Rami's Blog

Like the Yin-Yang, Eastern Martial Arts and Western medicine are two halves of a whole. My mission is to preserve the ancient mind-body tools, and pass them on to you.


The Complete Mind-Body Workout for People 70+

Hey mind-body students! Welcome back to the blog. This week, we are combining all of the "Never Too Late" workouts into one convenient post so you can simply use this post as your reference when performing these exercises, or sharing them with your loved ones who are 70 years old or older.

The Complete Mind-Body Workout for People 70+

Exercise 1 & 2: Calf Stretch and Arm Strengthening, plus Hamstring and Lower Back Stretch.

First we stabilize and stretch the muscles closest to the floor so you can minimize the chance of falls right from the beginning. The second stretch also lets you relax a little bit and can even help the upper back.

Exercise 3: Outer Hip Stretch.

This stretch helps to create much more flexibility in the hips, which means better balance everywhere. The hips are the source of all powerful movement in the body, and healthy hips create healthy movement.

Exercise 4: Front Tai Chi Stance.

This technique improves your ability to stand freely, using some support from the wall. It also helps you handle different amounts of weight on each leg, which improves walking ability.

Exercise 5: Up and Down Like the Moon and the Sun

This is a great quad and hamstring strengthening exercise. Increase bone density and muscle mass at the same time!

Exercise 6: Lower Back and Neck Stretch.

This is a nice relaxing stretch to do after the tougher strengthening exercises. It targets your back and neck, which are of key importance for healthy posture.

Exercise 7: Vitamin H

Do the variation that is safest and most effective for you. And make sure the walker, table, or chair that you are using to stabilize yourself is well secured and not going to slip.

Exercise 8: Supported Tai Chi Walk

This exercise might be easiest to do in your kitchen, around a table, or somewhere in your house where there is a lot of horizon railings and support. If you have someone helping you, have them find a good place for you to do this exercise and then spot you in case you need to take a break and sit down.

Exercise 9: Assisted Flamingo Stretch

Use this exercise to get a good stretch in the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. If you have help, have your helper adjust the height of your foot support so that you are at the perfect amount of stretch.

Exercise 10: Assisted Standing Quad Stretch. 

The final exercise follows the second to last exercise very easily. Simply have your helper adjusted the height of the foot support, then you turn around and lift your foot backwards to rest at the correct height. Make sure you have support for your arms and upper body here too!

Another great big thank you to my student in all of the photos, Dora! She is pictured here at 94 years old! Can you believe it? That's proof that it really is never too late.

Don't forget that I have a seminar at Yang's Fitness Center in Andover, MA this weekendCheck out the details here and come join us for a great day of mind-body practice from noon to 3pm!

Also, I want to remind you of Cancer Wellness TV, the online resource center for cancer health that I helped to found. If you are looking for a good cause to donate to during the holidays, or as a gift to give in someone's honor, I highly recommend a donation to Cancer Wellness TV. All the funds go to keeping the website running, and free for everyone.

Thanks you, and Happy Stretching!

Never Too Late: Keep Your Golden Years from Being Rusty, Part 9

For the previous entries in the series, click here: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7, and Part 8

For our final installment in the elderly workout series, we're doing a simple cooldown stretch: the assisted standing quad stretch. To do this stretch, you will need something to hold onto, like a walker or chair in front of you. You will also need a shorter stool with a pillow or padding on it to rest your bent leg on.

Sitting on the stool with the walker in front of you, you should stand up with your walker, and then slowly and carefully lift one of your legs up (bending at the knee, not at the hip) and rest it on the stool, using your arms on the walker to stabilize yourself. (See pictures below)

If you feel unstable while moving your leg up, simply keep it slightly off the ground for as long as you can and then put it back down to regain your balance. If you are worried about falling over, you should definitely have someone at the ready to catch you if you lose balance. Remember, we are trying to gain balance and stability with all of these exercises, so if you feel out of balance, back off and go with 80% effort.

Hold the stretch for 1-2 minutes on each leg, 3 times per day.

Picture 1: Front View

Picture 2: Side View

Picture 3: Back View

Happy Stretching! And a happy start to the Holiday season!

I have a seminar at Yang's Fitness Center in Andover, MA the first weekend in December! Check out the details here and then come join us for a great day of mind-body practice on Sunday, December 4th from noon to 3pm!

Never Too Late: Keep Your Golden Years from Being Rusty, Part 8

For the previous entries in the series, click here: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6, and Part 7.

Hello mind-body students! Good to see you back at the blog again.

