Yoga, Falling and Hip Fracture

This summer my father who is 82 fell at a local restaurant in Wellfleet Mass., and fractured his hip. Surya and I spent a week caring for him and assisting my mother right after the accident. It was an ordeal, for sure: four days in a hospital, immense pain and disorientation, a hard recovery from the anesthesia delivered prior to surgery and painkillers (oxycontin). Eight years before, my father “went down” in a restaurant when he had a stroke, and was transported (to the same hospital) via ambulance. I think his fall and subsequent hip fracture, triggered memories of his stroke trauma, compounding the difficulty of his recovery.
Over the years in my foundational course “From the Ground Up,” I have mentioned how the fear of falling becomes so real for aged people. When reviewing the ankle joints, knees, and particularly the ball and socket joint of the femur, I have suggested how a fall can drastically compromise a person’s life. This has become a reality for my father and, by extension, my whole family this year. An extensive exposé on this very issue called “Bracing for the Falls of an Aging Nation” was published in early November this year in the New York Times. I think that the practice of yoga poses—triangle, tree, half moon etc.—helps to generate proprioceptive awareness in the feet and hips that can be invaluable for an aging person. Practicing yoga also builds greater orientation in space. Flexibility in the foot arches, knees, and pelvic musculature helps maintain an adaptive and responsive body, an asset in light of the risk of falling. In the Zen Motion courses that I offer, a part of the training includes falling. Through this work, it is possible to “practice” falling. Yoga teachers who work with aging populations should continue to help their clientele build strength and range of motion in and around their joints, especially within the toes, ankles, knees, hips and sacrum.
Since many of us now have parents in their 70s, 80s and 90s, it is good to be informed on the real possibility and hazards of falling. If you have had the experience of a parent or loved one falling, please share your story with fellow readers by commenting on this post.
Here’s to a long life of Tadasana!

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