Many older clients arrive at their first modified yoga class with weak legs and balance issues. On average, seniors deal with many leg and foot problems, including hip and knee replacements, spider veins, sciatica, and ankle and foot problems. By consistently participating in a modified mat or chair yoga class, most begin to develop leg muscles, which immediately helps with balance, agility, gait, and circulation. It’s not just older people who can benefit. A person who is inactive and sits too long will have leg problems. An overweight person may also have some leg problems. Others who have a leg or knee injury. A person with diabetes could have leg problems.
Everyone who takes a modified yoga class will feel their legs get stronger. In a modified yoga class, we also implement the use of straps, to help with flexibility challenges and isometric exercises. By using a leash, we are using the force of the body against itself and it causes leverage. In my experience, the hamstrings are one of the tightest areas for most clients. Once the hamstrings begin to loosen up, participants can usually do more weight-bearing and lunging poses, and begin to develop more strength, agility, and flexibility. By working against a wall, we can also create isometric poses, which help build strength and flexibility.
It takes some discipline and practice to work your legs and protect your knees at the same time. The quad muscles are also tight for many clients. Think that everything is connected. From the lower back, hips, hamstrings and quads to the knees. If you have tight hamstrings and thighs, your knees and hips can also present problems. If you have a knee problem, you tend not to move much because you’re in pain. The quad muscles actually start to atrophy from lack of use. You can’t actually straighten the knee. Your bone and cartilage. To heal their knee, a person will work on strengthening the thigh muscle and the small muscles and ligaments on the outside or inside of the knee and the hamstrings.
Leg raises, done one leg at a time, with the knee slightly bent, while sitting, is just one exercise that will strengthen the quadriceps muscles. A lateral movement of the leg to the side will strengthen the muscle group on the side. Deep, low lunges, such as modified pushups or side planks, also strengthen the legs. The warrior or triangle pose is another great strength builder. And these poses just don’t strengthen the legs, they strengthen the glutes and release the hip connectors.
I smile when beginners come to me with the idea that yoga is just breathing, meditation, and arm stretching. I listened politely and then asked, “What about pushups? Have you ever tried yoga? It will feel like an exercise.” Even a modified yoga class; it will build stamina, strength, and looser muscles. You will not feel the pain of having exercised with weights. But your own body becomes your weight. We do exercises with weights, such as push-ups that strengthen the arms and legs.
Modified means you can wear straps and can do alternatives to poses, or a less strenuous version of a pose. But most clients experience a modified yoga class as a workout. It is a practice, it is a discipline. But modified yoga is very tricky. You are not really aware that your body is getting stronger, until one day you realize that you can do more, that you have better stamina, that your legs are stronger. Maybe it’s when you took that long walk. Or after you lifted weights and noticed that you had better concentration or breath control.
An eighty-two-year-old client was hiking in Asia when she realized how strong her legacy had become. She said that she sometimes climbed over or under fences, crossed walls and climbed huge stairs to temples, in very remote areas. All the travelers were about the same age, but she passed a few resting along the way. She stopped and realized how strong her legs had gotten from our yoga classes.
The madness 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 for 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 want something more modified. Modified yoga will work on your physical, mental and well-being. You’ll build your overall strength, including your legs, ankles, and hips, and just about every other part as well. You can do it at your own pace, and modifying the poses as you can. Are you ready to strengthen your legs and do some modified yoga?