Many older adults are afraid that yoga is dangerous or convinced they can’t perform the moves, but research shows that yoga is a great choice for Baby Boomers and beyond.
The current yoga craze started two decades or so ago, and everyone wanted to participate. Something about the blending of the mind, spirit, and body was especially appealing to many adults who are stressed out and concerned about their health. As it turns out, yoga is more than just a fad.
Yoga comes in a variety of types, and nearly all of them have been proven to have some health benefit. And, you don’t have to be a young, hard-body to participate. More Baby Boomers and older adults now take yoga ever have in the past.
The Benefits of Yoga for Older Adults
It may seem counterintuitive that an exercise regime that requires balance and stamina is suitable for older adults, who often suffer from balance, stamina, and breathing difficulties. It is. One of the things that makes yoga a smart choice for older adults is that there are modifications to most yoga moves that allow participants to build up over time. You perform at the level that’s most comfortable for you.
That means even if you’re experiencing mobility or other health issues, you can still participate in yoga exercise. More than that, you can benefit from those exercises. Many studies have been done on the effectiveness of yoga and what’s been found is:
- Yoga helps strengthen muscles and can help reduce arthritis and the pain associated with it;
- People who have difficulty sleeping have reported that yoga helps them to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer;
- Those who suffer from mood disorders such as depression and anxiety report that yoga helps them to balance not only their body, but also their mind;
- Yoga has also been shown to reduce medical conditions such as hypertension and diabetes;
- The focused breathing exercises practiced as part of yoga have been proven to increase lung function and reduce breathing difficulties;
- And yoga is a gentle way to help reduce muscle loss and increase weight loss.
The purpose of yoga is to create a balance and harmony between the two sides of your body without straining either side. This contributes to the gentle nature of yoga and explains why there are modifications for all ability levels.
Choosing the Right Yoga Class
With all the different varieties of yoga, finding the right class could seem a little overwhelming. If you’ve never taken a yoga class before, start with a basic class. In the basic class, you’ll learn basic poses – like: the Tree Pose, the Warrior (I or II) Pose, and the Bridge Pose. Despite the tough-sounding names, all are easy, basic poses that can be modified to work for you.
Another thing to consider when looking for a class is who will be attending. A yoga class for older adults will be different - and probably more comfortable – than a boutique yoga class where there are miniature goats running around the yoga room or the class is conducted suspended from bungee cords.
Finally, find a class where you are comfortable. You may have to try several classes first to find the right one, but most yoga studios offer a limited number of free classes so you can meet the instructor and other participants. In most studios, the instructor will take a few minutes with new students before the class begins to learn more about what they hope to achieve with the class and any limitations they may have. The instructor – also called a yogi – may also move around the room during the class to adjust poses and help participants achieve the most from the class.
Once you have the right class, here are some of the basic yoga poses that you’ll likely learn, and that are beneficial to older adults:
- Warrior (I & II) – Warrior poses open your chest and stretch muscles in your legs and shoulders.
- Tree Pose – the Tree Pose helps you to gain balance. It’s a one-legged pose, but can be modified to keep both feet on the ground if needed.
- Plank – Planks help strengthen your core muscles, which in turn improve you balance as well as digestion.
- Cobra Pose – The Cobra Pose is an extension of a plank that helps to open the chest and work the muscles in the back, which is also useful in gaining balance.
- Bridge Pose – The Bridge Pose helps to tighten the buttocks, strengthen core muscles in the abdomen, and to tighten back muscles – all important elements of maintaining your balance.
These are just a few of the poses and their benefits. When taken together, as a full class, classes can have help improve your whole body, your mind, and even your spirit. So, you see, yoga isn’t just for the younger crowd. Older adults are turning to yoga in large numbers as a means of gentle, effective exercise and as a way to improve other aspects of both physical and mental health. Give yoga a try. You might be surprised at how much you love it, too.
“6 Yoga Poses that Age Well,” Katherine Tweed, June 2014, WebMD.
“Yoga for Seniors,” Sara Cooperman, Lisa Ackerman, 2005, Senior Fitness Association.
“Yoga for Seniors: Yes You Can Start Doing Yoga in Your Golden Years,” Ann Pizer, November 2016, Very Well.
“Yoga Poses for Your 50s, 60s, 70s, and Beyond,” Amy Paturel, November 2016, AARP The Magazine.
“Study Finds Yoga can Help Back Pain, But Keep It Gentle With These Poses,” Allison Aubrey, June 2017, NPR.
Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors