Don’t let the whippersnappers be the only ones doing yoga! Yoga is for everyone, and you are never too old to start a yoga practice. Seniors can find enormous benefit in practicing yoga, including increasing joint movement, lowering blood pressure, and regulating the sleep cycle. Depression also decreases with yoga. There are cautions, however, to the sensitive senior body practicing yoga. Pay attention to these five steps and get started safely with senior yoga today!
1. Don’t over do it!
Despite how it might appear in some environments, yoga is not a competitive sport. Do not expect yourself to keep up with the 30-year-old yoga teacher who has been doing backbends and arm balances for ten years if you are just starting. Be comfortable with who and what you are and go at your own pace. If your body is telling you something hurts, pay attention to it and back off. No one knows better than you how something is making you feel. That said, you might be surprised at how much yoga you can do!
2. Modify and Use Props
If you are confronted with a difficult pose, your teacher should present an appropriate modification to you. Never try to force yourself into a pose if you cannot comfortably get into it. If you need additional help, catch your teacher’s attention and get some instruction on a gentler variation of a pose. Also, if you have hip or knee problems, don’t be shy about using props. Try bolsters or pillows under your knees when you sit in easy pose (cross-legged). If you can’t sit on the ground, pull up a chair! Use straps or blocks to help support you and extend your flexibility.
3. Find a good teacher and the right style of yoga
A good yoga teacher will know the special needs of seniors. They will give you modifications and be sensitive to your needs. Be mindful as well of the type of yoga class you attend. Some forms of yoga, such as Iyengar and Svaroopa, may be gentler on your joints than more rigorous types of yoga like Power and Vinyasa. Kundalini Yoga can be wonderful for seniors, especially if you find a teacher experienced in modifying the poses for your needs. You might even find a teacher who specializes in yoga for seniors or a wonderful Chair Yoga or a Senior’s Yoga class! That said, many senior yogis are very fit and strong, and might find that more advanced classes are more suitable to their level. Pay attention to your body and your needs.
It is very important to stay hydrated when you practice yoga or any other form of physical exertion. Make sure you drink water before and after your practice. Keep water with you near your yoga mat, so that if you feel dizzy you can take a drink.
5. Don’t eat before hand
The old adage to wait a half-hour after you eat before you swim hold true with more than swimming. Eating makes the blood rush to your stomach to digest, meaning that there is less available for your brain and other organs. Practicing yoga on a full tummy can make you sick to your stomach or light-headed. Wait until after your yoga practice to eat, or if you must eat beforehand, make it a very light snack.
You can always talk to your doctor about the appropriateness of you practicing yoga. Some seniors find enormous benefits and very quick gains physically in their practice of yoga, as well as the added social benefits of being in a class with other people. Yoga for seniors is a positive and rewarding experience when done safely and mindfully.