While the traditional image of someone who practices yoga may be a young person with long limbs and innate flexibility, yoga can be tailored to any body type and age. In fact, most seniors have the ability to do every yoga pose, from restorative child’s pose to even the most challenging headstand — all it takes is a little practice.
The benefits of yoga are immense; according to Harvard Medicare School, practicing yoga a few times per week increases bone and muscle strength, flexibility, boost endurance, and strengthens heart, lungs, and blood vessels. This can lead to a lower risk for osteoporosis and decreased blood pressure (and subsequently less prescription medications).
And for many, the benefits of yoga expand far beyond the physical. Some of the benefits of yoga for seniors include:
- Better sleep
- Improved sense of well-being
- Reduced stress
- Boosted confidence
No matter your age, yoga can be a great mind and body workout. If you’ve been considering adding yoga into your wellness regime, here are a few tips to consider.
Don’t be nervous
Every person comes to yoga as a beginner. The best thing you can do when you start yoga is to be open minded. It takes time to become flexible and gain confidence in your practice; but the more you try, the easier it becomes.
Most yoga teachers have instructed all types of people, including 20-year-olds who can’t touch their toes and 60-year-olds who can bend over backwards. Try to let go of any insecurities you have, such as not being flexible enough or not knowing anything about yoga, and come to your mat with an open mind and heart.
Find what works
There are a variety of yoga types, depending on your age, fitness level, and ability.
Gentle yoga is a more stretch-based class, which can help make some of the poses more accessible and help quiet your mind. Beginner’s yoga will be a little slower paced and focused on alignment, rather than perfection, but will also be a more guided workout.
There are also many adaptive yoga classes, such as chair yoga and water yoga. These options can provide more therapeutic motions and benefits, and are often more accessible for many seniors trying to get into their practice.
Join a class
There are many benefits of joining a class or yoga studio. Attending a class regularly can provide a helping hand to ensure that your form is correct and avoid injury.
It is also a great way to build out your community and find a support group — which has been proven beneficial for aging seniors. All across the nation, more facilities are offering senior-based classes, including senior centers, retirement communities, and religious organizations. You can find senior yoga classes near you by researching your area or asking friends and family.
Before you try yoga, make sure you speak with your doctor first — especially if you suffer from any chronic conditions that may be inflamed through practice, especially twists and inversions (going upside down).
And if you choose to visit a yoga studio, take a moment to talk with the yoga teacher about your current state (i.e. tight hips, bad knees, etc.) He or she can help give you modifications that will make you feel more comfortable throughout class and avoid possible injury.
Just like any workout, you should take it easy on yourself for a while as you begin your yoga practice. Listen to both your body and yoga professionals to see how far you can, and should, go.