Sunday, 15 May 2016

Yoga for seniors-an introduction

Anyone can do yoga- 'if you can breathe, you can do yoga' (Krishnamacharya) so please do not think that because you are over 60 you cannot practice yoga (I, too am 60).  Even so, it is always best to check with your doctor before undertaking a new programme of exercise especially if you have a medical condition.  Always listen to your body- you should feel a delicious, opening stretch but if you feel strain or pain you need to come out of the pose.  If you strain in a pose, you lose the benefits of that pose and never sacrifice the breath for a pose.  The yoga sutras descibes this as 'finding ease in your efforts' (sthira-sukham asanam Patanjali's yoga sutra 2.46).  

Props are wonderful for helping your body open up gradually without strain.  You need either a yoga strap or a dressing gown tie, a yoga block or thick book, a bolster or rolled up blanket, a wall and a chair.  

Do not be shy of modifying poses either - it means that you will receive all the benefits of that pose in a form that is accessible to you.  

Bearing these points in mind, yoga has many benefits for seniors.  One of the problems as we get older is that years of sitting, walking etc takes its toll on our posture if we do not take steps to stretch the muscles that daily living tightens. Tight muscles may lead to back pain, rounded shoulders and because the chest muscles may become tight, breathing may become difficult.  Also poor posture makes you look older.  Yoga can help by not only teaching us good posture but stretching the tight muscles which have caused postural malalignment.   

As we get older our balance is not as good which may lead to slips and falls.  This is especially a concern if the bones have become brittle through osteoporosis.  Yoga can help improve balance and improve bone strength.  

Other benefits of yoga for seniors are:-
  • Yoga helps combat fatigue, enabling you to live life to the full
  • Yoga helps you cope with chronic pain
  • Yoga keeps your heart and circulation healthy
  • Yoga boosts immunity which can lessen as we age
  • Yoga helps with chronic back pain 
  • Yoga helps keep your joints flexible
  • Yoga and meditation help keep your brain healthy, reducing the risk of dementia.
Over the coming weeks we will be looking more closely at each of these benefits and practicing yoga poses that support them.

Next week we look at how yoga can improve posture for seniors.

Janet x

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