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When I discovered yoga 40 years ago, I started on a journey fueled by curiosity and a desire to find effective ways to take better care of my body. At the time, I suffered from sciatica (pain along the sciatic nerve that runs from the lower back down the leg). Like many active people, I pushed through searing agony so that I could keep up adventures such as skiing the Wyoming backcountry, trekking in Nepal, and cycling through the Badlands. My pain continued to intensify for years, and it took me more than a decade to find relief—but I finally did, through yoga.
The sequence on the following pages helped alleviate my pain, and it’s one that I regularly practice and teach to students of all ages. It’s the culmination of years of study and training in myriad yoga disciplines, including Iyengar and Kaiut.
Each movement is done in slow motion, and much of it is practiced on the floor. As I move into my 85th year, I find this work is accessible and more appropriate for my aging body. What’s surprising is how beneficial it is for my students, too—many of them five decades younger than I. They find it challenging and effective for easing aches or stiffness and offering more freedom of movement in their everyday lives.
As you practice, hold each pose for two minutes. This will allow time for your nervous system to accept the pose and your major joints to be fully nourished. May you reap the benefits of yoga— a healthy body, mind, and spirit—through every decade.
1A. Viparita Karani, variation (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose)
Lie on your back with your hips about 10 inches from the wall. Interlock your fingers under a bolster. Lift your right heel and place it over your left toes to encourage toe-joint flexion. Repeat on the other side.
See also Benefits of Viparita Karani
1B. Viparita Karani, variation (Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose)
Place a strap over the ball of your left foot. Walk your hands up the strap, arms extended, elbows and leg straight. Draw your leg toward your left shoulder. Repeat on the other side.
2A. Sukhasana, variation (Easy Pose)
Sit on a bolster with your right shin crossed over your left, feet aligned under your knees. Curve your spine forward, and rest your hands on the floor. Spread your fingers until you feel the skin of your palms and fingers stretch. Switch the cross of your legs and repeat.
See also Another Variation of Sukasana
2B. Sukhasana, variation (Easy Pose)
Sit on the floor and repeat step A. Drop your chin to your sternum, and rest your elbows on the floor. Switch the cross of your legs and repeat.
3. Upavistha Konasana, variation (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend)
Sit on the mat with your legs wide apart. Turn your torso to the left, aligning chest with thigh. Curve forward, bringing your nose toward your knee. Use your hands to increase the twist, bringing your right ribs forward and left ribs back. Repeat on the other side.
See also Upavistha Konasana
4. Mindful Walking
Walk in slow motion, feeling toe flexion as you raise your heel and contract your buttocks with each step. Allow several seconds per step, and continue for 3 minutes.
5. Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch)
Stand facing a wall and graze it with your left big toe. Press your hands against it at shoulder level. Take a giant step back with your right foot, but only so far that you can press your right heel to the floor. Slide your hands up, straightening your arms and extending your elbows. Repeat on the other side.
See also 3 Versions of Parsvottanasana
6A. Supta Padangusthasana, variation (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose)
Lie on your back with your head and neck on a bolster, knees bent and together, arms beside your hips, palms down. Raise your left shin, while keeping thighs aligned and knees touching. Flex your left ankle. Switch sides.
6B. Supta Padangusthasana, variation (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose)
Continue lying on your back with your knees bent. Extend your left leg to vertical, which demands more extension in the back of your knee. Then, cross your left leg over your midline. Point your left toes toward your right shoulder (not shown). Switch sides.
6C. Supta Padangusthasana, variation (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose)
Extend your left leg to vertical. This time, slowly extend your right leg until your heel hovers 2 inches above the floor. Flex your ankles. Relax your neck. Repeat on the other side.
7. Supta Urdhva Hastasana (Reclining Upward Salute)
Push the bolster out of the way, and lower your head to the floor. With your arms fully extended, bring your hands under the bolster. Slowly lift the bolster, balancing it on your palms, until it is directly above your chest. Slowly lower it to the floor, pause, then lift and lower it one more time.
8. Restorative Knee-to-Chest Pose
Lie on your back with your head on a bolster, your knees bent, feet hip-width apart. Turn your toes in and heels out, slightly. Interlock your fingers around your left knee and pull it toward your mid-chest. Then, draw your knee toward your right shoulder. Feel your thigh contact the flesh of your belly. Repeat on the other side.
See also More Cleansing Poses
9. Savasana (Corpse Pose)
End in Savasana. Hold for at least 5 minutes.
See also Savasana Variations with Props
Get more home practice sequences.
About the author
Octogenarian Juliet Sherwood teaches Healthy Joints yoga classes at the Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver, where she follows a methodology developed by Francisco Kaiut. She has studied with many teachers over the years, including B.K.S. and Geeta Iyengar, Faeq Biria, François Raoult, and Patricia Walden. Learn more at iyengaryogacenter.com.
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