What is yoga?
Yoga is the practice of breath, movement and simple meditation. Yoga has been practiced for many years, but has only recently earned popularity in the western culture. Although yoga can seem intimidating, it is really a simple practice that is available to everyone regardless of mobility or fitness level.
Yoga is a great way for seniors to stay fit and active. Yoga helps with balance, strength and flexibility. Yoga can also help with anxiety and stress which in turn can help with controlling blood pressure and heart rate. Regular exercise has also been shown to improve sleep and improve overall sense of wellbeing.
Reasons to Try Yoga
Yoga improves flexibility and mobility within the joints with can decrease swelling and inflammation. By improving core strength, yoga can help with balance and decrease risk of falls and injuries. Many injuries and falls happen due to loss of balance. A simple fall can lead to a broken hip or pelvis. Evidence shows that in seniors over 60 years ago that have a major fracture after a fall, there is up to a 25% mortality rate within a year.
Gentle stretching before bed can help with relaxation and promote sleep. This stretching can be done in bed, on the floor or even in a chair.
Always check with your medical provider prior to beginning any new exercise program. If you experience any pain or discomfort at anytime, stop immediately. There are many ways to modify poses for different mobility abilities, a certified yoga instructor can help to find modifications that work for your body safely. Chair yoga is a lower impact alternative to traditional yoga when mobility is limited.
Yoga requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. A yoga mat can help with grip and comfort and come in many variations of thickness for comfort and joint support. There are also many other props such as blocks, blankets, bolsters (a long pillow) and straps. You may find that the use of these types of props help your practice, but they are not necessary. Yoga is not just a form of exercise, but a lifestyle and practice that can be done anywhere, such as the car, your bed, a chair or even while waiting in line.
Finding a Class
Check with your local community center for gentle yoga classes. Many yoga studios also offer gentle classes that can be a good starting point for beginners. Many local hospitals also offer community classes. If going to a class seems too intimidating, another option is internet sites with yoga videos that can easily be followed along from home. Once you’ve experimented with some online videos, find a local class and maybe even make some new friends.
An easy way to find online videos is through YOUTUBE, a simple search for “senior yoga” brings up many links including those for chair yoga. There are many full length yoga classes posted on Youtube such as this simple mat class for seniors or beginners https://youtu.be/i6eKyjA8ER4, this link is to a studio in California that posts videos from their senior classes https://youtu.be/k4ST1j9PfrA. PBS featured senior yoga instructor Peggy Cappy, she has many DVDs available that are specifically geared toward seniors with health issues like Arthritis and Diabetes.
Congratulations and making the decision to work on your fitness! Don’t forget to have a little fun. Try playing music while you practice or light a scented candle to help you relax. Get involved in a local class and make some new friends with similar interests. Namaste!
Check out these Videos to get started on your own yoga journey:
First is the talented Peggy Cappy, a PBS Yoga instructor best known for her, Yoga for the Rest of Us DVD series and the founder of Gentle Stretch Yoga for seniors and others who need a gentle or modified approach to yoga. The second video is from the Essentrics™ workout program. They promote a pain-free body, greater joint mobility, a healthy cardiovascular system, maximum range of motion and perfect posture.