Vertigo, loss of hearing, tinnitus, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s — all of these make senior people susceptible to loss of balance. However, those who have had a consistent lifestyle that includes one hour of yoga and a good diet are not likely to fall victim to these problems or loss of balance which is typical of old age.
Even if you haven’t practised any form of fitness till 60, here are some basic, simple asanas, pranayama and diet to ensure that your feet and head are firmly planted in their respective places.
It has been my earnest request over the years to people of all ages to practise the limbering-up practices of yoga called Sukshma Vyayam or Pawan Mukta Asana series. These can easily be done even by people in their 80s.
Limbering up can be followed up with the three movements of the spine, lateral stretching, bending and twisting of the spine. I’ve described these in standing position. But for those who cannot do it standing, they can practise sitting on the bed or a chair without arms.
Tadasana(Standing spine stretching): Stand with feet firmly planted together or a foot apart. Interlock fingers in front of the body. Inhale and raise your hands above your head and at the same time come up on your toes, maintaining balance. Keep your eyes fixed at some point at eye level to maintain balance. As you exhale, come down to your starting position. This is one round. Do five rounds. The stretching of the spine aligns all the vertebrae, the liquid between the ears besides massaging the digestive system.
Triyak Tadasana ( Spine bending pose): Stand with feet about shoulder distance apart. Interlock fingers and stretch your hand over your head with palms facing outward. Relax your body, inhale deep and as you exhale, bend your body waist upwards to the right, seeing that you don’t bend forward. Feel the full stretch of the left side of your body and compression in the right side. Bend maximum without discomfort or losing your balance. When you want to inhale, come back to the centre, inhale and repeat it on the left side. When you come back to the centre it makes one round. Do five rounds. This manipulates your spine, massages the digestive organs and adjusts the liquid between the head. Feel the effects on the spine, the sides of the body.
Katichakrasana ( Body twisting asana): Base pose is the same as above, but bring your arms up to shoulder level with palms facing downward. Relax your whole body, take a deep breath in and as you exhale, twist your body with your right arm encircling the waist and the left arm resting on the right shoulder. This establishes a complete twist of your spine and stomach area. Hold as long as you can and as you inhale, come back to the centre. Exhale and do the twist on the left side. This makes one round. Do five rounds.
This set of three asanas manipulates your spine in three crucial directions, aligning the spine and the cerebro-spinal-fluid (CSF) in the spine and brain and helping re-align the liquid between the ears.
This set must be followed up with Udarkarsha pada hasthasana ( forward bending with twisting): This is an excellent asana for those already seeing signs of imbalance or onset of vertigo, loss of hearing etc.
Stand as in the starting position of Katichakrasana described above with arms stretched along the shoulder. Relax your body, take a deep breath. As you exhale, bend forward while taking the right arm over your head and left hand towards your right toe. In the final position, you will look up at the right hand palm while the left hand will touch the right toes. The palm will rest on the other side of the right foot. When you want to inhale, slowly come back to your starting position. Repeat the same on the left side. This completes one round. Do five rounds.
This is one asana which directly addresses all problems in the ear system. It also gives the maximum twist to your spine, stomach and the hip area. The holistic effect addresses prevention and cures problems related to balance.
Vajrasana can be adopted as part of your daily lifestyle and you must practise whenever possible through the day.
All the above asanas, along with pranayama, will also help in other geriatric problems like diabetes, prostrate, weak digestion and so on.
Keep to a light diet of non-spicy light food as per what your system can handle. Avoid sour, cold foods. Keep your bowels empty. See that your sinuses are free and both nostrils are free of blockages. Steaming is good for removing mucus and phlegm in your ear-nose-throat system.
Adopt sleeping on your back with a thin or no pillow instead of your side. Before sleeping, chant “Om” a minimum of 11 times while sitting on the bed.
Chanting of Maha Mrityunjaya mantra 108 times morning and evening is effective as well. This should be practised on an empty stomach before breakfast and dinner.
(Kamini Bobde is a Kundalini practitioner who follows the Swami Satyananda Saraswati tradition of yoga. She is the author of Kundalini Yoga for All: Unlock the Power of Your Body and Brain. Published by Penguin)