Yoga is ideal for people of all ages, but particularly for seniors for a number of reasons.
The first is that in most cases, yoga is low impact. Hatha, Kundalini and Vinyasa yoga are all good examples of low-impact yoga that can be done safely even by complete beginners.
Increased Strength and Flexibility
A second reason is how much yoga can improve strength, flexibility and stability. This means less risk of slips, trips and falls, which can cause bones to break and even be life-threatening due to complications such as blood clots in the legs and pneumonia from inactivity.
Being more mobile and flexible also means greater independence well into your senior years. After all, it’s not just about how long we live, but the quality of life we enjoy as well. Staying fit and active is one of the best ways to care for your health, especially if you are a caregiver for an older relative or partner, have grandchildren and so on.
A Mental Workout
Yoga is also great for mental fitness. It improves mood, focus and concentration, especially in relation to the types of yoga which include meditation as part of their routines. Two such types are Hatha, the origin of all yogas, and Kundalini yoga. Kundalini yoga was formed in the 5th century AD to work on the energy centers of the body, known as the chakras in traditional Indian medicine (Ayurvedic medicine).
One of the biggest health challenges for the elderly tends to be pain and stiffness, such as that of arthritis. If we feel pain when we work out, we avoid working out. However, the less we move, the stiffer we become and the more pain we suffer. So we work out even less, leading to a vicious cycle of pain, stiffness and lack of exercise that can leave many people house-bound or even chair-bound when they could be out making the most of their golden years.
As with all forms of exercise, it is important to start safely and sensibly through slowly adding activity to your day and not trying to overdo things. For this reason, certain types of yoga such as Bikram and Ashtanga are not a good idea. Bikram, known as hot yoga, is not just physically demanding – it is also known as hot yoga because of the roasting conditions in the studio, with temperatures often reaching 100F or more. This can lead to dehydration and a severe strain for anyone who has heart health issues.
Ashtanga has seven levels, a basic one and six more of gradually increasing difficulty. The fact that few practitioners have ever reached the most advanced levels will give you an idea of how demanding this yoga can be.
Finding the Right Studio for You
If you live in a moderately large urban area, chances are you have more than one studio close by to choose from. Many will offer free introductory lessons so you can try the yoga and see the studio for yourself. Many studios also offer discounted lessons or unlimited classes as part of a reasonably priced monthly membership.
You will naturally wish to focus on the classes themselves and how much health benefit you think you will get from them. Other important considerations in relation to choosing the right studio for you will be the skills, qualifications and experience of the teacher/s. Some specialize in yoga for seniors.
Check out an introductory class near you and see what a difference it can make to your health.