Yoga for Seniors:
Is it too late to start Yoga?
Are my parents too old to do Yoga?
Is there any yoga for seniors?
What are the benefits of Yoga for seniors?
Can Yoga reverse ageing?
Can Yoga make you look younger?
Are these thoughts wandering over your mind or your parents and grandparent’s mind?
Well, this article will answer all your doubts and concerns.
Yoga is an exercise, a spiritual and ascetic discipline that is age no bar. Most of the time, it is shown as a young person demonstrating yoga asanas who is lean and already fit. You can only practice it if you are flexible. However, this is entirely not true.
Age just being a number, the seniors or the elderly can practice yoga as well.
Yoga for seniors is not only beneficial to their aged body but also for the peace of mind that they can obtain.
As you age, our bones, joints, muscle, and memory start to deteriorate and weaken. Hence, you tend to ignore most of these signs or do not care about your bodies when you should.
With this ongoing, fast-paced life, most of the baby- boomers have not realized how life has gone by so fast. For most, you are at the stage of retirement and seniorhood, looking for a fixture on your well-being.
Therefore, elderly people search for more self-introspection, personal relationships, and overall physical health. They are not very comfortable with the traditional fitness approaches that lack the above aspects of well-being.
We all know, Yoga fits into this category, as it not only heals you physically but emotionally, mentally and spiritually as well.
Is yoga really the greatest of all fitness regimes. Yes, it is, But why? Because of its adaptable character to a population of all diverse physical abilities. Therefore, yoga for seniors is not only safe physically but emotionally as well.
In most cases, yoga for seniors citizens comes to play only when they reach the stage of retirement. It is at this stage when they have time for activities like yoga and meditation.
Even though the elderly want a more sedentary lifestyle, retirement is the perfect time to build healthy habits. Yoga for the elderly will promote longevity of life.
If the elderly attend yoga classes regularly; they will establish a sense of community and friendship with their yoga instructors and fellow companions. These types of social connections and relationships have proven to be an important aspect of maintaining health and well-being.
There is a wide perception of yoga for seniors that, people who are flexible and have the time can practice or perform yoga.
On the other hand, around the world, more than “70% of seniors above the age of 65 years are turning to yoga to improve their health and cure chronic pains.”
Meanwhile in the USA, “According to a recent survey, 15.8 million U.S. adults (6.9%) are practising yoga and an additional 18.3 million express interest in yoga .”
Over the years, a number of surveys and research state that yoga for seniors brings in a number of benefits such as:
- Increase in the quality of life.
- Reduces stress, depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
- Lowers heart rate and blood pressure.
- It increases flexibility and balance.
Elderly people find yoga more comforting than any other strenuous physical activity that can hamper their physical being.
The Physical Activity for Health Research Centre, University of Edinburgh, UK, used a qualitative approach to understand the perception of yoga for seniors. The conclusion is, “Yoga was viewed as a slow, gentle activity, suitable for older adults. Yoga participants had a positive view of yoga and appreciated its non-competitive aspect.”
The benefits of yoga for seniors are not only physical but mental, emotional and social as well.
Physically, the body reaps with a number of benefits such as increased balance (very important for the elderly as their body becomes weaker), improved muscle tone and mood.
Yoga, however, lowers the risk of cardiovascular diseases, manages arthritis, pain and inflammation and diabetes.
Through breathing exercises, also known as Pranayama, the lung capacity increases. As a result, seniors have an improved posture that helps them to sleep better and fight insomnia.
Yoga helps to calm your mind and keep your stress at bay. It helps the elderly/seniors to be able to concentrate and retain memory. Hence, Yoga helps them to relax their minds and search for inner peace.
As our parents and grandparents age, their brain grows back in reverse. Thus, they tend to behave like little children and need the love and support of their family.
Many feel lonely if they have lost their respective partners. This leads them to the path of depression, anxiety, insomnia, loneliness, and memory loss.
Therefore, Yoga is used as a therapeutic tool to help them improve their mood and behaviour. Yoga brings peace, calmness, and assurance to their everyday lives.
Attending yoga classes in a group can bring about a sense of togetherness and companionship among the elderly.
Hence, Yoga brings about a friendly interaction and social bonding helping them to feel included and supported.
The right kind of yoga to practice depends on the person’s age, the current state of fitness and physical abilities.
Yoga for seniors can be characterized according to the level of exercise that they have been practicing. If you are a first-timer or starting after a long break, then it is advised to start with gentle Hatha yoga.
Similarly, many health clubs, religious organizations and retirement communities offer yoga classes for seniors under the supervision of a trained yoga instructor. These classes will help them perform with precision and have a low risk of injury.
Iyengar yoga lays emphasis on improved postures that are held for a longer period through the use of modified props. This is very ideal for older adults.
Seniors who suffer from mobility issues can still practice yoga with adaptive methods. These yoga poses can be performed with the help or support of a chair.
This kind of yoga is called chair yoga or desktop yoga poses. It is convenient especially for seniors or office-goers to practice these poses as they can be performed while sitting on a chair. Thus, it is perfect for seniors who have back issues and are not able to bend.
Neckroll, chair cow-cat stretch, eagle arms, seated spinal twist, seated forward bend and temple rub are all examples of chair yoga asanas. Seniors can practice these poses anywhere, either sitting at home, in a park or at work.
Chair yoga has enormous benefits for seniors. Such as:
- Relaxes the neck and back muscles, releasing all the built-up stress in the body
- It helps to diminish body pain, overall tension, and fatigue
- It helps to coordinate body movements
- Increases flexibility allowing seniors to be able to bend and reach for their toes
- Increases overall muscle strength
- Improves the balance of the body
Before you start practicing yoga, it is best advised to check with your physician. Especially, if you suffer from chronic conditions such as lower back pain, arthritis, joint replacement, high blood pressure, glaucoma, or any other health concerns.
