As well as all the wonderful things that come with age, getting older can bring many new challenges and obstacles such as struggling to keep weight off, anxiety, dementia, struggling to sleep and joint pain or osteoarthritis. Yoga is very safe for older people and very effective in maintaining mental and physical health. It is a gentle, low impact alternative to running or cycling which can cause injuries due to pressure on the body.
Yoga offers many health benefits to the older generation, both physically and mentally such as improved mood, better balance, increased muscle tone, prevention and slowing down of bone density loss and strength and improved lung capacity. In fact, more older people are starting yoga when they retire and have more time to do what they need to, to keep themselves healthy. It’s also good for your well-being too as you get to meet and talk to people.
Let’s look at a few of the problems that you might have and see why yoga could help you:
Would you like better balance and stability?
Balance and stability are very important, especially as you get older. Unfortunately, falls can be a worry for older people, and can take longer to recover from. Strengthening your muscles and improving your balance can help to prevent the chance of falling as well as helping you to recover more quickly if you do. Yoga helps to improve your balance and build strength through a progression of various movements and poses. Good poses to help with this are ragdoll, extended mountain pose and tree pose.
Would you like better flexibility?
Gentle stretching of the muscles and joints in yoga can help to improve flexibility and range of motion by loosening tight muscles and strengthening supporting muscles, making day to day tasks easier, and keeping you independent for longer. Importantly, it also helps with the flexibility of your spine, reducing pain and stiffness in your neck and back, keeping you feeling younger and healthier for longer. Try downward facing dog, seated forward bend and cat-cow pose.
Would you like more energy and to be less tired?
Gentle poses such as standing backbend, which encourage the chest to open, help to loosen blocked energy in the spine. Poses which stimulate the blood flow, such as downward facing dog, can help to relieve symptoms of tiredness and boost feelings of strength and stamina. Other poses that can help with tiredness include upward facing dog, standing forward fold and standing side stretch.
Would you like to be less forgetful?
Do you find that you’re becoming more forgetful? This is especially common during the menopause. Many women say it’s like a ‘fuzzy feeling’ where they suddenly forget what they were saying or doing. Yoga is great for clearing the mind and blowing the cobwebs away. The downward facing dog sends blood to the brain, which, with deep focused breathing, can improve mental alertness. Other poses to try are mountain pose, lotus pose and eagle pose.
Would you like to feel less anxious?
Yoga classes are calm and relaxing for your mind and body, so are excellent for clearing your mind of everyday stresses. This is done through concentrating on your breathing, slow movements and meditation. Older people who practise yoga regularly have better quality of sleep, sleep for longer and feel better throughout the day. Poses that can help with anxiety include legs up the wall, child’s pose and corpse pose.
Would you like to lose weight?
Yoga burns fewer calories than other types of exercise such as running, cycling, and swimming but it makes you more aware of your mind and body so that you think more about what you are eating. The more intense types of yoga burn the most calories and improve muscle tone and metabolism. Poses to try are the plank, warrior 2 and downward facing dog, all excellent for toning and tightening your core, quads, arms, back and thighs.
Would you like to be more mindful?
You will become aware and respectful of your ‘self’ while practising yoga as you are focusing on your breathing and listening to your body. You will become more mindful of your thoughts and emotions and be more aware of what is happening around you. You can slow down, take a breath, relax and be more conscious of your thoughts. Try hero’s pose, child’s pose and seated meditation.
Do you need to lower your blood pressure?
High blood pressure is very common as people get older, and can lead to heart disease, therefore, it’s very important to try to reduce the risk of this happening. Yoga has been shown to help to lower blood pressure due to the calming relaxation which helps to reduce stress. Try hero pose, bound angle pose and supported child’s pose.
Would you like help with menopausal symptoms?
Menopause can bring many different symptoms such as hot flushes, chills, night sweats, mood swings, weight gain and difficulty in sleeping to name but a few. Yoga is excellent for helping to relieve these symptoms. Try poses such as the bridge, plow and seated forward bend to help alleviate symptoms.
Do you suffer with arthritis?
Arthritis can cause pain in the joints and make you feel stiff, limiting your range of movement. Regular yoga sessions can help to reduce joint pain and improve flexibility. Try cat-cow pose, tree pose and the bridge.
At W Fitness we offer a Fitness Yoga class which can be taken at your own pace, following along with our qualified Instructor. All the movements can be adapted to your level, but you will soon find you’ve improved your mobility, flexibility, strength and balance.
There are many yoga classes for older people, and these are becoming increasingly popular. Make sure that you attend a class (rather than following a video at home) so that you learn the moves properly, If you have limited mobility you can try chair yoga or water yoga so don’t think that yoga isn’t for you.
Arrive early and let your instructor know about any injuries or health problems you have. Only move into postures as far as you can, never try to force a move and ask for help if you need it.
So, if you think you’re too old for yoga, think again!
In the words of George Bernard Shaw ‘We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing’.
Please check with your doctor before starting yoga especially if you have any chronic conditions or if you haven’t exercised before. If you have any spinal problems, you will need to avoid certain poses such as twisting.