Sit Fit

Yoga anyone?  Enjoy it now, because it’s also the very last posture exercise you’ll ever do.

Don’t believe me?  Check out “corpse” pose!

Honestly, there’s no better exercise than yoga.  My family knows I enjoy it, but I don’t try to push it on them.  I feel that it’s something everyone should discover and appreciate on their own.

This goes double for my father.  I’ve never ever been able to tell him anything.  Not when I was eight.  And now that I’m fifty eight it’s even more true.   I don’t take it personally.  He doesn’t take advice from ANYONE.

Last year he broke his back.  It took a month for the “doctors” to figure it out.  Then excruciating months of operations, manipulations, drugs and therapy.  It’s only been recently that he can walk without his cane.  But there’s still pain.

So the other night during our holiday dinner, when he complained about his back pain, I thought I’d make another attempt to help.

“Dad,” I said, “can I make an observation and maybe give you a little advice?”

He gave me that “you think you can tell me anything?” kind of look and gave me his version of a yes: “Why not?”

As an aside, my father NEVER answers questions or makes requests directly.  He only gives out questions and you have to guess his state of mind.  He would have made a great politician.

I explained to Dad that his back pain is probably due to years of neglecting his core, his abdominal muscles.

Back in the 1950s when he first had problems, doctors proscribed rest and heavy-duty girdles.  It felt good, but never solved Dad’s problem.  I remember many days every year where he couldn’t get out of bed because of the pain, or had to sleep on the floor.  And he always had the girdle.

Turns out the docs gave him wrong information.  The girdle supports you, but weakens your core.  Bed rest puts your spine in a relaxed position, but doesn’t make it stronger so that you can enjoy the rest of your life.  What Dad needed was exercise.

So Dad looks at me over the table and says, “So what can I do about it now?”

Here’s where yoga comes in.  “You can do it anytime, anywhere,” I say.

For instance, sitting at the table.  We have straight chairs.  I pointed out that he was slumping, resting his back against the back of the chair.

Dad, I said, try this.  I went through the various steps, yoga style, showing him that he could simply sit in a chair at the dinner table and still help his back at the same time.

  1. First, watch your breath.  Steady even breathing is the core of all yoga.
  2. Then, put your feet on the floor.  Take your shoes off if you can.  Bare feet are better.  Ensure that the midline of your feet are parallel.
  3. Press your feet down evenly, as if they had four corners.  Press the heels away from each other, gently.
  4. Put the knees at about right angles, so the ankle is under your knee.
  5. Very important here – tilt your pelvis forward as much as you comfortably can.  Like you’re tipping the top towards the table, putting a curve into your lower back.
  6. Breath in now and straighten your spine as you do.  Grow tall.
  7. Roll your shoulders back, letting the shoulder blades come together.  Like making a veggie dog bun in your upper back.
  8. Breath out as you roll your shoulders back, making sure that your lower ribs don’t jut out.
  9. Now rotate your arms outward.  I find it easier to do this by putting my hands on the table and turning them over so the back of my hand is on the table.
  10. Keep breathing evenly!  Remember, yoga is first and foremost about your breath!
  11. Check your lower ribs and tummy as you breath out, keeping that spine straight and tall.  If the ribs stick out, think about keeping the top of your belly button rolling down.
  12. Get back to your hands, and with your upper arms still rotated out, push the arms back and roll your hands so that the palms are on the table.
  13. Take inventory of all your parts, starting with the feet and working up to your head.  Breath.  Close your eyes if you can.  Think nice thoughts.  Or just keep making light table talk.

That’s it – you’re doing yoga at the table.  You can make it as hard as you want.  But it makes you stronger, and will help reduce back pain.

Dad took it all in.  To his credit, I could see him trying everything I had told him.  He looked at me and said “Is it supposed to be hurt?”

Dad, I said, it’s as hard as you want it to be.  You’ve let your core go all these years.  It might hurt a little, but getting your core stronger can only be good for you.

In my head I was thinking, Dad, you’re doing yoga.  It’s good for you.  You’re getting stronger.  And no one has to be the wiser.

I don’t know if he’ll keep doing it.  For example, he has one of the lazy chairs that lifts you out – and I think it’s the worst thing he could do to himself.  He’s almost 90, so he can do whatever he wants.

But I don’t want to live in his world of hurt.  So I do yoga.  Chair yoga.

For life.


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