An Introduction to Gentle Yoga for Older Adults
When I ask the members of the Sixty and Me community what is holding them back from building their dream life after 60, poor health and excess stress are the two most common answers.
It sometimes feels like, by the time we reach our 60s, we have a lifetime of tension locked in our bodies. On the inside, we feel young and vibrant. On the outside, we feel more than a little stiff, tired and out of shape.
The problem is that, when we feel disconnected from our bodies, everything else in our lives suffers. We are more irritable around our friends and family, causing unnecessary tension. We are less likely to get out into the world and pursue our passions. We are limited in our travel options. Simply put, when our bodies are suffering, we suffer.
Why Yoga for Older Adults is So Important
Since good health is central to finding happiness after 60, I set out to find a solution to the problems of stress, tension and pain that many of you told me that you were dealing with.
After talking with experts in various fields, I settled on gentle yoga as the best place to start and set out to find an amazing teacher. Eventually, I had to send my team all the way to beautiful Bali (trust me, they weren’t too disappointed!) to work with the amazing, Cat Kabira.
Cat is an amazing woman, filled with warmth, generosity and passion. She has also been teaching yoga for 14 years and has worked with thousands of people over the age of 60. We absolutely fell in love with her!
Before we filmed the actual yoga sequences, we sat down with Cat to film a short introduction to gentle yoga video that you can watch on this page. Our goal was to demystify some of the aspects of yoga and talk about its transformational potential. Even if you decide never to purchase a yoga video or attend a class, I hope that you will take the time to watch this introduction.
Here’s what I learned from Cat’s introduction to gentle yoga for older adults.
Yoga is More than Just Asanas (Body Movements)
If you close your eyes and think about the word “yoga,” what images come into your mind? Perhaps you picture a fit, 20-something year-old, twisted into an impossible position. Maybe you see a woman on the beach, standing in “Warrior One,” the sun setting behind her. In a way, yoga suffers from a perception problem. By being constantly associated with images of youth, beauty and flexibility, it can seem inaccessible to the rest of us.
The truth is that yoga is more a way of living than a way of moving. Learning to connect with your body through asanas is an essential part of the process, but, it is only the beginning. For example, one of the most powerful aspects of yoga is breathing, which brings energy back to the body, while removing tension and stress.
Please do not be intimidated by the images of yoga that you may have in your mind.
Yoga is not a competition. It is about learning to love to your body, one gentle movement at a time.
Yoga is for Everyone, Especially Older Adults
One of the biggest misconceptions about yoga is that it is designed primarily for younger people, who want to increase their flexibility. In reality, no group can benefit more from yoga than older adults.
In the introduction video, Cat talks about one of her students that came to her class with a challenging medical condition. This person was unable to twist or raise her hands above her shoulders, but, after just a few months of practice, she was able to work her way up to a handstand.
Of course, yoga is not a replacement for traditional medicine and you should always talk with your doctor before starting any new exercise program, but, the results that people see are often powerful and surprising.
Gentle yoga is perfect for older adults. It’s easy to get into. It’s a self-paced activity that we can do from the comfort of our own homes. Perhaps most importantly, it addresses many of the specific challenges that we face as we age including sore joints, stress, muscle tension, flexibility and balance.
Yoga Doesn’t Require Any Special Equipment
Another misconception about yoga is that it requires lots of expensive equipment to get started. It’s true that having a yoga mat can make your yoga journey more comfortable – especially if, like me, you have sore knees. But, the truth is that many of the yoga instructors I talked to said that they started without any equipment at all.
In the introduction to gentle yoga video at the end of this article, Cat explains some of the equipment that you might want to consider using. She also provides alternatives to some of the more popular items. For example, books can make an excellent substitution for a yoga block and pillows can replace a bolster.
The bottom line here is that money should never be a reason to avoid starting your yoga journey. Yes, yoga videos, mats, blocks and bolsters help. But, even if you just visit your local library and check out a book on yoga for free, that’s a great start too.
Yoga Can Be a Gateway to a Healthier Life
Perhaps the most important message that I took away from the introduction to gentle yoga for older adults video is that yoga is a gateway to a healthier life. Earlier, we talked about the negative spiral that we enter when our health prevents us from engaging in the world.
The opposite is also true.
As you begin your yoga journey, you will start to feel different in your body and your mind.
As you gain confidence and flexibility, you will be more likely to step out into the world and explore your passions. As you eliminate stress and tension from your body, your relationships with others will improve. As you learn to listen to your body, you will gain an appreciation and respect for the nutrients that it needs and will be more likely to make healthy eating choices.
If I have one wish for our gentle yoga video series, it’s this – I want as many people as possible to get on the path to a healthier life after 60. I want us to break the stereotypes about aging and show the world, and more importantly ourselves, that life after 60 can be filled with vitality, energy and passion.
Have you tried yoga before? What was your experience? What is the one thing that you would most like to get from your yoga practice? What is the one thing preventing you from getting started? Please add your thoughts in the comments below.