Study: Yoga Practice for a 78 year old student with a degenerative spine: Part 1
Updated: Jun 24, 2022
Yoga is in essence therapeutic and it reaches to us on all occasions.
Early 2015 I put a practice together for my 78 year old mother who has spinal degeneration. She shared the full diagnosis with me as she got to know about it late 2014. She was coming to visit for 3 months so I was determined to focus on some yoga practice to assist her with her condition. Although Celine’s spine is far from healthy, she is active and always has been. In the last 5 years she has been participating in 3 yoga classes per week, she bicycles everywhere (does not know how to drive!), goes on 5 to 10 km walks weekly and loves gardening! I would say that she has a healthy lifestyle, always resorts to natural ways first, does not take pain killers and has no problem with her blood pressure or other medical conditions. The only worry we have had are 3 syncopes with no medical reasons!
Her spinal condition is as follows: arthritis in thoracic spine, mild right scoliosis, arthritis in L2-3, compression L5-S1. Celine has lost 3cm in height.
The above information about Celine is important to know as the following sequence was developed specifically for her. The practice was produced on observations, trial & error. Our focus was to elongate, and create space for the spine, to strengthen weak back muscles and to stretch tight muscles. During her stay with us, Celine took 2 yoga classes per week in addition to one on one sessions. It is during these one on one sessions that we were able to look more closely at her needs, specific adjustments, correct and improve the way she entered, stayed and exited a pose. For instance when we started, she could not move in or out of legs up the wall pose (with a bolster under her pelvis), without jamming her thoracic spine and experiencing a sharp pain. Moving to adjust herself correctly on top of the bolster would have the same effects. Celine has also learnt to hang from the ropes and I will share with you later how to do this at home with a belt.
The practice that follows is appropriate for anyone wanting to stretch their back and open their shoulders.
CAUTION: Please note that this is only a quick reference with basic instructions on body alignment and positioning for props. That this sequence was developed for the needs of Celine and her condition, and that much time was spent to find what was right for her. This chart is thus intended for students with a regular yoga practice and who are already familiar with the poses in this content. If you have a degenerative spine (arthritis, slipped disk, nerve impingement etc...) please proceed with caution, have full knowledge of your spinal condition, and seek expert guidance.
Today at 85 Celine still attend 3 yoga classes per week, walks and bicycle everyday and enjoys gardening!