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  • Baxter Bell, MD

THE Essential Skill for Healthy Aging???

I’ve been thinking about whether there is one essential skill that is of ultimate importance to maintain as we age. This has been prompted to some extent as I observe the challenges my own mother has following two hip fractures in the last ten years and a general decline in overall activity. Of course, for some people my suggestion will apply, but not for others, as we all have a variety of challenges and issues we may face with advancing age.

Yoga Practices for Transitions, Balance, Healthy Aging

All that said, I return again and again to the importance of the ability to “transition” with coordinated ease as my number one essential skill for healthy aging. What do I mean by transitions? It is the ability to rise from sitting on the floor, bed, toilet, or chair to standing, and from standing back down. On a recent yoga retreat, I observed the challenge that arises for those with foot injuries, or the effects of sedentary lifestyle, and even one student in their 80’s post knee replacements. Poor transition ability limits your activity potential, makes everyday moments more challenging, such as getting out of bed in the morning, and it increases the chances of falls and injuries when attempting to get up and down. Transitioning is, in my estimation, essential for activities of daily living, let alone those activities that you also may want to do, like getting down to weed the garden or to the floor to play with pets or children!

Past research has demonstrated that good transitioning ability is an independent predictor of longevity, and poor transitioning ability is an independent predictor of mortality (yep, death!). You can read an abstract about it here: Ability to sit and rise from the floor as a predictor of all-cause mortality

Good transitioning involves many different abilities: adequate body strength, especially the lower body; flexibility of the major joints of the body, including ankles, knees, hips and spine; balance and agility as one moves from one position to the next; proprioception, or awareness of where your body is in space and where body parts are moving relative to one another; cognitive health so that the constant communication between brain and body and body and brain flows efficiently and smoothly.

So, how do you maintain or possibly even improve your transition ability? Here’s what I recommend:

1) A well-balanced yoga practice done regularly: this will address overall strength, flexibility, balance and agility, as well as improving proprioception and brain health.

2) Adding light ankle and hand weights into some of your yoga poses and the use of resistance bands to increase overall strength when doing your yoga poses.

Yoga Poses for balance, flexibility and agility. Prevent falls with yoga.

3) Targeted strengthening of the lower body with yoga poses such as: • Powerful Pose (Utkatasana) • Garland Pose - deep squat (Malasana) Balancing poses on one leg, such as: • Tree Pose (Vrksasana) • or even better, Eagle Pose (Garudasana): Keep those knees bent! • Healthy forward bending actions such as my Intelligent Forward Fold (also called Fig Leaf Forward Fold)

4) Specific dynamic transitioning practices, such as the videos below.

Those are my suggestions, and knowing my audience, I will be hearing back from many of you on your tested methods for maintaining and improving the transition ability. I always look forward to feedback, as it is one more opportunity for me to learn something new!

Baxter Bell Yoga (on YouTube) Videos about Transitions:

Kneeling Transition

Easy Sitting Pose Transition

Transitioning via Fig Leaf Forward Fold

Easy Sitting Pose Transition with Blocks

Transitioning with a Chair

1 Comment

Aug 28, 2023

Right on! I don't think there are any daily activities that don't include some king of physical transitioning. Use it or lose it rings true here. Remember Jack LaLanne? He had people get up and down from the floor several times before they began his exercise class. Thanks for including the videos...always appreciated.

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