You know exercise is good for you, and you’d always made an effort to participate in favorite physical activities to stay fit and active. But as we get older, certain types of exercise may not be as appealing or practical as they once were. There’s one healthy activity that can be done by most people no matter their age or physical shape: yoga.
When thinking about yoga, you may immediately picture Spandex-clad young people in seemingly impossible body contortions. But there’s much more to yoga than advanced positions. In fact, yoga is a quiet and relaxing activity that can become a way of life.
Let’s take a look at the different ways seniors benefit from yoga.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a discipline that encompasses physical and mental well-being. The practice includes breath control, simple meditation and body movement. There are different levels of yoga, some more vigorous than others, so it’s important to find a class or teacher that can guide you through routines that are suited for your own needs.
You can do yoga at home or attend class with a group, and it can even be done by people who have limited mobility.
Health Benefits of Yoga
As we get older, we can lose some of our flexibility and strength. Yoga movements help us center our bodies and regain a sense of balance that will help prevent falls. At first, you may need to hold onto a bar or the back of a chair as you assume some of the basic poses, but as your body gets used to the movements and gets stronger, your balance will likely improve, allowing you to let go.
Flexibility in yoga is evident when you look at the advanced poses, but even the simple poses will give you more flexibility as you practice. For example, you may not be able to touch your toes when you begin your program, but slowly you may get closer and closer to your goal. This flexibility will increase your range of motion, helping you reduce your risk of falls or injuries even more.
It may not be obvious at first, but yoga also promotes muscle strengthening through its repetitive movements. And finally, relaxation is also an important part of yoga practice. Through breathing techniques and meditation, you work on controlling depression, anxiety and stress by learning how to calm your mind.
Researchers have been studying how yoga affects people as they age, and the results are promising. Some studies show that yoga can help reduce pain, sleeping issues, anxiety and hypertension, among other conditions.
If you’ve never done yoga, it would be wise to find a one-on-one teacher or a beginner’s group class, rather than trying to learn on your own. The movements in yoga are precise, and doing them incorrectly could cause injury and overexertion. A teacher would help you learn the right movements so that you can go on to practice alone if you want.
Many gyms and community centers offer yoga classes. You can start looking there and ask about the class itself. Is it geared toward older people? Does the instructor know how to work with people who have limited mobility? How big are the classes? If there are no classes available in your area, consider getting a group of friends together and hiring an instructor to come to you.
It is always best to speak with your doctor or nurse practitioner before beginning any exercise program, including yoga, as there may be some positions or movements you may be told to avoid. The important thing is that you begin slowly and that you enjoy the activity — and practice it for as long as you would like.
Yoga is just one way you can age healthfully. Learn more healthy habits for boosting your health and mood in our free resource The Vitality Guide.