Stay Safe During Your Next Yoga Class
Whether you are a junior or a senior, there is a yoga practice for you!
Strengthen the body. Quiet the mind. Enrich the spirit. Yoga is truly the ultimate multi-tasking discipline. As more and more baby boomers and older adults discover the benefits of practicing yoga, studios are filling up with devotees who are striving to stay strong and flexible even in the face of Father Time’s many daunting obstacles.
For the 55+ crowd, yoga can be a significant factor in maintaining the muscle tone and balance that prevent life-altering falls. It can also increase range of motion in aging joints. Yoga breathing techniques can steady the nervous system and help combat depression.
As with any fitness pursuit, the object of the exercise is to reap the rewards — not to exacerbate existing issues or wind up with a new injury that puts you on the sidelines. The key is to listen to your body and find the right balance between enthusiasm and ability. Seriously, at this stage of the game, who among us doesn’t know what happens when the former overwhelms the latter?
Yoga is Flexible — Even if You Aren’t
The beauty of yoga is that is it so easily adapted to accommodate a wide spectrum of physical abilities and limitations. Those who are slightly less flexible can enjoy a yoga regimen that is just as enjoyable — and equally, if not more, beneficial. And while you may associate yoga with a younger demographic, the truth is, many people never had the freedom to even think about yoga until they became of a certain age and had more leisure time. In your current reality, it is more than just a form of exercise. Think of it as a tool to promote longevity, enhance quality of life, and create social connections that are so important as we age.
If at First You Feel Overwhelmed, Just Breathe
Although it’s possible to learn from books and videos, the safest way for you to begin a yoga practice is through in-person training with an instructor. In a gentle yoga class, your teacher will observe how your body moves and teach you how to minimize the risk of injury by adapting poses to suit your skill level. It is important to stay within the limits of what feels right for you and not strain yourself.
Hatha, a gentle yoga practice designed to align and calm the body, mind, and spirit is a great place to start. Iyengar yoga with its emphasis on making postures accessible through the use of props is also a good choice for older adults. Viniyoga and Kripalu, both of which make a point of tailoring the practice to fit each individual, can be great options as well. Even if you begin by focusing on breathing and gradually transition into poses, you will find yourself becoming more and more flexible over time.
Those with limited mobility may want to try chair yoga, in which all poses are done with the support of a chair. There is also water yoga, which is especially therapeutic as the body feels weightless and moves more easily under water. If you have arthritis or osteoporosis, yoga can be a positive addition to your routine, providing you work one-on-one with a qualified instructor.
Check Out a Class
Before you begin actively participating, you may want to observe a yoga class to make sure the pace and poses being taught seem compatible with your goals and physical condition. Consider also whether the instructor is a good communicator and creates a non-competitive environment where students are encouraged to challenge themselves without straining.
Be sure to start where you are — not where you think you should be. If a pose causes pain, stop what you’re doing and your instructor will suggest an adaptation.
Five Simple Guidelines for Safe Yoga for Seniors:
Start slowly. It’s a marathon. Not a sprint. Even two 5-minute sessions a day can impact posture and wellbeing.
Be kind to yourself and be patient with your body.
Respect your limits and don’t strain yourself.
Communicate with your instructor so he or she can keep you safe from injury with modified poses when necessary.
Set realistic goals and don’t give up!
Your positive attitude toward yoga can increase your positive outlook on life.