Many older clients come to their first modified yoga class without leg strength and with poor balance. On average, older people face many leg and foot problems, including hip and knee replacements, spider veins, sciatica, and ankle and foot problems. By participating in a modified chair or modified mat yoga class on a consistent basis, most begin to develop leg muscles, which immediately help with balance, agility, gait, and circulation. It is not just the elderly who can benefit. An inactive person and one who sits too long will have leg problems. An overweight person can 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 implemented the use of straps, to help with flexibility challenges and isometric exercises. By using a strap, we are using the force of the body against itself and it causes leverage. In my experience, the hamstrings are one of the most tense areas for most clients. Once the hamstrings begin to loosen, participants are generally able to do more push and load-type poses, and begin to develop more strength, agility, and flexibility. By working against a wall, we can also create isometric poses, which help develop strength and flexibility.
It takes some discipline and practice to work your legs and protect your knees at the same time. The quadriceps muscles are also tight for many clients. Think that everything is connected. From the lower back, hips, hamstrings, and quads to the knees. If your hamstrings and thighs are tight, your knees and hips can also be challenged. If you have a knee challenge, you tend not to move too much because of pain. The quadriceps muscles begin to atrophy from lack of use. You can’t actually stretch your knee. Your bone and cartilage. To heal their knee, a person will work to strengthen the thigh muscle and the small muscles and ligaments on the outside or inside of their knee and hamstrings.
The leg lift, performed 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 like modified push-ups or the side plank also strengthen your legs. The warrior or triangle pose is another great force generator. And these poses don’t just strengthen your legs, but your glutes and your free hip connectors.
I smile when beginners approach me with the idea of yoga that it’s just breathing, meditation, and stretching. I listened politely and then asked, “What about push-ups? Have you ever tried yoga? It will feel like exercise.” Even a modified yoga class; it will create stamina, strength, and looser muscles. You won’t feel the pain of exercising with weights. But your own body becomes your weight. We do weight-bearing exercises like push-ups that strengthen the arms and legs.
Modified means you can use straps and can make alternatives to poses or a less strenuous version of a pose. But most clients feel a modified yoga class is like exercise. It is a practice, it is a discipline. But modified yoga is very misleading. You are not really aware that your body is getting stronger, until one day you notice that you can do more, that you have better endurance, that your legs are stronger. Maybe it was when you did that long walk. Or after lifting weights and realizing that you had better concentration or control of your breathing.
An eighty-two-year-old client was walking through Asia when she noticed how strong her legs had become. He said that he sometimes climbed over or under fences, crossed walls and climbed huge stairs to temples, in very remote areas. All of the travelers were roughly the same age, but she spent some lounging along the way. She stopped and realized how strong her legs had become from our yoga classes.
The madness of power yoga is like the fascination of an extreme sport. I advocate yoga as a strength building, which calms and heals the mind and body. For me, yoga is ALREADY powerful. I don’t think it is 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. It will 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 poses as you can. Are you ready to strengthen your legs and do some modified yoga?