Trainer, author, and fitness model Kirk Charles, NASM-CPT CES, knows that as you get older, life can get more complicated. But that shouldn’t prevent you from being on top of your game. He’ll help to answer the tough training questions that come with age so you too can be Fit Beyond 40.
Many of my older male clients have tried a yoga class or two in their lives, or they’ve at least tagged along with a partner. Some of these men vow to never to go back—but not because they’re bored. The level of difficulty is what scares them. I know firsthand how devastating it can be to see someone next to you effortlessly going from pose to pose while you’re in pain at every moment. If you’re in that boat, there are a few simple poses you can do at home to build strength and release tension without suffering through an entire class. The upward facing dog is one that I like to do because it works your entire body and gives you the confidence to work on other poses. But don’t let the pose’s simplicity fool you. There’s more to it than you may think—and the benefits of doing it properly can be priceless.
“The upward facing dog pose rejuvenates the spine and is especially recommended for people suffering from stiff back,” says Zaeem Zaidi, Yoga Therapist and Instructor at MyYogaTeacher. “The movement is suitable for persons with lumbago, sciatica, and those suffering from slipped or prolapsed discs of the spine. The pose strengthens the spine.”
To set up, lie face-down on your floor with your legs fully extended. The dorsum (tops of your feet), thighs, abs, and chest should be flat on the floor, with your head facing up. Place your palms flat on the floor slightly below chest level, with your arms close to your sides. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull your shoulders back and down to open up your chest. Press your dorsum into the floor and squeeze your glutes to engage your core. Then, gently raise your head and chest by arching your back and extending your arms. Lock out your elbows, with the pits of your elbows and your biceps facing forward, raising your thighs off the ground. Lastly, lift head toward the ceiling and look up. Your only points of contact with the floor should be your palms and dorsum.
One of the biggest mistakes many have with the upward facing dog is failing to maintain the proper posture. Many older men let their bodies sag with their hips dropping too low, leaving their legs out of the equation. If your wrists hurt from bearing your weight, position them slightly forward while doing the pose. If that doesn’t work, give them rest.
To start building strength and stamina, try the pose for 5 to 10 seconds at a time, keeping your posture on point. Once you’ve gotten used to the movement, you can use it within flows with other poses, as a back stretch or warmup, and more.
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