This week, we are introducing the assisted flamingo stretch to our workout for elders. You may remember the flamingo stretch from earlier blogs we've done. This assisted version of the technique has the same goals: to create hip extension and allow for better range of motion and greater stability.

But for students in their 70s, 80s, and even 90s, standing on one leg with no supports is not safe. So, we developed this stretch to provide a stable surface to lean against (the wall), as well as a place to rest the lifted leg so that the arms can be used to stabilize you further.

Keeping the leg straight might be easier for you, or bending it might be easier. It depends on which of your muscles have better mobility. Ideally, you will be able to work your way up to the full stretch shown in the third picture below (far right). Knee bent, foot resting flat on the support, and lower leg straight up and down under the knee, not leaning to either the right or left. 

When getting into this stretch, make sure that you are stable against the wall first. Then, gently lift your leg up to a comfortable position and rest it on the support. It is very helpful to have someone aiding you with this exercise at first. That way, they can adjust the support you are using until it is in exactly the right spot (80% effort to lift the leg that high, and NO pain! If it is painful, lower your leg until it doesn't hurt!).

This stretch should be done twice a day, for 2 minutes on each leg. As always, you can work up to this gradually. You can also work up to the height shown in the pictures below. If your hamstrings are very tight, you might have to do the first posture (far left below) at a lower height. If your quads are tight, you'll have to start the second posture (the middle and right pictures) at a lower height.

Be gentle! Move a little more every day and you'll reach your goals in no time. 

Happy Stretching!

Posture 1: Straight Leg

Posture 2: Leg Bent (Front)

Posture 2: Leg Bent (Side)

Don't forget that I have a new course up on Udemy.com! It is called "Strengthen Your Immune System with Tai Chi and Qi Gong." It is a shorter course that is great for kids, college students, the elderly, and everyone in between! It's only $20, so check it out today!

Never Too Late: Keep Your Golden Years from Being Rusty, Part 7

For the previous entries in the series, click here: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5, and Part 6.

Welcome back mind-body students! This week we have another installment of our elderly workout series. This time, it's an assisted form of the Tai Chi Walk (also called "The 50 Steps").

The difference with this version of the exercise is twofold: first, you will have something with you at all times to stabilize yourself using your arms. This could be a walker, a countertop, a table, or anything you can hold onto while you are walking. Second, unlike the Tai Chi Walk, we are not interested in maximum extension of the legs. Instead, we are looking to take healthy steps that focus on proper walking technique.

Again, don't bring the knees up or stretch the legs out. We are simply looking for healthy, correctly-aligned steps. This means: feet aiming forward at all times (not going out to the sides), correct weight distribution as you roll from the back of the foot to the front of the foot, lifting each foot completely off the ground and not dragging them, and keeping each step big and full as opposed to shuffling or taking baby steps.

Notice the lifted sole of the foot, toes pointed slightly upward. First touching on the heel.

Roll the foot forward onto the outer-ball and then inner-ball in quick succession.

See if you can get to 50 mindful, correctly-aligned steps each day. Start with 15 or 20, and work your way up over time. Breath deeply while you do them, and do them slowly at first to maintain good alignment. Ideally, you will reach the point where you can walk more swiftly and with more agility, because your stability and balance will have improved.

Happy Stretching!

I still have one more seminar at Yang's Fitness Center in Andover, MA before the end of the year! Check out the details here and then come join us for a great day of mind-body practice on Sunday, December 4th!

Never Too Late: Keep Your Golden Years from Being Rusty, Part 6

For the previous entries in the series, click here: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4, and Part 5.

This week's exercise is the Vitamin H stretch in a modified form for those who have stability issues, or are over 70 years old. You'll find this stretch very similar to the calf, hamstring, and lower back stretch we did in Part 1, but there are some key differences I want to point out.

First and foremost, this stretch does not hit the calves as much (because your feet should be flat on the floor), and has a greater focus on the lower back.

Second, this exercise must be done much more gradually, because your center of gravity is further away from your feet than in the previous exercises. You will see that I have designed three variations of this stretch to meet whatever your stability needs are.

Variation 1: Lean over your secured walker, above a chair.

Variation 1: Click to enlarge!

This is the version of the exercise that uses the most stability aid, and is the least intense. All we are trying to do here is get the student used to the feeling of moving their center of gravity forward.

First, the student should get into a comfortable sitting position on a sturdy chair. Then, their walker, or a desk, or another chair should be placed in front of them, close enough for them to grab hold of an stand up comfortably with. Next, while standing, they should lean over their walker, stabilizing their body with their arms and legs.

