getting older = bad knees?
As we get older, seemingly easy tasks don't seem so easy any more. Watch a 7-year old kid sit down and stand up (and do that 147 times in a few minutes) and then watch yourself do that - ugh, a bit clunky and ungainly.
Adding to this, our joints start to hurt. For a lot of our students when they join us, it is their knees that are the most bothersome. And when we look at elders in our family, likewise - they are not able to do simple things like walking with grace any more. They might waddle, they need to stop ever so often, and they take the elevator all the time.
Does it have to be this way? Will we also be there or is there a way out for them and for us?
Of course, there is.
how does it get here?
Well, it doesn't happen overnight. Just like we don't put on weight overnight, or lose it in the same time span, not using our bodies the way we are meant to cause us to age faster than we should.
We are meant to move. But we don't move as much any longer.
Even those of us who go to the gym, well, that's a 3-6 hours a week. But for about 15 hours a day or 100 hours a week, we are not moving. We are chained to our desks or our couches. We sit with extremely poor posture.
And we don't move enough.
but pain gets in the way
We are meant to move.
But once we get to a place where things aren't working well, the inertia is even harder to overcome. Pain is an unfortunate blocker which simply does not allow us to get past.
It does not need to be anything strenuous or seemingly difficult like strength training - it is simply what scratches my itch and so I do it. There are reasons why strength work is a great idea and "better" than other modalities but there's a lot of simpler options available too.
Movement is the key.
And being pain-free is the first step. If we are not pain-free, then adding movement on top of it will not help.
get pain-free first
The first step would be to figure out why something hurts. In 95% of the cases we've seen with something like knee pain, it is because of tight glutes and/or tight calf muscles. Start with some stretching and release work and see if it provides some relief.
If we are talking about older people, the best thing to do would be to take them to see a physical therapist and get the pain looked at. This will rule out potentially deeper issues. Again, for most of us, it is simply the lack of movement and years of weak and tight muscles that pull us into a poor posture that causes pain when we do things we are meant to do.
And adding in 20 minutes of dedicated stretching a day can be a game-changer.
let's take action
Step 0 is to see a physical therapist and ensure that there isn’t any larger issue going on here.
Step 1 would be to start stretching daily. What stretches - you can ask the Google and stretch every major muscle group you can think of. Stretch for at least 90 seconds at a time and focus on your breathing. For knee pain, I've given you a specific post to look at - like I said, about 95% of people with knee pain will see relief here because weak and tight glutes tend to be the issue.
Step 2 would be to add in some activity. For any age, I think the following works - walking and surya namaskaram.
Walk. With a good posture - open chest, be tall, breathe into your belly - and allow your arms to swing as straight as possible. Don't worry about distance or speed or anything. Just walk for a specific amount of time. Once you get the habit going, aim for an hour a day or an hour every other day.
Pair that with the surya namaskaram. There are a lot of benefits to this series of movements and primarily it allows us to gently work on joint mobility by working our hips and mid-back to go into good positions, as well as allowing a gentle stretch of a bunch of our muscles as well. You might be stiff and unable to do any of them gracefully at the start but a few months in, you will be so much better. Here's Divya Rolla walking you through the postures and to do them with breath awareness.
Just set out a timer, 15 minutes or 30 minutes or an hour. And just do it at your pace. Don't be distracted or check your phone or watch TV or that kinda nonsense. Rest as much as you want to. When the beeper goes, you are done.
a few months later
You will feel different. With this humble beginning, you can look at taking things up a notch.
Maybe you can start taking some yoga lessons and do more complicated asanas.
Maybe you'll be inspired to take up strength training.
Or maybe you will just continue with this habit of moving an hour daily, alternating between walking and the surya namaskaram.
Movement is key. While folks like me like to complicate things, as long as you are moving, you are good.
If you are in your 30s or 40s and want to get started with things - a few months of a slow and steady start will get you to start feeling different about yourself. And once you start to feel different, things open up.
If you are older i.e. the 50s or 60s, then this might be all the activity you need.
Movement is the cure. Get pain-free and start moving.
Note/disclaimer: Do consult your doctor or physical therapist before trying out anything - this is not meant to be a fix-all for everyone but more about the underlying concept.