One practice that is particularly wonderful for seniors is introducing hand mudras into class. Hand mudras are gestures or seals that can improve flexibility and coordination among older adults simply by touching finger to finger. As we age, the fingers of our hands often stiffen and lose flexibility. Mudras help to stretch the fingers and bring sensitivity back into the hands.
Using a mudra in coordination with breath is an excellent way to stimulate an opening to the lungs and heart, open the joints and relieve other tension that may exist in the head, neck or shoulders. Start simple, choose one or two mudras that will help your clients coordinate their fingers, hands, eyes, brain and breath.
One of my favorites, and usually an easy one for senior clients, is the symbol of yoga – the Lotus Mudra. Tied to the heart chakra, the Lotus Mudra is a symbol of purity and helps to open the heart center.
With the base of the palms together, touch the thumbs together and then the little fingers together. Invite the other three fingers to open as wide as possible, like a lotus flower opening. Place the hands in front of the heart with the thumbs facing toward the chest.
Start the breath practice with a floating lotus flower. Inhale and float the flower from the heart up to the third eye (forehead). As you exhale draw the palms closed into prayer hands, squeezing the hands together and taking the elbows out wide to the sides as the hands lower back to heart center. As you start your next inhale, push the heels of the hands together and open into Lotus Mudra. As the flower moves up with breath, imagine that it is rising from the depths of mud and muck, reaching for sunlight. And as you exhale imagine that the petals are drawing inward toward each other to close. Complete ten rounds, breathing in and out with movement. If you use affirmations in class, add “I open my heart to receive whatever comes my way today.”
Integrating mudras into your senior practice is an excellent way to balance mind and body with breath. For more information on mudras, I highly recommend you add Mudras, Yoga in your Hands by Gertrud Hirschi to your personal yoga library.
©NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness, LLC, http://www.namasteworksyoga.com, by: Nancy Levenson