Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years and certainly predates many modern exercises. You may think yoga is limited to the younger set, but don’t let age deny you the simple joys of yoga and the mind-body connection it brings. Further, taking a yoga class is a great way to help you maintain an active social life while strengthening your muscles. This ancient art also helps to improve flexibility, which is essential for older adults.
Before you begin
Yoga is an almost completely adaptable form of exercise, and it offers many benefits for seniors beyond flexibility and socialization. However, as with all exercise plans, you should speak with your doctor before you dive into the downward dog. They may recommend specific precautions if you suffer from any sort of spinal problem or other mobility impairment. Make sure to bring up any issues with your instructors as well. They can help you modify your movements by using a chair or other support.
Make a point to take a few classes as you start your practice, rather than flying solo at first. Many studios or fitness centers offer free classes or initiation packages to first-timers. If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you may also be eligible for free yoga classes through the SilverSneakers program. This program gives seniors access to thousands of gyms countrywide, many of which have yoga classes. Remember, a certified yoga instructor can help evaluate your limitations and offer suggestions on ways to avoid injury. While yoga is considered a low-impact activity, many of the more advanced poses can trigger strained muscles, back pain, and more. And you don’t want to try something alone that could lead to injury.
If you’ve never done yoga before, you should know there are plenty of ways to modify the practice for an aging body. And there are many poses that don’t involve balancing on one foot or contorting beyond your current abilities.
It’s worth nothing that you’re not limited to a fitness center or studio, and if you prefer to exercise outdoors, it should not be that difficult to find a class that’s hosted under the sun or stars. Outdoor yoga even comes with the additional benefits of more open space. Plus, it gives you a change of scenery, which can keep you from getting stuck in a fitness rut.
Yoga at home
After you get the hang of yoga, you may want to bring your practice into your home. You can even incorporate technology and watch yoga videos to improve your practice. And making room doesn’t have to be a chore. Start by gathering the gear you’ll need, which includes comfortable athletic clothing, a yoga mat, a great pair of socks from Gripjoy, and props like a block or strap. If you plan to dedicate a room specifically to your practice, which will give you a safer area to exercise, it’s wise to declutter the space so you have enough room to move freely and comfortably — as well as help to reduce stress and anxiety. Don’t get hung up on getting rid of furniture or other belongings. You may just need a storage unit for the interim.
Yoga does more than work the body. For example, many people don’t realize that yoga and gut health are profoundly connected. A healthy gut is important because, according to various studies, overall health can improve or decline depending on your microbiome. Digestion, mood, and the immune system are just a few areas that a balanced gut can improve. In addition to eating probiotic- and prebiotic-rich foods, yoga can increase the diversity in your gut, which is essential for maintaining happiness and good health.
Yoga can also be an outlet for stress, which can help reduce anxiety. Even more importantly, once you practice for a while, you can train your body to respond to stressors in a positive way without elevating your heart rate or sending you into a sense of panic. Combined with meditation and controlled breathing exercises, yoga is also effective in helping stave off the effects of dementia. One welcome and expected benefit of yoga is that it increases your overall quality of life by improving your physical and mental wellness.
We are not saying that you can’t be healthy if you don’t do yoga. But it certainly can’t hurt as long as you take precautions to prevent injuries. Yoga works your body, clears your mind, and can be a valuable partner in your quest for wellness as you continue to shine throughout your golden senior years.
Author Eleanor Wyatt
Image via Pixabay