Yoga for Seniors. Is it Worth it?

Yoga for Seniors. Is it Worth it?
Updated on June 29, 2019

A rather interesting finding is that of all those who do yoga, a significant 2.9 million are seniors aged 55 and above. If you have been wondering whether it is safe for the elderly to practice yoga, you guess is right. We wouldn’t have such numbers if it wasn’t safe, would we?

Yoga is a safe and appropriate form of exercise for almost all ages. This is because it has such a wide range of moves that it cuts across people with varying needs.

 

Is yoga good for seniors?

Yoga cuts across all ages. It is good for seniors first because it is simplistic in nature needing no complicated skills or equipment and can be done anywhere in a group of peers or as an individual.

However, one needs to understand his/her needs and abilities to know exactly which type of yoga will be of benefit. This is because yoga comes with immense benefits for the body if done right and consistently. In addition, for those doing it in a group setting, it has proved to bring out positivity and mindfulness from the social connections formed in such groups.

 

Yoga for seniors benefits

Overall, yoga enhances body balance and stability while building strength ultimately enhancing one’s flexibility and helping him/her age well. It also improves health conditions like the ones listed below hence allowing one to live a quality life.

 

Yoga for seniors with arthritis

Engaging in gentle yoga for seniors can be helpful to stiff or aching joints. Old age comes with bone challenges like brittleness, loss of density, inflammation, and pain all which point to arthritis. Studies have shown that women who are aged 60 years and above who practiced yoga for 2 years consistently enhanced their bone mineral density. Overall, yoga enhances flexibility, reduces joint pain and builds muscles.

 

Yoga for seniors with back problems

Yoga may just be the solution that seniors with sore backs need. This is because it involves stretching, relaxation, and muscle strengthening exercises which are excellent tension and soreness relievers. If you have very severe backache however, you may need to seek treatment first before resorting to yoga.

A posture like a cat and a cow focuses on stretching and easing tension in the back muscles. This helps correct your back’s alignment while at the same time enhancing its function. Other postures work at strengthening muscles like the pelvic, hip, hamstring, thigh, and abdominal muscles which are connected to the back. This way, the body’s natural posture is improved hence eliminating the strain usually experienced on the lower back.

 

Yoga for seniors with psychological and emotional challenges

Seniors are more prone to anxiety and depression compared to other groups of people. In addition, they are the ones most affected by mental conditions like Parkinson’s, dementia, and Alzheimer’s diseases which worsens the anxiety in them.

Yoga is a mental discipline much as it is a physical one. Specifically, yoga for seniors and beginners is known to be a relaxing exercise when done consistently since it involves much gentler moves. It is characterized by deep breathing and slow smooth body motion which relaxes the body and reduces stress levels.

 

Yoga to reduce high blood pressure

Research has established that people who do yoga consistently at least thrice a week had a lower blood pressure than those who do not. High blood pressure is the cause of a host of conditions including stroke, heart attack, and kidney diseases.

Yoga helps reduce diastolic and systolic blood pressure by at least three counts for both, studies have shown. However, only specific yoga posture moves along with breathing exercises will be suitable for yoga for the elderly people with high blood pressure.

 

Yoga to enhance respiration

Respiratory complications are common in old age. One of yoga’s fundamental disciplines is deep breathing. Deep breathing enhances your lung function so that oxygen can flow properly through the lungs and in the entire body system.

Pranayama is an excellent breathing exercise for those out for better respiratory functioning. This exercise, through deep breathing, opens up the alveoli in the lungs to take in more oxygen to supply to the entire body.

 

Yoga for body balance and stability

The statistics of falls among the elderly are alarming. While it is good for these special group to be monitored closely as they move around and be given maximum support as they go about their daily activities, better balance, stability, and an improved posture put them more in control.

With strengthens muscles and a good balance, seniors can move around safely without the risk of falling and hurting themselves. In case they do, the recovery process will be faster compared to that in seniors who do not do yoga exercises.

 

Four paths of yoga

There are many different styles of yoga but only four paths. Each path is defined by its own distinct characteristics and points to a specific perspective in life.

  • Bhakti yoga. It is known as the yoga for love or yoga for emotions. Bhakti yoga is concerned with transforming one’s emotions to the positive. It is an excellent way to take care of feelings, anxiety, stress, anger, and other emotions.
  • Jnana yoga. Gnana yoga is yoga for the mind. This type of yoga engages the mind and emphasizes knowledge. The kind of knowledge emphasized in Jnana yoga is one of self-realization.
  • Karma Yoga. This is the yoga of action. It refers to selfless deeds done to others.
  • Raja Yoga. Raja yoga is known as the yoga of the mind. It focuses on attaining full control of one’s mind and emotions through meditation. It is, in fact, the path of yoga that saw to the world embracing the practice of yoga for what it is today.

 

What is the best yoga for seniors

The appropriate yoga style for anyone will be determined by several factors. These include, among others:

  • Age
  • Ability
  • Fitness level
  • Your goals for practicing

There are many yoga styles that seniors can practice for better health, recovery, or meet other different goals. While some are gentle, some demand energy and vigor. Here are the popular styles.

 

Gentle yoga styles

Yoga for seniors beginners are typically more forgiving but strengthening to the body muscles. For those that intend to start a yoga practice, especially after an inactive life, these are the styles to consider for starters.

