Yoga Rx for my dad

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.




  1. Very sweet post! My dad is on the verge of trying out a yoga class at his health club. They are quite motivated by the promise of improving their golf games, aren’t they?


    1. Perhaps we all discover yoga (or any practice, as I don’t believe yoga is the only way) when we are ready for it. A few years before I took my first yoga class, a friend mentioned the Berkeley Yoga Room. I listened, but felt no urge to try yoga. I had my routine, swimming, running the fire trail, working out. It wasn’t the right time. Likewise, maybe now’s the time for my dad to try something new.

      Any thoughts on Traumeel, based on your profession as a physical therapist?


      1. I’ve never seen any studies on Traumeel but I am like you in believing that a placebo effect is still a beneficial effect. I’ve had patients swear by all kinds of lotions and potions… I even had a patient in WV swear that rubbing wd40 on his back cured his sciatica! I have the feeling that just by mindfully and lovingly attending to our painful areas, we can shift blood flow, metabolism, energy, chi, etc. in order to speed healing regardless of what we are rubbing in. That said, I do think that arnica tends to work pretty well for some people and I have seen studies showing that ointments with the medication, ketoprofen work better than placebo (in this case for arthritis of the knee).
        But do take care of that knee! I would be concerned that you might be catching your meniscus in virasana. My other thought is that you could have something going on in your popliteus. Self-massage with Traumeel or anything else is good but if there is a mechanical issue nothing will help until you stop or modify the offending activity.
        Okay, well I’ve probably said more than you wanted to hear but I do wish you all the best with your knee problem!


  2. The very fact that your dad is taking some interest in your yoga Rx is wonderful. I find that with my own family members, they welcome the advice of others “outside the family”, but not so much from me, when it comes to yoga that is.
    Yay for you, and maybe your dad is on to something new.


  3. Isn’t it funny how you cannot force yoga on anyone? They just come to you when they are ready. And, your dad sounds like my dad! Totally supportive of the yoga thing but has absolutely no idea what it is about. Oh, and I love, love, love that chest opener! It is the best!


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