You've probably heard about the benefits of yoga for seniors. But is it right for you? Perhaps you’ve seen clips of advanced practitioners twisted into pretzel-like shapes and decided you’d rather stick to your afternoon walk.
If so, we encourage you to give yoga another look. This ancient Indian practice can be as gentle as a stroll and as relaxing as a hot bath — with no contortions required. All you need is the green light from your physician, some help from an instructor (even simple routines need to be executed correctly) and an open mind.
Here are four of the benefits yoga offers as you age.
- It’s great for all-around wellness
Why choose between a gentle workout and meditation when you can do both at once? By focusing on breath control, or pranayama, yoga reduces your heart rate. Not only does this help calm any anxiety you may be feeling, but — over the longer term — it can lower your blood pressure to prevent or ease hypertension conditions.
There’s more. Basic poses like tadasana (mountain)and vrikshasana (tree) can improve your balance and strengthen your bones, reducing the risk of falls. These weight-bearing exercises have been shown to slow and sometimes even reverse the process of osteoporosis.
- It’s easy on the body
You may or may not have fond memories of your high school coach yelling, “No pain, no gain!” to coax a few more jumping jacks out of you.
Yoga instructors aren’t like that. They want you to find a place of peace and mindfulness, not push you to your limits. If a particular movement hurts, tell your instructor and they will modify the routine. Over time, you will improve your strength and flexibility, but a good yoga session should never leave you feeling drained or exhausted.
- You can do it in a chair
What type of yoga is best for seniors? A popular answer would be chair yoga, which involves safe and fun modifications of traditional poses. When practiced regularly, chair yoga offers all the stress-busting benefits of standing routines and is particularly good at relieving aches and pains in the shoulders and neck.
To try chair yoga, all you need is an armless chair and an instructor to guide you through some simple sequences. Once you’ve mastered a routine, you can practice solo, unlocking one of the less spiritual perks of this 5,000-year-old discipline —you can multitask while watching TV.
- You can weave it into your social life
One of the few welcome side-effects of COVID-19 has been the rapid growth of virtual classes, workshops and seminars. So, if you want to do some yoga but lack the time or mobility to get to a studio or community center, taking an online class could be just the ticket. Not only will you get guidance from a trained instructor in the comfort of your living room, but you’ll also have the chance to meet and mix with like-minded seniors. Just be sure to ask a trusted companion or your caregiver to vet any online classes before signing up.
Seated or standing, online or off, gentle yoga for seniors has countless benefits for your mind and body. Why not take a deep breath and give it a try?