They should lean over only as far as is comfortable, and only for as long as they feel they are stable. If they ever get dizzy or lose balance, they should immediately sit back in the chair.

Work your way up to holding the position for 30 seconds, then a minute, then two minutes. Also work on bending more in the lower back and less in the upper back or neck.

Variation 2: Vitamin H without a chair, focusing on the hamstrings.

Variation 2: Click to enlarge!

Once the first variation has become too easy, and the student is feeling nice and stable, they can move on to the second variation of the Vitamin H stretch. In this version, the student takes the same forward position, but without having a chair. You could always keep the chair behind the student, just in case, but the goal is to be able to hold the position for 2-4 minutes without needing to rest and sit down frequently.

The key internal difference for performing this version of the position is to focus on the proper pelvic rotation. We are trying to further stretch the hamstrings (and eventually lower back) with this version of the stretch. As you hold the position over the walker, you should be working to tilt your belly toward the floor, and your sitting bones up toward the ceiling. This will create an immediate stretching feelings that goes all the way down the back of the leg to the knee.

Be sure to keep your knees straight the whole time! If you have to bend your knees, it means you are leaning over too much. Back off until you are going at my Rule of 80%.

Variation 3: Full bend using the wall to support.

Variation 3: Click to enlarge!

So, you've mastered both previous versions of the Vitamin H stretch. Wonderful! Now you are ready to be in the full stretch. To accomplish this, you will use a wall (to prevent falling backwards) and stand facing away from it with your walker or chair and a pillow in front of you. Make sure your feet are about 6-12 inches away from the wall, but kept close together.

Next, lean forward and push your butt backward (without bending your knees), until your butt touches the supporting wall. With that as support, lean forward more, until you are able to rest your head and your arms on your walker or chair, using pillows or folded blankets for comfort. This should give you a further stretch in your lower back than the previous variations have allowed you to achieve.

Make sure you are rotating your hips just like in variation 2, and keep your feet planted firmly on the ground. Also, secure your walker to make sure it will not slip or slide as you lean on it.

Finally, you can come out of the stretch by pushing up off your walker or chair with your arms, still using the wall to lean against and stabilize yourself. Then, once you are upright, you can slowly shuffle your feet backward toward the wall until they are fully underneath you, and you can move around normally.

Do this stretch for 2 minutes, 3-5 times per day. And always breath deeply!

Happy Stretching!

P.S. Don't forget about my seminar this weekend (November 6th) at Yang's Fitness Center in Andover, MA! Check out the details here!

I hope to see many of you there!

Never Too Late: Keep Your Golden Years from Being Rusty, Part 4

For the previous entries in the series, click here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Many people may think, "Hey Rami, how can you expect 70, 80, or even 90 year-olds to do strengthening exercises? They should not be exerting themselves, they are too old."

But it is actually more dangerous for the elderly to stop exerting themselves completely, because low muscle use leads to decreasing bone density. Decreased bone density means a higher likelihood of bone breaks, fractures, and bad fall injuries. It is especially prevalent in older women, and therefore especially important for women to maintain a strengthening routine.

Up and Down Like the Moon and the Sun

You have probably seen this exercise on my blog a dozen times by now. But I cannot stress enough how important it is. Maintaining and strengthening the major leg muscles is key to a high quality of life and greater mobility.

When you exercise the muscle groups in the legs (or any muscle group, but the legs especially because they are so large), your body releases important hormones that lead to muscle growth, and an increase in bone density. Essentially, your body notices how much work it has been doing, and says, "I have to grow and build myself to be stronger everywhere."

Doing this exercise doesn't just help the leg muscles and bones, it helps your whole body be stronger and more stable. So here is how to do it for mind-body students age 70 and older:

First, sit on an object which is at an angle higher than 90 degrees to make moving up and own as easy as possible. For example, you could use a sturdy, flat chair with a pillow or two added onto the seat. Then, use a walker or any other stable object to help yourself move up and down, using mostly your legs, and helping with your hands. The object is also to make sure the individual is safe. (See Picture 1, below).

Picture 1: Click to enlarge!

Picture 2: Click to enlarge!

Start with 3 to 5 repetitions up and down, and over time build up to 20 repetitions. After a few months you can start doing 20 times, up and down, with legs apart, AND 20 times, up and down, with legs together. (See Picture 2, above)

Inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up. Keep a smile on your face too!

Happy Stretching!