Also, it is highly recommended to learn yoga under a supervised trained yoga instructor. The expert will teach you poses suitable for your body and the concerns around it.
However, there are few precautions for seniors to keep in mind while practicing yoga.
- Repeat the poses rather than holding any posture for longer durations
- Take adequate rest after each pose
- Try out new poses only when your body is adjusted to your daily yoga routine
- During practice, do not push yourself more than the body allows
- Keep the duration of performing yoga short and simple
- Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
- Balasana (Child Pose)
- Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
- Baddha Konasana (Butterfly Pose)
- Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
- Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
Tadasana known also as the Mountain Pose is the basis of all the yoga asanas. The rest of the yoga poses are variations of the Mountain Pose. This pose can be practised at any time of the day. It is not necessary to perform this pose on an empty stomach unless if you are following it up with other asanas, make sure you practice it in the mornings only on an empty stomach. Hold this pose for about 10 to 30 seconds, but you can reduce the duration as per your convenience as well.
- Improves posture for the elderly who suffer from a hunched back.
- Strengthens weak thighs and ankles, thus, improving the movement of joints and muscles.
- It relieves chronic pains and aches developed over the years.
- It improves digestion and relieves acidity problems.
- Increases blood circulation in the body.
Balasana is also known as the Child Pose as it resembles the position of a child in the mother’s womb.
This pose should be practised in the mornings on an empty stomach or in the evening after a 4- 6-hour gap of having a meal. Hold this pose for about 1 to 3 minutes.
- Releases the tension built up in the body, especially in the back, chest, and shoulders.
- It decreases dizziness and improves alertness of the mind.
- Increases the flexibility of the internal organs and improves bodily functions.
- Aids in building deep and steady breathing.
- It decreases anxiety in seniors.
3. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
Bhujangasana is also known as the Cobra Pose, as it resembles the raised head of a cobra. It is an energizing and stimulating backbend and one of the best yoga poses for seniors. Thus, this pose helps seniors to become swifter and increase the strength of their bodies.
Practice this yoga pose every day in the morning on an empty stomach or in the evenings with a gap of 4 to 6 hours after your last meal. Hold it for a couple of seconds, or till it feels comfortable.
- It decreases the stiffness in the lower back.
- Stretches the muscles in the shoulders, chest, and abdomen to increase flexibility.
- Elevates the mood and brings about emotions of happiness.
- Improves mobility.
- Strengthens the spine to avoid any hunching.
Baddha Konasana or also known as the Butterfly Pose, as it takes the shape of a butterfly flapping its wings. Practice the Butterfly pose in the mornings on an empty stomach with clean bowels. Hold it for about 1 to 5 minutes or suit it according to your convenience.
- It stimulates the bladder and kidneys, keeping excretion issues at bay.
- Improves digestion and bowel movement.
- It decreases depression and relieves fatigue and anxiety.
- Smoothens out the process of menopause in older women.
Trikonasana or particularly known as the Triangle Pose resembles the shape of a triangle when your body undertakes the pose. It is one of the simplest poses to practice. You can also keep your eyes wide open unlike the requirement of the other poses.
Practice the Triangle pose in the mornings on an empty stomach. Hold it for about 30 seconds or more, depending on how much your body allows you to.
- Reduces blood pressure, a common issue among the elderly.
- Decreases extra weight from the waist and thighs, keeping a check on weight loss.
- It improves stability and balance.
- It strengthens and stretches the arms and leg muscles. Thus, helping the elderly to do their chores better on a regular basis.
Adho Mukha Svanasana commonly known as the Downward Facing Dog Pose, that looks similar to the posture of a dog when it bends down, facing forward. It is an easy pose for the seniors to practice especially in the mornings on an empty stomach. Hold this pose for a few seconds or a minute till your body permits you to.
- Therapeutic aid for those suffering from high blood pressure, sciatica, flat feet, and sinusitis.
- Boosts confidence, giving the elderly a boon to be more active.
- Increases the blood flow to the brain.
- Strengthens the muscles of the chest and improves lung disorders like Asthma.
- Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue.
- Improves memory especially to those who are prone to forgetfulness.
- It relieves stress and mild depression.
Shavasana is also known as the Corpse Pose, as it resembles a dead body with zero movements. Corpse Pose is a relaxing asana that is performed at the end of a yoga session.
However, this pose can be challenging because you need to bring your body and mind to a calm state without squirming or being restless. Try to leave your body loose and not clench. Stay in Corpse pose for 10 to 15 minutes or more, but make sure you do not fall asleep.
- Cures insomnia, a common chronic issue among the elderly.
- Improves concentration.
- Releases and reduces stress, fatigue, depression, and tension.
- Stimulates blood circulation in the body.
- It helps to improve the conditions of those suffering from diabetes, weak mental health, and constipation.
Yoga refreshes our mind, body, and spirit. It tones every muscle in our body and uplifts our mood. Therefore, yoga can be performed by seniors who want to improve their health conditions voluntarily.
Seniors lack physical activity due to the weakening of their bodies. Therefore, most of their health issues sprout up from there. They do not tire themselves enough to get a good sleep at night. Thus, they suffer from insomnia that leads to depression and anxiety. This is where yoga comes into play.
Hence, Yoga for seniors is an excellent workout for their body, mind, and spirit.
This is the stage of life where they need that sense of belonging and comfort and not to be left alone and in pain.
I hope this article has helped you understand the importance of yoga for seniors and the benefits they can reap to live a healthy and long life.
I strongly recommend you to encourage your parents and grandparents to introduce yoga in their daily routine.