Is Yoga for the Elderly Really a Good Idea?
A few days ago, I received a wonderful email from an 84-year-old woman who had purchased our gentle yoga DVDs.
She said that she was having such a great time doing yoga for the first time. She added that she had even managed to convince her 86-year-old husband to join her. I honestly felt like I was going to cry when I started thinking about the difference that yoga was going to make in this wonderful woman’s life!
As I thought about this lady, it made me realize just how much yoga is considered a young person’s activity. Even “yoga for seniors” is usually targeted at people in their 60s or 70s. The idea that a woman in her 80s could benefit from gentle yoga is somewhat shocking.
We can imagine someone who has done yoga their whole life continuing to the very end. But, starting yoga in your 80s? That’s a completely different thing altogether! Well, I’m here to tell you that yoga is a great activity for elderly adults. Here are 3 reasons.
Yoga Helps to Build Balance and Prevent Falls
Did you know that, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Prevention and Control), 2.5-million people go to the emergency room for fall-related injuries every year? We all worry about our parents getting a serious illness, like Alzheimer’s. But, we may not think about the fact that falls are the most common causes of brain injuries among this age group.
It may seem risky allowing someone in their 80s to balance on one leg or get into a Downward Facing Dog position, but, what’s the alternative? Is it better to let their balance gradually deteriorate until the unexpected becomes inevitable? I’m not saying that yoga is the solution to all healthy aging problems, but, it’s certainly a good start!
If you are looking for an even safer yoga option for your parents, you might want to consider chair yoga. Chair yoga offers many of the benefits of gentle yoga for seniors, but, it also provides the added stability of having a chair to hold on to.
Gentle Yoga is an Entry Point to a More Active Lifestyle
When you get into your 80s, it’s natural to feel a bit nervous to venture out of the house by yourself. Your parents might worry about falling by themselves. Or, they may simply not have the energy that they used to. Yoga can help with both of these problems.
I have had conversations with so many elderly yoga beginners over the last year. Without exception, they have told me that doing gentle yoga has given them the confidence and energy to get more from life. Some of them joined a gym, after starting their yoga journeys. Others simply started walking more.
The bottom line is that gentle yoga isn’t the end of the line for elderly practitioners – it is a glorious beginning!
Yoga Can Be a Social Experience
One of the biggest challenges that we face as we get a little older is social isolation. As the relationships that supported us in the past fade, many of us struggle to make new friends. Yoga can be a great way to get people together. I know one woman in her 70s who organized a yoga group at her church. Every week, they get together to watch our yoga videos. It makes me smile thinking about the sense of community that these women must feel.
Other people, like the 84-year-old woman that I mentioned earlier, prefer to practice yoga with their partner. That’s also a great option!
Like with anything in life, you will get as much from yoga as you are willing to put in. This is true at 18 and it is true at 80. If you have an elderly parent, I highly encourage you to consider introducing them to yoga. Of course, everyone’s situation is different and it makes sense to check with their doctor first, but, gentle yoga can almost certainly improve the quality of their life.
Have your parents tried gentle yoga? Do you know anyone else who is practicing yoga in their 80s or older? What was their experience? Please join the conversation.