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You’ve seen the social media postings, the magazine covers, and yoga videos; they all seem to feature young, fit individuals twisting themselves into acrobatic knots. Viewing these can be intimidating to just about anyone, especially if you’re a beginner or starting yoga a little later in life.
But, in reality, yoga is a practice that is open to everyone. There is something for everyone to help improve your flexibility and reduce stress! It doesn’t matter at what age you start, it has many benefits and you can definitely find something that that will work for you.
How to Start Yoga as a Senior
If you were a person that was athletic in your younger years or was involved in activities like dance or martial arts, yoga may be familiar to you. And if you have continued to stay active as you’ve gotten older, it will be a welcomed experience for you. You may not be as strong or as flexible when you were in your 20’s or 30’s, but a yoga practice can help you retain your physicality.
How to Find the Right Yoga Class
To find the right class, you may have to do some shopping around; try a selection of classes and instructors. Find certified teachers that give very good instructions while teaching, understand anatomy that can give you informed modifications and variations of poses to suit your fitness level, and useprops. If you are just beginning, a class dedicated to “Senior Yoga” or “Yoga for Seniors” is likely to be your best option since it will be specifically tailored to you. If you have a community or a senior center in your town, they will likely offer a course.
Yoga Props for Seniors
Props like straps, blocks, or bolsters can be of great assistance while practicing yoga. They can help with range of motion, flexibility, and support of the body in many poses. Further, search for classes that focus on alignment, careful movement of the body, and use less poses in the sequencing. If you’re new to yoga or haven’t exercised in a while, then less challenging classes may be more appealing before graduating to something more adventurous.
If, however, you weren’t very athletic as a younger person, have experienced some health and weight issues as you’ve gotten older, and you’re not very active, is yoga still a good activity for you? Yes, in fact, it is probably one of the best exercises, aside from walking, that will benefit your body and mind.
As mentioned, good studios are stocked with props that can assist any yogi. Yoga straps are used as extensions of your arms or legs to help you with some stretch movements.
Yoga blocks can do the same thing. For example, when folding forward, and you can’t touch your toes, use a couple of stacked blocks. They will act as a raised floor to help you stretch your hamstrings, and to also support your posture as you fold forward. Soft items like blankets and bolsters are also great tools of support. Instead of sitting on a hard floor, you can sit or lie down on a folded blanket.
Many functional and beneficial yoga postures can be performed near a wall with bars and straps. You can practice balancing poses, deep knee bends, overhead extensions, and more poses that are all safe and effective movements to assist you with proper placement of your feet and hips if you need a little more assistance.
Chair Yoga – Great for Seniors
Chair yoga is a very popular type for seniors. A folding chair makes for a great prop for added support. Downward Facing Dog, a pose typically done on the ground, may not be accessible to someone who cannot place their hands on the floor. Instead, you can place your hands on the seat of a chair and perform a similar posture as a traditional Downward Facing Dog. In this modified variation, you can still experience a lengthening in your spine, a good stretch along your hamstrings, and arm extensions without needing to fold too deeply.
Some other practices that are growing in popularity among many new and experienced yogis are Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga. Both do not involve a whole lot of physical movement, yet they offer healing, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Both of these practices allow the student to be in a reclining position with the support of props.
Yin Yoga for Seniors
Yin Yoga is a particular style of yoga that focuses on disengaging your muscles. The intention is to experience myofacial and connective tissue release. The ligaments and fascia (the “webbing” within the body that holds you together) are allowed to release. This is especially useful if you had a recent injury or surgery where scar tissue forms around the injured area and it limits your mobility.
Practicing Yin Yoga can be a part of your healing and recover effort. The instructor guides you into postures in which you hold for up to 12 minutes. This allows for the muscular system to completely relax so that the healing can take place. The result is a more mobile and flexible body. Yin Yoga is practiced by yogis of all ages.
Restorative Yoga for Seniors
The main focus of restorative yoga is purely relaxation. Again, props like blankets and bolsters are used to create a very supportive “nest” so you can fully relax the mind and body. You will be guided into several poses throughout the class, but all are accessible to any level of yogi. When you leave a restorative yoga class, you will feel rested and rejuvenated.
Yoga isn’t only about moving the body or putting yourself into awkward postures. It is a wonderful practice if you want to relax or reduce stress and anxiety. Meditation is another type of gentle yoga practice that’s accessible to anyone.
The main idea in a meditation practice is to focus on your breath. Sitting comfortably in a quiet room paying attention to the steady flow of your breath can ease your mind. Not only that, deep breathing exercises help regulate blood flow, heart rate, pulse, and oxygenation. If you have heart or blood pressure conditions, a mindful meditation is an essential complimentary treatment.
There are two other styles of yoga that are recommended to any yogi who wants to have less stress in their lives: Pranayama and Mindful Meditation.
Pranayama – Yoga Breathing for Seniors
Pranayama refers to a yoga breathing practice. This is essential in any yoga practice such as Power, Chair, or Yin Yoga. All yoga has a focus on the breath and Pranayama is the specific practice. Prana means “life force” which is represented in your breathing.
There are many breathing exercises that can be practiced which can help you in many ways. Breath allows for fresh blood and oxygen to flow more efficiently throughout your body. Intentional breathing brings focus and greater awareness to the present moment; this helps you ease your mind when it’s heavy with so much thought.
A simple Pranayama practice can be done right in your own home. Sit upright in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and pay attention to your breathing. You can inhale slowly through your nose, then exhale through your mouth. The task is to stay fully aware of your breathing – nothing else. Do this for several minutes and notice how you feel afterward. You may experience a decrease in tension in your mind and body.
Mindful Meditation for Seniors
Mindful Meditation takes into account your Pranayama practice. When you sit to meditate, you focus on your breath. This can be the primary focus, or you may pay attention to something else. It could be a candle flame, an instrumental musical selection, a flower in the garden, or thoughts that pass through your mind. The idea is to reduce the distractions within you and around you. Many of us, whatever our age, want to reduce the number of stressful things in our lives. Breathing and meditation can be some simple ways to achieve that goal.
Whatever your physical condition or age, yoga is a gentle practice that can be started at any time in your life and you will never outgrow the practice. Think of yoga as a philosophy, a way of life. When you live by that philosophy it only enhances your life. So consider adding it to your fitness routine as it can be a gentle form of exercise that will help you feel your very best.