Last week, we discussed the benefits of yoga for children; this week, I want to go to the other end of the spectrum: seniors. Aging comes with reduced flexibility, reduced density in the bones and reduced muscular strength. Yoga can help counteract some of these natural processes of aging to improve health and quality of life.
Yoga is very adaptable so it can be perfect for this population. Many yoga poses are gentle and help your body ease into exercise. Also, more difficult poses can be practiced with modifications, such as performing them in a chair, using props or practicing a less intense level of the pose in order to fit your personal fitness and mobility level. In this way, you can also progress with yoga, by working from lower levels and less intense poses to more intermediate and advanced levels, if you choose.
Of course, it will depend on the senior as to the level of yoga he or she can engage in. You see some yogis performing complicated poses in their nineties – these are usually the exception who have been practicing yoga for most or all of their lives. At the other end, you have seniors taking their first yoga class. In this case, chair yoga is often a great way to accommodate a senior class with limited mobility. This modification method is included in many senior centers, nursing homes and assisted or independent living facilities.
Yoga is beneficial for some significant problems associated with aging. Weight-bearing poses can increase bone strength and muscular strength to counteract reduced bone density and reduced muscle from aging. Yoga increases flexibility, which can improve limited mobility and stiffness that many seniors experience. It can also improve confidence and mental health. These areas of improvement can be significant, potentially improving a person’s independence and ability with activities of daily living. Further, yoga has been recognized for benefiting many specific health conditions prevalent in the senior population, including depression, diabetes, heart disease, weight problems, arthritis and more.
There are many types of yoga and not every type would be recommended for a person with limited mobility. Once again, this comes down to your personal body and abilities. Most seniors would benefit more from a gentle Hatha yoga class, a restorative yoga session or another gentle form rather than more intense power yoga or hot yoga classes. Try using props and attending a class specific to seniors. Many yoga instructors have specific knowledge on yoga for seniors, chair yoga and yoga for specific health conditions, so look for these teachers in your area.