People not very familiar with yoga and curious about this deep and vast arena of overall well being, have a wide range of questions on the topic and as a yoga teacher, I am happy to answer these questions, debunk myths and clear misconceptions.
However, one thing that always irks me is how people think that the elderly have no use for Online Yoga Classes. I am 61 years old myself and yoga is as relevant and beneficial for me today as it was 25 years ago.
Last week I was part of a group conversation where the discussion led to yoga for our senior citizens and someone expressed grave doubts about yoga being safe for the elderly. Let me throw some light on this subject.
Introduction to Yoga for Seniors
As per the Vedic texts, our body is a sacred temple for our soul and as we age, the body begins to wear out and can get afflicted with ailments and disorders. Yoga can have a huge positive impact on the physiological, psychological and mental levels of humans with its posture practice, wherein we stretch, twist, turn, bend, invert and keep the muscles, fascia, internal organs, and nervous connections well conditioned and as youthful as possible. In addition the very valuable breathing techniques keep our lungs flushed and healthy, our respiratory and immune systems chugging along strongly. And meditation addresses the health of our mental make up.
All these practices and their benefits are for the young and old alike. In fact an interesting observation I would like to share is that, over the years in my classes, I have often observed that whenever parents came to class with their grown up kids, it was the parents in their late forties and fifties who were way better at posture performance than their children. The reason is that the parents were regular with their practice. A love and sincerity towards this deep art and science that is yoga, comes with maturity and time.
Yoga has a wide array of health benefits, including improved flexibility, balance, strength, and mental clarity, which is the basis of aging gracefully and in maintaining an active and independent lifestyle till one’s last breath.
How Yoga Can Help.
- For one, aging is invariably and implicitly proportional to a reduction in flexibility and mobility. Yoga asanas involve stretching which can help to counteract these age-related limitations, enhance joint mobility and flexibility. This ensures that seniors retain or regain their range of motion, and prevent or alleviate stiffness effectively.
- For the elderly, falls are a significant concern that can lead to serious injuries. Yoga balancing asanas such as Vrikshasana, the tree pose; Virabhadrasana, the warrior pose and standing leg lifts can help to improve stability and coordination over time with consistent practice.
- Maintaining muscle strength is crucial as we age to support everyday activities and prevent muscle atrophy. Yoga’s isometric poses, like plank and chair poses, engage various muscle groups, helping seniors build and maintain strength.
- So many seniors suffer from Osteoporosis or bone loss. For strengthening our skeletal structure, weight bearing yoga poses like the Downward Dog are like a medicinal cure.
- Seniors often face unique stressors, such as health concerns and lifestyle changes. Yoga’s focus on mindfulness, silence, connection with our deeper inner self and relaxation can be particularly beneficial for managing stress and promoting mental well-being.
Adaptations For Seniors
For seniors who are not able to do conventional yoga asanas, all postures can be modified using props such as yoga belts, yoga chairs, blocks, bolsters, blankets, cushions and inversion swings.
- For seniors with mobility or balance issues, chair yoga or seated poses offer a safe and effective alternative to experience the benefits of yoga without the need to get down on the floor.
- Gentle yoga styles such as Hatha or Yin Yoga can focus on slow, controlled movements and longer holds in postures, hence reducing the risk of injury and allowing seniors to explore their range of motion comfortably.
- Encouraging seniors to focus on their breath, sensations, and the present moment can enhance the mind-body connection without having to attempt complex poses.