  • Hatha. Hatha, as it was known initially, meant the physical aspect of yoga. Today, it has become the most basic form of yoga for the elderly beginners who are doing it for the very first time. It ushers them into the postures (asanas) and breathing exercises (pranayama) used in yoga. It should also include meditation (Dyana) as the session draws to an end, although you may find classes without the latter. The goal of hatha is to energize both the mind and body. Hatha is also a great yoga for senior golfers since it is gentle, meditative, and still enhances your range of motion and flexibility.
  • Viniyoga. Viniyoga is more of a therapy than a style. It can be gentle or not depending on the needs of the person doing it. Viniyoga will include other yoga styles, together with breathing and meditation elements with an emphasis on adaptation rather than achieving precise postures. Viniyoga cuts across age, condition, and disability since it is customized to meet one’s specific needs.
  • Iyengar. Iyengar yoga is a slow-paced yoga style making it another good option for beginners. It is good for those who love the detail and gives the liberty of using props so as to align right in postures. It is an excellent starting point for those whose goal is to attain the right posture and balance.

 

Meditation yoga

  • Yin yoga. Yin yoga draws from the Taoist culture. It emphasizes on maintaining postures for a long while, sometimes as long as two minutes. It is a popular seated yoga for elderly people. It also focuses on meditation and is therefore very relaxed making it a good yoga for seniors over 80. Yin yoga utilizes postures which release tension and enhances flexibility in the joints including the hips, pelvis, neck, back, shoulders, knees, ankles, and others in the entire body. Yin is, in fact, the perfect yoga for seniors with bad knees.

 

Action-packed yoga

  • Vinyasa. Vinyasa yoga, also known as flow yoga, is characterized by the flow between moves and breaths in a well-coordinated manner. Vinyasa is fast-paced and physically engaging. Therefore if you are looking to power up or looking for a cardio workout program, this is a good option. The sequence of breaths and movements in Vinyasa varies from trainer to trainer.
  • Ashtanga. Ashtanga is almost similar to vinyasa in that it combines poses and breathing exercises in a sequential and flowing manner. It is also first-paced and physically demanding. The difference, however, is that ashtanga utilizes six set sequences of poses linked to breathing exercises in between. Ashtanga can be an excellent work-out yoga for seniors over 70 who are established in it, whose bodies are accustomed to its rigor and minds keen on the sequences. The repetitiveness in ashtanga generates a refreshing flow through the body while keeping the mind focused.

 

Heat yoga

  • Bikram. If the idea of work-out and detox combined tickles you, then this is the yoga style for you. Bikram yoga takes place in a heated room with temperatures at 40.6°C and 26% humidity. It involves a sequence of 26 postures with 2 breath exercises in between. Bikram has immense benefits including detoxification through sweating, relaxation, enhanced lung capacity through breathing, better performance in the lymphatic system, and enhanced circulation. The stretching also helps to build muscles and enhance flexibility. It is however recommended for expectant women.

 

Restorative yoga

Restorative yoga is relaxing in nature. It composes deep breaths and gentle stretches which is helpful in relieving sores after a long day at work. As the body’s tension is released, the mind is also relaxed. Restorative yoga is good for those who need to relax after a rigorous session, those who are recovering from physical injury or emotional trauma, or as yoga poses for seniors who simply need to relax.

 

Chair Yoga for the elderly

Chair yoga incorporates modern yoga exercises including postures, breathing, meditation, and relaxation. However, is done while seated or standing next to a chair for support. Yoga for seniors in a chair is an option for the seniors or the disabled who wish to practice yoga but are unable to due to limitations in their mobility.

Yoga for elderly in chair poses has immense benefits including enhanced flexibility, concentration, and muscle strength as well as reduced soreness on joints. It is also a good exercise for seniors with health conditions like high blood pressure, arthritis, osteoporosis, anxiety, and soreness.

 

Yoga tips for seniors

  • Start slow and move progressively. First, get to know your ability with the help of a professional. Secondly, get an appropriate class and grow from this point. If possible, get a customized workout plan to meet your most specific needs.
  • Consistency is rewarding. Have a 2 or 3 times a week regime for good results. Secondly, it is important to have some days in between for resting. This will allow you to stick to your program without skipping days and ending up being discouraged.
  • Seek recommendation from a healthcare or specialist care provider. Certain health conditions like balance and stability challenges, high blood pressure and others will require that you consult your healthcare provider first.
  • Work with a professional. Yoga has standards and those who need to train yoga need to go through rigorous training, get a certification, and build their experience. Working with an untrained teacher is a gamble on your life.
  • Exercise yoga within your ability. Like other work-outs, engaging beyond your ability may just cause a strain on your joints and worse problems if you have a medical condition or an injury. If you are limited in motion, consider armchair yoga for the elderly instead of staying away from yoga.
  • Moderation is important. You may be all fired up to meet your goals and end up overdoing it. When your body is over and done with, it will certainly send a signal. Exercising when your body is worn out is risky, to say the least.
  • A relaxed end. Restorative yoga is crucial particularly for those who engage in active high-energy poses. Restorative poses will let you relax at the end of your session and literally restore your entire being.
  • You are not too old to start. It is never too late to begin yoga. This is because of yoga cuts across all ages. It is an adaptive form of exercise and does not come with any complicated requirements. It takes your time and body to be part of it plus its benefits cannot be underestimated.
  • Your safety comes first. While yoga is considered a safe work-out, you still need to exercise caution especially if you have health challenges.

 

Conclusion

Yoga has been there for 5,000 years and continues to be embraced by humanity. While it might have evolved, its concept still stands. Today, yoga emphasizes relaxation, an improved flow of energy in the body, and health. This makes it one of the most sought after forms of exercise by people of all ages. The elderly have benefited tremendously from yoga for senior citizens classes and there is no denying that it is here to stay. However, for it to be of benefit to you personally, you need to get it right. Get the right recommendation from your doctor, the right trainer, the right place, the right poses the right attitude, as well as the right goals.

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