Wake up. Get up. Many of us start our day with those
simple tasks, not giving it much thought. But almost 28
percent of Americans over 65 report having difficulty
getting out of bed. While Americans are living longer
and expecting a better quality of life than their
predecessors, the ability to get out of bed ─ with
safety and confidence ─ has a profound effect on whether
you are able to live those expectations.
Fear of falling can make older adults so cautious that
they often opt to stay in bed or on the couch. And no
wonder they’re afraid: The Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention reports that each year, 360,000–480,000
older adults sustain fall-related fractures.1
In 2007, 18,000 older adults died from injuries related
to unintentional falls; in 2008, 2.1 million older
adults were treated in emergency departments for
nonfatal injuries from falls, and more than 559,000 of
those patients were hospitalized.2
But staying in bed has its own side effects, including
blood clots, muscle weakness, bed sores, decreased
balance, dizziness with movement, feelings of nausea,
and depression. And the more hours in bed, the worse
these conditions become, until getting out of bed seems
hopeless, if not downright scary!
What happens during the night that makes getting out of
bed difficult for so many of us? Sabrina Castaneda,
M.S., MOT, OTR, E-RYT-500, an occupational therapist in
Dallas, Texas who promotes active aging, explains, “As
we sleep, muscles often get tight and stiff and
ligaments can lose some elasticity. And the synovial
fluid that lubricates the joints can become a little
thicker, especially in the older population or those who
are inactive.” So how do we transition from stiffness to
moving freely? “It’s so important to get the body moving
and if possible, out of bed,” says Castaneda, who
incorporates yoga into all occupational therapy
sessions. A gentle yoga routine before and after rising
each day is a perfect way to accomplish this.
Yoga Routine in Bed
Rising from a lying to sitting position requires
strength in the core abdominal muscles and the hip
flexors These yoga exercises, practiced while still
lying down, will help to lengthen and strengthen those
muscles. Remember to breathe deeply through the nostrils
during each exercise.
- Simple stretches. Start with a deep inhale and slow
exhale. Stretch your whole body, extending your legs
down to the end of the bed and your arms up over your
head if possible. Alternately point and flex each foot.
- Heel slides. Lying on your back with the legs down,
slowly slide one heel towards the buttock, then slide
back to straight. Switch legs. Repeat up to 10 slides on
each leg, all the while keeping your belly button pulled
toward your spine.
- Single knee to chest. Lying on your back, pull one
knee at a time toward your chest. Hold for five seconds
while breathing deeply. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Work up to three times and hold each knee for up to 20
- Trunk rotation. Lying on your back, bend your knees,
keeping your feet on the bed at least hip-width apart.
Gently roll the knees from side to side as far as
possible without discomfort. Hold for 10 seconds,
working up to 10 repetitions. Caution: Do not push
through pain; you should feel only a gentle stretch in
- Ankle pumps. Lying on your back with legs down, flex
your feet towards you, then point them away from you.
Hold each position for up to 10 seconds, working up to
Coming to a Seated Position
This exercise helps you sit up while protecting your
spine. While lying on your back, bend the knees, feet
flat on the bed. Pull your belly button to your spine
while continuing to breathe. Slowly roll to your side,
keeping your shoulders in line with your hips. As you
bring your legs off the bed, use your arms to push your
torso into a seated position on the edge of the bed.
Keep your belly button to your spine during the entire
move. You may
use this same technique to lie down.
After coming to a seated position, use yoga breathing
techniques to bring sufficient oxygen to the blood and
the brain before standing.
- Come to the edge of the bed with your feet on the
floor and your hands pressing gently against the sides
of the bed for support.
- Breathe naturally through the nostrils and merely
observe your breath for a few moments, without trying to
correct or challenge your breath. Observe how the
abdomen expands on the inhale and contracts on the
- Begin to gently deepen the breath, observing its
ability to lengthen on both the inhale and the exhale.
Focus on bringing the breath to the abdomen rather than
- Repeat 15-20 rounds of inhaling and exhaling this
way, focusing as much as possible on nothing but your
Yoga Routine after Standing
Once you are standing, you can add movements to further
strengthen key muscles.
- Mountain pose. Standing tall with the feet hip
distance apart, press into the floor while you engage
your abdominal muscles, bringing your belly button
toward your spine. Gently roll your shoulders back, arms
at your side. On each exhale, squeeze your belly button
toward your spine. Repeat for 10 breaths, working up to
15. This helps strengthen abdominal muscles and balance.
- Simple torso twists. In the same standing position as
above, twist the upper torso from side to side, letting
the arms loosely swing around the body. Be sure to keep
the abdominal muscles tight by keeping your belly button
pulled toward your spine and hips as stable as possible.
This movement increases balance and helps to loosen the
spine as it bathes your spinal joints in synovial fluid.
- Chair pose. Lean against a wall, feet parallel and
hip distance apart, hands on hips. Press the feet into
the floor as you bend your knees, engaging the tops of
the thighs. Bring your belly button toward your spine.
This pose strengthens all leg muscles as well as the
muscles of the buttocks.
- Tree. Using one hand on a wall or chair to support
yourself, shift your weight to your left foot. Standing
tall, with your belly button toward your spine and your
shoulders back, lift the right heel off the floor,
bringing it near the left ankle. Bring the arch of the
right foot toward the left ankle, keeping the ball of
the right foot on the floor. Hold for 10 seconds and
alternate feet. Work to hold for 25 seconds. The tree
pose helps to build coordination, balance, and leg and
hip flexor strength.
Getting up in the morning doesn’t have to be a dreaded
or dangerous activity. Keeping your muscles lengthened
and strengthened using these simple yoga poses will help
build confidence as well as flexibility and strength, so
you can rise and shine for years to come!
The State of Aging and
Health in America 2007. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention and the Merck Company Foundation: Whitehouse
2Falls Among Older Adults: An
Overview. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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