Did you think Yoga was a new, hip workout trend for the young folks? Don’t be too hasty to judge. In fact, many active living communities offer regular yoga classes as a part of their physical recreation programs. Why? Because in addition to being a low-impact form of exercise, yoga has been shown to increase strength in bones and joints, increase balance, boost mental function, help with pain management and alleviate stress and depression. We could go on! There are seemingly innumerable ways that yoga for seniors can be beneficial.
What is Yoga?
Yoga comes to us from the east, via India. In fact, the word Yoga means “union”. The type of yoga we are most familiar with in the west is called Hatha Yoga, and it is comprised of breath work, sustained body postures, and meditation. This triad seems to be a perfect union, pun intended, for holistic well being.
In a typical yoga class, students will use mats, straps, and a few postural aids. These are often supplied by the hosting facility, although students may be responsible for bringing their own mats. The instructor will lead the class through a series of stretches and poses, all designed to work on specific areas of the body. Throughout the postures, students will be reminded to focus on their breath, keeping it deep and regular. They are also encouraged to keep their mind anchored in the feeling of the posture. When the mind wanders, you simply guide it back to the task at hand. Over time, this practice of exercising both the body and the mind can have a profound effect on the mind-body connection.
What benefits can I expect from my yoga practice?
Yoga is being prescribed by many doctors and therapists as an alternative, or supplement, to medication. Why? Because its effects on overall health can no longer be disputed. It is an especially good entry-level activity for older adults because it meets you where you are at. You do not have to have good balance, or be flexible, to do yoga; rather, yoga will make you flexible and will improve your balance as you deepen your practice.
Here is a list of common medical conditions that have been improved by Yoga:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- High Blood Pressure
- Back Pain
- Sleep Disorders
Yoga practitioners routinely site an improved quality of life by practicing it on a regular basis.
How do I get started?
There are a wide variety of yoga styles and classes. If you are just starting out, you will want to find a beginners yoga class. Start by looking at your local senior centers, or within your active living community, to see if there is a senior-specific yoga class in the area. If not, any beginning yoga class will do. Discuss any physical conditions you may have to help your instructor tailor certain exercises to meet your needs, or explain alternative poses when necessary.
Let go of any common misconceptions people have about yoga:
- I have to be flexible. People taking Yoga are flexible because they take yoga. Your muscles and connective tissue will become more supple and flexible over time.
- I have to have good balance. Just as above, students hone their balance through their yoga practice. Your improved balance will help to prevent falls.
- I’ll have to stand on my head. You won’t ever have to do any postures you don’t want to, least of all one you aren’t ready for.
Find a friend to take with you and give yoga a try. The benefits of yoga for seniors will be well worth your efforts. Namaste!