None of us like to think about our body as “aging,” yet that’s what we’re doing, every day. Walking is an exercise that supports bone and muscle health as well as lowers cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Yoga is also a practice that strengthens the muscles and bones and lowers cortisol. So why do both? They complement each other in different ways.
Walking can be done anywhere, so in addition to the physical benefits, walking can take us into the woods, through the city, along the ocean shoreline, and more. We get to explore our world while also reaping the physical benefits. Plus, unlike walking on a treadmill (which is good too), walking on uneven surfaces trains our leg muscles to be more adaptable. We strengthen all of the stabilizer muscles in our ankles and lower legs while walking in the sand or in the woods, which will improve our balance over all. Learning to adapt to surface imbalances aids us to prevent falling.
Yoga can also be done anywhere, but is typically practiced on a mat. Where you place your mat is up to you. Yoga asana (the physical practice of yoga) strengthens the muscles and bones, and gets us more in touch with our bodies. We focus on our breath and the sensations in our body as we move and flow from one pose to the next. We hold poses and relax as our body adapts to what we are doing to it. When we stretch, we listen to our body’s cues to prevent injury.
When you practice both yoga and walking, you get the benefits of two exercises that leave you feeling calm and energized. They are both meditative, and offer two different ways to improve strength and balance. They are both types of movement that we can continue to do throughout our lives as we age. Both activities are easily adaptable to the needs of our aging bodies. Combining the two together is a recipe for success in long lasting fitness of both body and mind.
Practicing yoga for about 10-15 minutes before you go out for your walk warms up your body and prepares it for your walk. After you walk, another 15-20 minute yoga practice helps you cool down and stretch out. This will keep tightness and soreness to a minimum. It helps your body feel comfortable for the rest of the day. If you are going on a long walk, there are many yoga poses that you can do along the way if your hips or hamstrings start to feel tight. Here are a few that I like:
Standing Pigeon: Place your right ankle over your left knee making a #4 with your legs. Bend your left knee and tip your pelvis forward, keeping your spine straight. Feel free to hold onto a tree for some balance support. You will feel a nice stretch in your right hip/glutes. Hold for 3-5 breaths then repeat on the other side.
Leg up on a tree: Place your right foot up on a tree as high as it will go. Alternatively you can place it on a fallen log or rock. Keeping your spine straight, tip your pelvis forward toward your right leg until you feel a hamstring stretch. You might not have to go very far, and that’s fine. It doesn’t matter how close your head is to your leg, what matters is the sensation you are getting behind your right leg. Hold 3-5 breaths then repeat on the left side.
Foot up a tree (calf stretch): This stretch is good for any foot or lower leg discomfort. Stand next to the base of a tree and keeping your heel on the ground, place the ball of your right foot up the tree. That might be plenty of stretch. If not, gently press your body closer to the tree until you feel a pleasant stretch. Hold 3-5 breaths, then repeat on the other side.
Save the date! Join me in person on May 13th for Yoga and Walking, a workshop in Metrowest Massachusetts that combines a moderate walk in the woods with yoga before and after, plus healthy snacks from Teresa’s Healthy Treats! Click here to subscribe to my weekly newsletter so that you don’t miss the official announcement!
Join me online live or on demand for yoga, meditation, stretching, and mindful core classes for active adults over 50! Click here to check out my weekly live classes, and here for my on demand library!
Click here to join my Facebook group for my upcoming Core and Lower Back Master Class Weekend, from May 5-7th! I’ll be teaching the following free master classes:
- Walking Mechanics
- Fun with Foam Rolling
- Core Activation in Yoga
- Stretching Safely As We Age