Life in the Balance
Life in the Balance
Osteoporosis is usually a condition that we believe is connected with women, but men suffer from it too and recently a friend fell and broke his hip. Weight bearing exercise is one way to help hold the problem at bay, with walking being one of the best exercises of all. Simple walking is an exercise that can keep us fit and healthy in many ways and help reduce the pain and symptoms of arthritis.
Various studies, one at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, have shown that walking can be lower the pain of arthritis as well as help strengthen and add density to the bones, thus reducing the likelihood of fractures. The study was conducted using two groups, one group followed a walking program consisting of slowly increasing the walking distance over an eight week period while the other group did no walking other than what was necessary to carry out their daily activities. The walkers reported they had considerably less pain and were able to take less pain medication. Some were able to stop their pain medication altogether. The walkers also reported they were able to walk further than they had expected to be able to and that their mental outlook and degree of depression was lowered. The group of non walkers reported no such advances.
One of the problems that can contribute to fractures is poor balance. As we grow older our sense of balance diminishes. One simple exercise that can help improve balance, and also increase strength and flexibility, is called the “Stork.”
The stork exercise has been used at the National Institute on Aging to gauge aging in subjects who participate in their various studies. The participant balances on one foot and the amount of time they are able to hold their balance, when combined with information from other tests, is used to calculate the aging process. It has been proven that the younger we are the longer we can stand on one foot without losing our balance
No equipment is needed to perform the stork exercise, all you need is a flat place and bare feet. Stand with the feet parallel to each other and slowly shift the weight to one foot. Next bring the other foot up and place it on the left ankle. You may have to rest the toes of the raised foot on the floor until you feel safe and in control. Next, move the raised foot up the supporting leg toward the calf as far as you feel comfortable.
Keep raising the foot until it’s at the left knee, or even the thigh if you’re flexible enough. The intent isn’t to see how far you can raise the foot, the objective is to improve the balance, a little at a time and progress in a manner that feels safe to you.
Allowing the arms to hang down loosely at the sides and fixing your gaze on a stationery object across the room, while breathing slowly and deeply, will help you keep your balance. You may find you need to hold onto a chair or lean lightly against a wall to maintain your balance in the beginning. With practice you will be able to stand alone without any props.
Even if it’s necessary to use props, stand on the supporting leg as long as feels comfortable to you and then switch sides. You will probably find that you can balance better on one side than you can the other, that’s normal. Making the most significant improvements in balance is no different than improvements in any other areas of life. The secret is working on the weak points. In this case, put in at least as much time, or more, on the side that your balance is the worst. You will find the more you practice on improving the weak points, as opposed to working on what you already do best, the quicker the improvements will be.
After you’ve mastered the stork, you may want to go further and try the tree pose. Standing on one leg the same as before, slowly raise the hands overhead until your arms are straight, upper arms and biceps as close to the ears as possible, with the palms touching. Breathe slowly, deeply and focus.
You will probably find it’s only possible to hold the stork pose, or the tree, for a few seconds in the beginning but improvement can come quite quickly with a little practice. These poses will also help to increase your self confidence, posture and overall outlook on life. Those qualities will likewise help lower the rate of depression and other health problems that are mentally and physically related to life views.
Tags: Equilibrium , Balance , Yoga , Aging , Exercise , Fractures , Depression
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