For the past five or so years, I’ve wanted my dad to do asanas for his tight shoulders, chest, and upper back. While he’s fit and lean (and suntanned from gardening, golfing, and simply being an outdoorsman in Hawaii his whole life), he’s got “slouch” (that’s hyper-kyphosis to the Iyengar contingent) written in his genes. As his side of the family ages, they get skinny and stooped.
The last time I saw him, he asked about my yoga teaching. (That’s one sweet thing about my dad: he inquires about my life, even the aspects totally foreign to his own.) I ended up giving him a mini lesson and three simple supine stretches to do at home. “Your posture will improve,” I said, “and that’ll really help your golf game.”
I’d given him a yoga Rx before, but he never took to it. This time, he’s been doing the stretches daily, at least once in the morning and sometimes again at night. He reports on his progress, telling me that he still can’t do this or that. I can’t help grinning, at his commitment and at his assumption that change will happen within a few weeks!
The stretches that I prescribed for my dad are related to those I do, including my daily supine stretch over a rolled yoga mat. I focus the pressure on the most-convex spot of my thoracic spine, using gravity to create a pleasantly intense upper-spine backbend. With the rolled mat underneath, I do vary my arms, into parvatasana or clasping my hands behind my head, releasing my elbows toward the floor.
That is my daily Rx, so I was pleased to see Eve Johnson’s blog post, “Five-Minute Yoga Challenge: reverse the curve,” featuring a similar chest opener. She followed up with “Can we control how we age?”, a fascinating report on yoga’s efficacy in decreasing hyper-kyphosis in seniors.
I must forward Eve’s posts to my dad, so he better understands what I’m trying to do… when I imitate old-school Iyengar teachers and prod his upper back, ordering him to lift his sternum and draw his shoulder blades in and down. He’s like me (or, I’m like him) in the way he sticks to a schedule and gets a bit obsessed over his chosen pursuits. So I’m hopeful that yoga has taken root—and that it will help him stand taller and straighter for life.