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Monday, March 30, 2009

Ageless Yoga - continuing

I have chosen to take the Ageless Yoga, Chair and Standing DVD one routine at a time. The DVD promises two hours of routines, which actually translates to five separate smaller workouts. Additional routines are created by combining elements from these five routines. So one can choose a routine from about five minutes long to about 80-90 minutes long.

My second Ageless Yoga routine, the second one I chose, was "Loosen Up", a 17-minute routine that gently loosens the body. Some of the moves are the same as for the joint routine, and the entire routine is run the same way, very gently and simply. No absolutes. Simple moves to loosen up. If you can imagine some things you might do to loosen your body those things are likely in this routine.

Third: Balance and Breath. 18 minutes. Same format as the others: the instructor sits in the middle, the two students behind and to the sides. No music. Another gentle routine, featuring movements related to balance and breathing. Nice simple balance exercises that I can see using when standing in line, for example, and breathing, of course, you can use anywhere. The series, so far, is like "pre-yoga" - using movements that may be precursors to standard poses, ways to get benefits without having to strain.

Fourth: I chose Strength. 19 minutes. The two "models" were different this time. All four I have seen so far look like ordinary people, not yoga experts, which I find encouraging. The strength moves include some we've done before - it's good to repeat, I'll remember them better - plus some new stuff. We worked feet, legs, inner and outer thighs, shoulders, arms, possibly more. But we didn't do anything for long, just little bits. I enjoyed it. There is one exercise I had a bit of trouble with, and I will want to see if I can improve. It involves lifting both legs from the floor (while sitting on a chair) and holding them in front of me. I couldn't life them fully in front of me. As usual, the instructor is very giving and forgiving, and emphasizes that we "make it yours". Find the comfort place.

At this point I am wondering if I should do more per day? Follow some kind of increasing routine? Or just keep on going through one at a time as I have been. I therefore went back to the website ( to look it over. There are so specific recommendations but there are a lot of testimonials and some of those gave me an idea that I'm doing just fine as I am. I'll keep up with it every day (when I have a DVD player - I do go on trips) and see how much I improve.

Fifth: Stretch Out. 18 minutes. As advertised, we do gentle stretching moves, most in a chair. I recognize some of the moves as some I might be able to substitute for more challenging moves in other videos. For example, when I can't do a cat stretch on the floor I can do an equivalent stretch in a chair. Some of the chair moves actually appear to do a better job on the focused area because I am not having to strain a part of my body that is in pain.

One woman who reviewed this DVD said her pain had reduced by half in two days. I would love to make such a claim. I can't, but it made me think. Concentrating on breathing and relaxation is going to help with pain, and the simple, almost comic way these are demonstrated always makes me smile.

The DVD is divided into two parts. There is a regular menu with six routines on it. And second menu labeled "Other options". These other options include "Gentle", "Chair only", "Challenges", and a few more. I am not sure if these are separate routines from the first set. I will soon be finding out, because there is just one more routine in the first group for me to try.

My sixth day I went for "Sitting only", a 30-minute routine. This routine combines the sitting portions of the other routines, primarily the stretching and loosening up routines. Even the relaxation portions from both are included, which gives us about seven minutes of relaxation. I don't know if I have ever relaxed quite as much, and it felt very good.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Ageless Yoga - part 1

I got my new Ageless Yoga DVDs in the mail yesterday. Today I tried out Volume 1: Chair & Standing Routines. I tried only one routine: joint freedom.

Almost the entire set is done in a chair. The exercises are almost not exercises in the normal sense. They are gentle movements of all of the joints, one type at a time. For example, stretching out the fingers, then making fists. No music and no mandatory type breathing. Just remember to breathe comfortably. The joint freedom routine takes 18 minutes and doesn't strain anything.

It felt like I had not done much, but I can see how using this routine regularly would be of great benefit, especially if you remember the different moves and just use them wherever you are, when you think of them. A good way to keep moving.

I'll be trying the other routines and reporting on them here as well. I am feeling hopeful.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Trying yoga

Well, I completed workout no. 64 on my wii Fitness Coach. Some of the workouts weren't wii workouts but DVDs instead. My Fitness Coach allows me to substitute other types of exercise and get credit for them. And what good is the credit? Well, it earns me additional wii workout spaces and wii workout music when I do use My Fitness Coach. Who wouldn't want those!??

I think it's good that I am still using this program. Because it keeps track of the frequency of my workouts I am more inclined to get it done. It makes me accountable in its funny little way. So I do it. At least fifteen minutes at least five days a week. It isn't much but it's how we get used to it. Further, I have found that if I do one of these little workouts before I go out I am indeed moving better. Not always a lot better but a little is a lot.

In fact, I keep thinking of the recommendation by that British arthritis organization: a little and a lot. Do a little but do it a lot. More and more I just get off the couch, wander around a bit, sit down again. I try to do a little a lot.

