No matter your age, there is a yoga practice for you! Beginning a yoga practice can be intimidating for anyone, but it can be especially tricky for those with mature bodies. However, with the benefits that yoga for seniors provides, make it worth practicing.
Practicing yoga does a lot for the body as you age, not to mention what it does for the mind. As a yoga teacher, I have noticed that some of my most dedicated students are over the age of 50. These same students tend to be the ones that tell me what a difference they feel in their bodies after just a few weeks of regular practice. It’s easy to feel the difference!
Yoga helps to keep you looking and feeling young. By reducing stress, yoga for seniors prevents and minimizes the appearance of wrinkles. Deep breathing practiced in yoga improves circulation leading to healthy, glowing skin. Facial toning exercises, such as Lion pose (Simhasana) help the skin retain elasticity
Yoga has been known to alleviate pain for a wide range of conditions and injuries. By stretching and strengthening the body, a regular asana practice can help with joint and muscle pain.
Practicing yoga can help improve brain function by increasing blood flow to the brain, as well as by reducing stress and calming the mind. Postures such as Eagle pose (Garudasana), create balance between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. This is called hemispheric synchronization, or hemi-sync.
When the nervous system is in “Fight or Flight” mode (sympathetic nervous system), the body focuses on pumping blood into the extremities in order to survive the perceived threat. It takes time for the nervous system to adjust back into “rest, digest, and heal” mode (parasympathetic nervous system).
By helping to reduce stress and teaching breathing techniques, yoga for seniors helps keep the nervous system in “rest, digest, and heal” so that the body can maintain homeostasis and stay healthy. Yoga postures that focus on twisting or stimulating digestion can also help boost immunity. Poses such as Cobra pose (Bhujangasana), stimulate the thymus—which is responsible for generating T-cells, an important type of white blood cell that helps your body fight off sickness.
The physical practice of asana helps to strengthen, tone, and stretch the body. This aids the body in weight loss and building muscle. Yoga’s digestive benefits also help to maintain a healthy weight.
Falling is the single greatest cause of injury in the elderly population. Falls can cause a myriad of health problems. As you age, balance can become more of a challenge. This is largely due to muscle loss, illness, and often caused by certain medications. A regular yoga practice can help to build muscle and improve balance. Props, such as a chair or the wall, can be used to help with balance as you get stronger.
There have been numerous studies done on the effects of poor sleep on the brain. These studies suggest that poor sleep can lead to impaired cognition as you age. Insomnia can also cause other health problems such as heart problems, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and weight gain. Luckily, yoga for seniors can help! Studies show that a regular yoga practice, even just twice a week, can improve sleep.
Downward-Facing Dog helps to stretch and strengthen the body, the shoulders, wrists hands, and ankles. It helps to open up the shoulders and the backs of the legs. It is also a gentle inversion.
Sanskrit: Adho Mukha Svanasana
Things to look out for: If you have arthritis in the wrists or hands, use a chair to modify by standing facing a sturdy chair and placing your hands on the back of the chair, or on the seat of the chair for more sensation. If you have a history of heart disease, it is recommended that you keep your hands on the back of the chair (top).
Cobra pose helps to alleviate low back pain, stretches the shoulders, chest and abdominals, and elevates mood. Stimulates the thymus, helping boost immunity.
Things to look out for: Use caution or avoid this pose if you have any recent wrist injuries or carpal tunnel, avoid this pose if you have had recent abdominal surgery or back surgery.
Eagle pose is great to practice balance - though it is recommended to do so next to a wall for balance or one on one with a yoga teacher. Eagle pose is great for opening all major joints, it also strengthens the legs, core, and arms, and stretches the shoulders and hips. Eagle pose helps with mental acuity by syncing up the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
Things to look out for: Students with knee injuries should use caution and avoid the full expression of the pose with the toes wrapped behind the calf. Instead practice with the foot on a block or toes on the mat. When first learning this pose, for safety, practice near a wall. Another option for students that have difficulty balancing but still want the other benefits of the pose is to practice this pose seated in a chair.
Lion pose stimulates blood flow to the face, which gives you a healthy glow and prevents wrinkles. It also helps to tone the facial muscles, stimulates the eyes, and helps with speech impediments. This pose also stimulates the platysma, helping to keep it firm as you age which prevents wrinkles in the corners of the mouth and neck.
Warrior II pose (Virabhadrasana II), strengthens the legs, opens the hips, strengthens and tones the arms, and opens up the chest for better breathing. This pose helps to build balance as well and is an energizing pose that helps to build stamina.
Sanskrit: Virabhadraasna II
Things to look out for: If balance is a challenge, this pose can be practice standing behind a chair. One hand can stay on the chair for support. For neck injuries, rather than turning the head to look over the fingers, keep the chin squared over the sternum gazing in the same direction as the torso is facing. Use caution if you have high blood pressure.
Legs Up the Wall pose has many benefits, including helping with anti-aging. This pose helps with anxiety, sleep, can help with depression, blood pressure irregularities, headaches, back pain, hip pain, and much more.
Sanskrit: Viparita Karani
Things to look out for: Avoid this pose if you suffer from glaucoma or another serious eye condition. For back injuries, use caution and preferably practice the pose with an experienced yoga teacher.