The thought of starting a yoga practice is harder than starting
As we age, we become less mobile and flexible. If you feel a lack of flexibility in your back when you bend over to pick up a piece of paper off the floor. Yoga may be the answer to regain some of that lost mobility, strength and flexibility you are experiencing. Even if you suffer from arthritis, you can begin a practice that studies show improved the symptoms of arthritis like joint flexibility and pain. Balance as we age is important too. You do not want to suffer the damage that can occur from falling. So if your balance is a bit off and you're not as steady on your feet, yoga can address this issue as well.
Yoga Benefits are broad spectrum and across the board. The reason for this is that it is a holistic practice that combines physical poses (asana) with mediation (dyana) and breathing (pranayama) techniques. There are many schools practicing different forms of yoga, a popular form of yoga is Hatha.
Yoga not only improves your physical body, it improves your brain function as well. Brain research shows yoga can help prevent memory loss and delay the onset of cognitive decline and keeps your critical thinking skills sharp. Seniors practicing yoga report emotional improvements in mood, depression and anxiety.
The positive effects on the brain may be related to the stress reduction associated with meditative aspect of yoga. Stress and high cortisol are associated with brain atrophy and shrinkage. Reduced stress makes getting a good night’s sleep easier. Sounder sleep allows the brain to clear out the toxic waste of beta-amyloid via the glymphatic system of our brain. I discussed this process in greater detail in my article “Why You Need A Good Night’s Sleep For Optimum Health”.
Seniors yoga practice improves flexibility, balance and strength.
These critical attributes help keep seniors self-sufficient mobile and active. Yoga is teeming with additional health benefits.
Yoga had shown promising results for lower back pain and neck pain. The American College of Physicians recommends yoga as a first line of treatment for these maladies.
By reducing tension and improving joint flexibility, yoga helps people with arthritis build strength and mobility. The John Hopkins Arthritis Center has studied yoga’s impact for people with arthritis.
Let me preface this information by saying they have produced an introductory video to for people with arthritis who may feel intimidated by thinking that yoga is only for people who are physically fit.
They found that by practicing yoga only 2 to 3 times a week improved the symptoms of arthritis in 8 weeks. They charted improvements in pain, physical fitness and function as well as mood. Source
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) reviewed 17 yoga-based weight reduction programs. The review has shown that yoga leads to a gradual weight loss. Interesting another study broke down the mechanism of yoga related weight loss. It appeared an improvement in mindful eating and mental attitude toward healthy eating is a strong contributing factor. Source
A 2018 evaluation of 13 studies, using more than 1300 women, shown that yoga reduced physical symptoms of menopause like hot flashes.
Starting A Practice
If you’re over 60 and think being over 60 means it’s too late to start a yoga practice, you're wrong. The mental and physical benefits are too good to ignore.
There are many types of yoga. Hatha is one of the more popular yoga’s in the United States.
It can be intimidating to start, thinking that yoga classes are geared toward younger people. I would be lying to say that age isn’t a consideration when beginning a yoga practice because it is. Any injuries or physical limitations you have should be discussed with your teacher beforehand.
If you are starting on your own, with books, videos, or online classes, take into consideration your body’s limitations and the limitations of the methodology you are using to learn. The gold standard is to work and learn from a certified yoga instructor.
Primarily, if you start with a class or private instruction first speak to the teacher. Many teachers will tell you to do only what your body tells you you can do. I agree, and let me add not to push the envelope. Seriously, I speak from experience, just doing what you can do in the class without straining will leave you sore. Trying to keep up with the class when you’re not ready may leave you in pain. I kid thee not.
Depending where you are physically you may have to opt to start with chair and sedentary yoga. If you do start here, no one says you have to stay at this level, as you progress you may elect to join a regular yoga class. You need to ascertain at what level you need to begin, because you know your body.
Yoga Instructor Sources
One source the Yoga Alliance. This website is a national registry of certified yoga instructors. Search this website for an instructor in your area.
You can search local yoga schools. Many gyms like the YMCA have beginning and gentle yoga classes available.
If you find an instructor who is excited to teach you yoga or have you join their class because of your age, chances are you found the right instructor.
Each year there are thousands of yoga related injuries in hospital emergency rooms. While people hurt themselves with sprains, strains and pull muscles, serious injuries are rare. The risk of injury from yoga is lower than with forms of exercise that involve higher impact.
Age Is a Factor
The age group of 65 years old and older have a greater rate of injury than younger age groups. This is why it is important to work with qualified yoga instructors. Don’t start trying to do extreme yoga postures like head stands and such. If you have any underlying health issues like high blood pressure check in with your physician before beginning any physical exercise program including yoga.
Best Time To Start A Yoga Practice
The best time to start a yoga practice was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.