up as straight as possible and relax your arms by your side.
- Take a deep breath and, as you exhale, roll your shoulders back, pull your belly button forward and lengthen your neck.
- Take another deep breath and as you exhale raise your arms in front of you.
- Hold this pose for three to five breaths, then relax, take a deep breath and repeat.
You should feel your spine extending and your head lifting. Imagine yourself growing taller in your chain. This will engage your core; a vital cluster of muscles needed to stabilize you. Repeat this three to five times, or until you feel good. If it is too difficult to hold your hands out, just keep them by your side.
Progression: If you raise your toes and push your feet into the ground while you do this stretch, it will also engage your leg muscles. If you want to engage the core and shoulders more, raise your arms so that your hands meet above your head (this is the Warrior Pose) or put them behind your head and look up just a little. If this is all too easy, try using an exercise ball instead of a chair.
2. Seated Forward Bend
- Keep your posture from the Seated Mountain pose. Rest your hands on your thighs.
- Take a deep breath and, as you exhale, bend forward. The goal is to get your tummy on your thighs.
- As you inhale, raise your body back up.
- If you feel too unstable to do this on a chair, try moving to the floor and reaching for your toes in a floor seated position instead. It doesn’t matter if you don’t reach your toes.
Progression:Your hands should offer support in lowering yourself down, but if this is easy for you, try doing it with your arms by your side. This will use more of your core muscles and less of your arm muscles.
3. Reverse Arm-hold
- In your upright seated position, take a deep breath and stretch out your arms either side of you.
- As you exhale, turn the palms of your hands so that your thumbs point downwards.
- If you have the flexibility, bring your arms down and place the backs of your hands behind you and rest them on your lower back. If you can’t do this, try putting your hands behind your head instead.
- Take five long breaths here or hold for as long as is comfortable. Repeat these three to five times.
This will stretch out your shoulders and open up your chest. It is great for resetting your seated posture.
Progression: Try clasping your hands together behind your back and then pulling your arms away from each other. This will use your own resistance to build strength in your arms. If this is still too easy, try siting on an exercise ball or try holding a weight or a can of beans in each hand.
4. Seated Twist
- As you inhale, extend your spine and raise your arms out to the side at shoulder height.
- As you exhale, gently twist to one side as if you were trying to look behind you. Stop twisting wherever your body naturally stops.
- Take five breaths, or hold for as long as is comfortable, then slowly return to face forward.
- Repeat on the other side and repeat both sides two or three times.
This exercise is great for lengthening the spine, loosening the lower back, and for promoting good blood circulation.
Progression: Try holding a weight (or even a can of beans) in each hand to further build up arm strength. If your balance is good, try standing or try sitting on an exercise ball to engage your core muscles as well.
5. Standing Leg Stretch
- If you feel balanced and comfortable to do so, try standing up behind your chair and holding the back of the seat.
- Take a deep breath and bend forward as you exhale, aiming to get your head between your arms. You may need to step back a little to do this.
- Take a deep breath and then stand up slowly as you exhale. You may need to step forward again to keep holding the chair.
- Take a few breaths while standing to regroup yourself, then repeat three to five times, or whatever feels comfortable for you.
This will stretch both legs as well as your arms and back. It will help you strengthen muscles for balancing when picking things up or bending down. It can also help you get used to controlling any disorientation or any dizzy spells brought on by low blood pressure. If you feel too unstable on your feet, try sitting down on the edge of your chair and reaching for your toes. You can reach for one outstretched leg at a time, and you can use your arms to stabilize yourself by simply walking them down your legs as you lower.
Seated yoga and floor exercises are a great way to build strength and flexibility, which can help prevent falls. If you are worried that doing these exercises may result in a fall, try starting them with a friend or family member first, or joining a local exercise class that is specific to your needs. If you are ever alone, Age UK offer personal alarms to help you call for help if you ever do suffer from a fall, whether exercising or not.