No age is inappropriate to begin yoga as everybody is a born yogi. While children need to be gradually eased into the practice, taking advantage of their natural fluidities, even the old can begin some easy postures to counter the side effects of ageing.
ASANAS FOR FIVE-YEAR OLDS: Since muscles and bones are in the development stage, they can avoid extreme stretches. These simple postures aid their growth and development.
TADASANA, also known as the Mountain Pose, is a basic yoga pose that helps children focus. Just stand with your feet close together and your hands alongside your body. Inhale deeply and slowly, raise your arms upward, interlocking your fingers, raising your heels, and standing on your toes to feel the stretch. Children must try to remain still in order to improve concentration. Hold this pose for a few moments, exhale and return to the starting position.
VRIKSHASANA, also known as tree pose. Stand tall and straight with your arms by your side. Bend your right knee and place your right foot on your left thigh, high up. The sole of the foot should be placed flat and firmly near the thigh. Check that your left leg is straight and that you have found your balance. Take a deep breath in, then slowly raise your arms over your head from the side and bring your palms together in a Namaste pose. Children should not move much and should try to remain still, which will improve their balance. Repeat with the other leg.
SURYA NAMASKAR is a basic Yoga practice that is a great warm-up for kids because it stretches the entire body and helps move every joint and major muscle group present while also working to develop their glands, bones and muscles and trying to improve blood circulation. Suryanamaskar is a collection of 12 poses. In the prayer pose, place your feet close together and evenly distribute your weight on your feet. As you inhale, expand your chest and lift your arms up from both sides, helping to bring them together in front of your chest in the prayer position as you exhale. Then move to Hastauttanasana. Breathing in, lift the arms up and back, keeping the biceps close to the ears. In this pose, the effort is to stretch the whole body up from the heels to the tips of the fingers., In Hastapadasana, hand to foot pose, bend forward with the spine erect as you exhale, and bring your hands down to the floor beside the feet. Try to keep the palms in place and not move them while in this position. Then in Ashwa sanchalanasana, horse pose, breathe in, push your right leg back as far back as possible. Bring the right knee to the floor and look up. In the Dandasna, stick pose, take the left leg back while inhaling and come to the plank position with your body in a straight line and your arms perpendicular to the floor. In Ashtanga namaskar, gently, exhale and lie down with your knees touching the first floor. Raise your posterior slightly— eight points of the body (two hands, two feet, two knees, chest, and chin) must be the only points of contact between your body and the floor. For Bhujangasana or the cobra pose, slide forward and raise the chest up. You may keep your elbows bent in this pose with the shoulders away from the ears while looking up at the ceiling. For Adhomukhsasana, the mountain pose, lift your hips and tailbone up, keeping your palms on the floor, to form an inverted shape. Make sure your heels are touching the ground to keep your body stretched. In Ashwasanchalanasana or the equestrian pose, move the right leg backward and push the chin up in one fluid movement from the inverted V. Extend your muscles as much as possible. In Hastapadasana, or the hand-to-foot pose, breathe out and bring the left foot forward.
Keep the palms on the floor. You may bend the knees, if necessary. For Hastauttanasana, raise your arms, breathe in, roll the spine up. Raise the hands up and bend backward a little bit, pushing the hips slightly outward. Finally, come back to Tadasana, exhale while you bring your hands down by your side and relax.
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ASAANAS FOR 80-YEAR-OLDS
Since people over the age of 80 have stiff joints and are unable to do many asanas due to other ailments, the asanas to be practised must be very simple.
PAWANMUKTASANA: Lie flat on your back on a smooth surface, keeping your feet together and your arms beside your body. Take a long, deep breath. Exhale by bringing your knees to your chest and pressing your thighs against your abdomen. Wrap your hands around your legs as if hugging your knees. Maintain the asana while breathing normally. When you exhale, make sure to tighten your grip on your upper shins and increase the pressure on your chest. Make sure to relax your grip every time you inhale. After three to five times of rocking and rolling from side to side, exhale and release the pose.
MARKATASANA, also called the monkey pose, is most beneficial in constipation and problems related to the stomach. It also increases the flexibility of the spine. Lie down in Savasana and sleep on your back. Raise both hands to shoulder height. Palms pointing upwards from the knees, fold both your legs. Both legs, knees and toes will be joined together. You must turn your legs to the right while inhaling, right knee on the floor, left one on top of the right. Turn your neck to the left, or the opposite side of your legs. Return to the same posture as you breathe out. While inhaling, turn both legs to the left, with the left leg touching the ground and the right leg crossing over the left.
SETUBANDHASANA, also known as bridge pose, helps in stretching the chest, neck, spine, and hips, It manages anxiety and stress besides increasing memory power. Lie down on your back and maintain a shoulder-length distance between your feet, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands by your side, palms down, on the floor, inhale and raise your hips. Maintain a flat posture with your head, neck, and shoulders on the floor. Place your hands on your back, fingers pointing toward your lower back, and thumbs on your sides. Take a deep breath. Try walking your feet out further while in the bridge pose for a more advanced option. Maintain the pose for 30 seconds and then come back to the starting position.
(Acharya Kaushal has authored multiple books on yoga, coached Ministers and corporates alike and has worked with the Health and HRD ministries to popularise yoga. He has co-authored his latest book Decoding the Yoga Sutra by Patanjali with Jai Singhania)