4 Reasons Why You Might Want to Start Yoga as an Older Student
Yoga is not age-dependent – toddlers to centenarians can and do enjoy it. Accessible yoga is one of the major trends these days. Accessible yoga means that proper modifications make yoga available to everyone.
I have heard older individuals say, “I am too old to start yoga.” I ask why, and they always seem to reply the same way: “I could never do those ‘pretzel poses’.”
I rather like that description of those very difficult poses. But as it happens, they are done only to show someone’s skill off or to advertise a yoga product. Many yoga photos resemble those of magazine models; not realistic, photoshopped, and not reflecting the essence of yoga.
In truth, the majority of the students in yoga classes are older adults, some well over 40. It is likely that you can find a class that is compatible with your needs.
There is a great variety of yoga poses (asanas) and, with the proper modifications, almost everyone can do them. These poses are well within the abilities of someone over 40, 50, 60, or beyond. I know students who started yoga in their 90s.
Don’t forget to try the FREE gentle yoga for seniors video at the beginning of this article and if you like it, you can order a DVD of the entire series here.
Here are some benefits yoga provides to older adults:
Improving balance is a major benefit of yoga as it helps prevent falls. Students can hold on to the wall or a chair when first attempting balance poses. As their balance improves (and it does), the student may use the chair and wall less.
Increases Muscle Strength
Standing on one foot during a balance pose also strengthens the muscles in the standing leg. There are many poses that strengthen leg, arm, and core muscles.
Improving flexibility or opening the joints in a careful, modulated method can help with pain. Flexible joints reduce the risk of falling. Starting at low level joint openers and working up to more intense poses keeps the joints lubricated.
Poses also work the muscles that release and open the joints. Very tight joints can be painful as well as preventing a person from properly reacting to a trip and thereby falling.
As with any exercise, consistent practice of any number of yoga poses, either at home or in classes, will improve endurance over time.
There is a wide variety of yoga poses that students can explore. The variety of poses make yoga classes interesting since the sequence will vary from class to class.
Yoga is also individualistic. You don’t have to do a pose if it doesn’t feel right for you. Yoga teaches you to understand and pay attention to your body and how it feels.
What Else Does Yoga Offer?
Yoga can also offer tools for increasing energy and releasing stress. Pranyama (or breathing exercises) and svasana (relaxation) are common elements in most yoga classes.
Learning how to breathe deeply and slowly increases your energy. Oxygen transfer (our energy source) occurs mainly in the lower lobes of the lungs, and deep, slow breaths push the air deep into the lungs, just where it needs to go.
Older individuals, especially women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, often have high stress levels. They may be taking care of children and parents, and/or have responsible positions at work. Learning how to relax can be very beneficial to reduce stress.
Savasana, a relaxation period, is a regular segment of most yoga classes. It combines relaxation with beginning meditation techniques.
Meditation means to shut down the judging brain and allow oneself to be present. Students learn to stop judging past actions or anticipating future ones. Meditation teaches students to relax their bodies, shut down the judging mind and enjoy the moment.
At any age, exercise is important, so it’s a good idea to find just the right types of exercise for your fitness and wellness level. Yoga is a viable choice for any age, with its elements of movement, breathing, and relaxation.
Try out a yoga class, especially one that caters to the older students. Everybody can do yoga at a level that is safe for them.
What kind of exercise do you practice? Have you tried yoga? If so, was it a good experience for you? Why or why not? Would you recommend it to others? Please share your stories in the comments below!
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor to get specific medical advice for your situation.