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How to Get Started with Gentle Yoga

By Sixty and Me August 23, 2013 Health and Fitness

Don’t let the ads for yoga products fool you. Contrary to the Madison Avenue version, the reality is that most yoga classes contain people of a wide range of ages and body types.

You do not have to be a 20-year old model able to twist yourself into a pretzel shape to join a yoga class. The trick is to find the type of class that suits you.

Yoga experts agree that a live yoga class is preferable to a videotape. For beginners especially, it is important to be able to see and interact with a yoga teacher. No matter how famous and acclaimed the teacher on a video may be, she or he cannot look at you and offer corrections to assure you get the most benefit out of each pose.

If possible, take at least 4 weeks of introductory classes with a live instructor. After you learn the basics, you can use a gentle yoga DVD if you find it easier to practice on your own at home.

Age Is Not the Sole Determinant of What Type of Class You Should Take

Most yoga teachers can tell you they have taught 30-year olds too inflexible to touch their toes as well as 70-year olds who can clasp their hands together behind their back. Body size also is not a reliable predictor of limberness. Some people with slim bodies have very tight muscles while some individuals who shop in the “plus size” section can easily touch their nose to their knee.

Assess Yourself Realistically

Can you easily get down on to the floor and then back to standing position without needing a nearby chair or helping hand to pull you up? If not, then it is probably best for you to start with a chair yoga class. If your answer to the question is yes, then look for an introductory yoga class.

Traditional yoga classes involve practicing on a mat on the floor. Before going to one of these classes, inquire to find out if they have mats available for students or if you should purchase your own.

Start Slowly and Understand Your Limits

If you have not exercised in a while, ask about the pace of the mat yoga beginner class you are considering. Try to find one which emphasizes slow, gentle movements if you prefer to ease into yoga.  Alternately, if you are an athletic person who enjoys physical challenge, you can use the beginner classes to prepare you for vinyasa or flow yoga classes which offer more vigor and intensity.

Find the Right Instructor

Whether taking a gentle yoga on the mat or chair yoga class, always look for a certified instructor. You might want to contact the teacher by phone or e-mail before registering for class. Ask if she or he has experience teaching older students and/or students with health concerns. A good yoga teacher will know how to adapt different yoga stretches and poses to accommodate students’ individual needs.

Wear the Right Clothing

When you attend your first yoga class, wear clothing which permits you to stretch and move with ease. However try not to wear anything too baggy. Your yoga teacher will want to see your body in order to know if you are receiving the maximum benefit from each pose. Traditionally, mat yoga is practiced in bare feet. Most chair yoga instructors will ask that you remove your shoes, but permit you to wear socks during class.

Put Yourself in the Right Mindset

To get the most benefit out of your yoga practice, try to let go of any insecurities or self-defeating thoughts. If you worry that you are too old, too heavy or too inflexible to do yoga, you are depriving yourself of the full benefits of yoga. Many times people in their 20s and 30s have not yet developed the attentiveness to their own bodies to perceive the health improvements yoga fosters.

As a senior, you are likely to realize and appreciate the positive changes each class creates in you both physically and mentally.

Seniors and yoga are a natural fit.

Not only are there plenty of yoga students over 60, there are many people teaching yoga who are over 80.

What’s your take on this? Have you ever tried a yoga class? What was your experience? Please add your thoughts in the comments section below and remember to check out our gentle yoga video series that we filmed in beautiful Bali specifically for you!

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The Author

Sixty and Me is a community of over 500,000 women over 60 founded by Margaret Manning. Our editorial team publishes articles on lifestyle topics including fashion, dating, retirement and money.

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