Added on October 4, 2018 by Harry_Cline
As we age, it is inevitable that we will be unable to perform certain tasks, at least not as quickly and easily as we used to. Your joints might crack and groan when you get out of bed in the morning and you just can't move around as easily. Aging is to blame, but this is not to say that you can't get back a little of that flexibility and feel good doing it. Yoga isn't just for the young – it's for the young at heart, too.
Yoga does much more than improve your flexibility. For starters, it can boost your mood. Studies show that practicing yoga has a more positive effect on your mood than other types of exercise, most likely due to the mind/body connection. However, from a scientific standpoint, it increases the production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a brain chemical responsible for regulating mood and feelings of anxiety. In other words, GABA is a mood-boosting antidepressant, so the more you have the better you feel.
Yoga has also been shown to improve balance
and mobility in seniors. According to Reuters, which analyzed the results of
six yoga trials, "Overall, yoga was linked to a small improvement in balance
and a medium improvement in mobility – such as walking speed and how easily a
person can get out of a chair." This improved balance and mobility can be linked
to a decreased occurrence of falls. Other benefits
of yoga include improved bone health, better sleep habits
and fewer aches and pains.
Before you give yoga a try, be sure to get the green light from your doctor. Then, start the search for a yoga class. There are likely studios nearby with programs to meet your needs and most will have beginner classes to help you get started. If you'd rather not practice yoga in a group setting, or would just like to be able to exercise from the comfort of home, take advantage of exercise videos and fitness apps that can walk you through a yoga session, in addition to other forms of exercise such as free weights, Pilates, Zumba or meditation. For more ideas on easy ways to exercise from home, click here. You can even set up a space in your home specifically for yoga and meditation. Make sure this room is as relaxing as possible, and keep it away from noisy areas of your home.
For yoga in particular, you might consider taking a class first so that you understand the moves and associated breathing, as well as prevent injury due to a lack of experience and knowledge. A teacher will also be able to show you how to modify poses to meet your abilities, as well as assist you in incorporating helpful props such as blocks, straps, chairs, and walls.
Yoga isn't all about crazy poses and twisting yourself into a human pretzel. In fact, many types of yoga are actually very gentle. Look for gentle yoga classes such as hatha, restorative, or chair yoga. Hatha yoga is done at a slow pace, making it a great class for beginners to enable you to master the moves without feeling pressured to keep up.
Restorative yoga has slow movements with poses held for a longer period of time so that you can connect with your parasympathetic nervous system and enter a state of deep relaxation. Gentle yoga classes are focused on the movement of your body and breathing awareness, and may include meditation and guided imagery.
Once you take your first class, it will be beneficial for you to continue practicing at home to reap the benefits. Aim for two to three times a week, with a day in between to rest and recover. The key to sticking to it is that you are doing it because it makes you feel good, not because you have to. Find the time of day that works best for you, but understand it is okay to skip a day if you are feeling tired or achy. Yoga teaches you to listen to your body, and this includes knowing when to take a step back.
Yoga is an excellent activity for seniors to
try because it's low-impact. Plus, there are plenty of physical and mental
health benefits such as increased balance, flexibility and mood. Pick up a yoga
mat, head to your local yoga studio and get started.