Now that I have been doing these little workouts for a while I am branching out. I am interested in yoga. We hear that yoga is good for arthritis. And my arthritis RX exercises are based in part on yoga. So when I got an email from Amazon several days ago advertising a Yoga for Dummies DVD for $5.99 I went to Amazon to read reviews and hunt down more yoga DVDs that might be suitable for me. The descriptions of the DVDs sounded good, all of them offering opportunities to skip poses, choose workout levels, and use alternative moves. Even though the descriptions and reviews did not specifically mention arthritis I thought they'd be worth a try.

Today I tried two of the DVDs: Yoga for Any Body and Yoga for Dummies.

I first put in Yoga for Any Body. The DVD is divided into several sections: an interview with the yoga teacher, a discourse on yoga definitions by that same teacher, and workouts divided into beginning, intermediate, and advanced. The beginning sets include several options. I chose the morning workout.

The yoga teacher starts right out sitting on the floor, cross-legged, and goes into the first position. She does not remind us to breathe nor does she spend much time describing the posture. I think one could follow the moves easily enough - if one were without physical limitation. She did not offer alternative positions or options. I hunted around on the DVD for some hint on how to use this DVD, because it felt to me like I was starting in the middle. I found nothing that met this need of mine. I decided to try another DVD.

After my aborted effort with Yoga for Everyone I put in the Yoga for Dummies. This DVD is organized in a way that made a lot more sense to me. The organization is simple: she offers twelve different "poses", which she calls the Daily Dozen. She tells us at the start that we can choose among the twelve, focus on just one if we want, or go through the entire dozen. I went through all twelve today.

But that doesn't mean I did all of the poses, frankly. I simply could not do all of them. However, she does offer alternatives for some of the poses. Some alternatives made the moves easier for folks like me, some were intended for those who wanted to move in a more advanced way. Throughout each description, which was detailed and included detailed information on breathing, the leader emphasized that the intent was the important thing. Not everyone can do every pose perfectly, and one should not push beyond comfort. I found her emphasis on doing what you can an important one. I like this DVD and expect to use it again.

However, there were times while doing these poses that I actually started to cry, just little tears, just a little whimper. Not because of pain but because I felt so limited in my function and wondered if I were so disabled that I would never be able to do this. I am always happy to start where I am and improve little by little but it seemed impossible in this case. I was already testing DVDs that proclaim they are for "every body" but they aren't.

It's the same thing I ran into with the wii workout: no recognition of physical limitations beyond being out of shape. I remembered, too, a comment on Amazon that responded to complaints that My Fitness Coach does not make any allowances for disabilities. The commenter said the workout does not advertise itself as a workout for those with disabilities. So there. Get over it.

I am not ready to get over it. I can't imagine nobody has considered this situation. There are so many of us with arthritis and with such a need for yoga for us. So I decided to do a simple search: "yoga for arthritis".

And it worked! I found several websites discussing yoga and arthritis and some that actually offered DVD workouts for us. I was so excited I ordered a double-DVD set from Ageless Yoga: one DVD is for floor and standing routines, the other for chair and standing. I look forward to reporting on these DVDs here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

More exercises!

I continue to do the wii workouts, modified as needed. And now I have another little set of exercises to try out.

For some reason I was hunting around the web the other day and I came upon the Arthritis Research Campaign, a nonprofit organization based in the UK. There is a section on arthritis of the knee that includes these recommended exercises:

Quadriceps (thigh muscle) exercises

The most important thing is to choose exercises which you can do regularly. The easiest one to do is when sitting down in a chair.

1. Straight-leg raise: sitting Get into the habit of doing this every time you sit down. Sit well back in the chair with a good posture. Straighten and raise the leg, hold it for a slow count to 10, then slowly lower it.

Repeat this several Exercisestimes with each leg – at least 10 times with each. If this can be done easily, repeat the exercises with a weight on the ankle (buy ankle weights from a sports shop or improvise, for example with a tin of peas in a carrier bag wrapped around the ankle).

2. Straight-leg raise: lying Get into the habit of doing straight-leg exercises in the morning and at night while lying in bed. With one leg bent at the knee, hold the other leg straight and lift the foot just off the bed. Hold for a slow count of 5 then lower. Repeat with each leg 5 times every morning and evening.

3. Muscle stretch At least once a day when lying down do the following exercise. First, place a rolled-up towel under the ankle of the leg to be exercised. Then bend the other leg at the knee. With the straight leg, use your leg muscles to push the back of the knee firmly towards the bed or the floor. Hold for a slow count of 5. Repeat with each leg 5 times. Not only does this exercise help to strengthen the quadriceps muscles, but also it prevents the knee from becoming permanently bent.

4. Clenching exercises During the day, whether standing or sitting, get into the habit of clenching and releasing the quadriceps muscles. By constantly stimulating the muscles, they become stronger.

Go to to see the original page.

I also appreciated this bit of advice:

For most people with osteoarthritis the best advice is 'little and often': a little rest, followed by a little exercise.

My wii workouts fall generally into this category - 15-minute workouts. Sometimes I do longer workouts, using exercise DVDs, or I take a walk if I feel good. I can usually do a little of something if I can rest.

I will report more specifically on the exercise DVDs I like using in a later post.