Yoga's Fantastic Benefits for Older Adults
Let's Kill the Biggest Myth
Am I too old? Never. Yoga is age-friendly. Anyone, from babies to grandmothers do it. That being said, any medical conditions and physical limitations must be taken into account. If they're serious, a quick chat with one's primary physician and yoga teacher is a responsible move. Overall, yoga is very flexible to most limitations, even those normally associated with advanced age. The asanas, or poses, can be adjusted to suit anyone who's very stiff or lacks endurance.
Exciting Reasons to Start
These days, old age is relative. Most people will agree that it happens when the body starts to slow down with creaks and stiffness. Around our mid-twenties, nearly everyone shows signs of aging; grey hair, wrinkles and the natural energy kids experience isn't there anymore. Here are enticing reasons to learn yoga, no matter if you're forty, sixty or ninety.
1. A Better Social Life
This benefit is only for those who want more friends and activities outside of the home. A sad fact is that way too many older adults are left behind or alone when the kids grow up and move away. Life partners leave or pass away and it's easy to become isolated. Yoga classes are very social, packed with like-minded individuals and already, many seniors are students. Very often, new friendships and social opportunities form when people meet for an activity, like yoga, on a regular basis.
Not everybody wants to do yoga in a public setting. Maybe you don't have the finances, access to a class or feel ashamed about not being physically “up to scratch.” Yoga can be practiced at home. Just always remember, this ancient art is about the person and not who's the best of the pack. There's no such thing as competitive yoga.
New Friends, New Opportunities
2. Improved Body Functions
Yoga is a great way to slow and in some cases, reverse the effects of aging. Of course, it cannot stop this natural process entirely, but yoga can make sure that the body functions well. Few will disagree that there's nothing like chronic physical suffering. Life and old age can get complicated enough but to add aches, pains and disease worsen the quality of one's days.
Yoga can bring improvement in the following ways:
- Better sleep and appetite
- Recovery of bone mass and muscle tissue (and physical strength)
- Optimal digestive system
- Hormonal balance
- Better blood circulation
- A healthier immune system
- Better functioning of internal organs
- Correct body posture, which prevents back and joint problems
- Greater mobility and endurance
3. A Sharper Mind
The number one fear most people associate with growing older is mental disease and memory loss. The good news is that the majority of declines happen because people no longer make the effort to keep themselves sharp. In a complex modern world, one often neglects to nourish the mind. Hardly surprising, since most people's attention is geared towards keeping the zillion strings of daily life together.
Yoga not only irons out physical creases, but also improves concentration, memory, and clear thinking. Poses require concentration and advancing in yoga requires learning. Meditation also plays a major role in boosting brain power. Requiring concise mental presence and focus, meditation techniques gradually brings tranquility and improved mental functioning.
Yoga provides endurance in two ways, mentally and physically. Together, a resilience is born that makes coping with life easier. Older adults, from parents to grandparents, have more complex problems than young children. Finances, health and a swarm of other things cause stress on a daily basis. We all know friends and family, or a colleague who are stress wrecks. Their bodies are ruined through coping strategies like drinking, smoking, using drugs or stimulants and their minds are fearful, angry and tired.
A lot of life's most demanding responsibilities cannot be avoided, nor the inevitable crisis or bereavement. A regular yoga practice can help anyone weather the difficult times and come out the other side in good shape. Literally and figuratively. Even when the body is compromised by illness or an accident, meditation can provide the daily emotional refreshment one needs to reach better days. Yoga often also fosters the resilience to live with a chronic condition.
- For beginners or those with stiff joints, classic meditation poses like the Lotus pose, is not a necessity. One can meditate sitting at the table, resting in bed or even waiting for somebody in the car
- It can be very boring at first. Start with one minute and eventually add more time
- Meditation is about awareness—thoughts, physical sensations, what you hear and feel; then letting go of them as soon as they've been acknowledged
- Don't judge your meditation sessions as good as bad—acknowledge if one turned out terrible and frustrating and then let it go
- Some people keep a journal to record what they learn, how long sessions last and personal footnotes following their progress, especially when they meditate on a certain problem in their lives
Yoga Can Treat Your Biggest Concern First
A good yoga routine treats a specific problem or goal. Want to be more flexible? Have better balance? Then, a series of exercises, focusing on your biggest concern, needs to be practiced a few times a week. For example, many elderly people have a problem with falling. Yoga is an excellent way to achieve fantastic balance and avoid future fractures and hospital time. To regain one's strength and balance, standing poses are a good choice. Many have variations that increase in difficulty, making the practitioner stronger in achievable stages.
At the end of the day, you needn't be a yoga master or learn a hundred random postures to experience relief from what ails you. Identify what you want to 'fix' and talk to your yoga instructor to help you draw up a routine. You can also do your own research. Always remember to learn more about each posture's contraindications, or warnings. There are many asanas best not performed by individuals who have slipped discs, high blood pressure, hernias or tunnel carpal syndrome.
A Healthy and Active Life
Saving the Best Benefit for Last
The best thing about this ancient art is that yoga peels away bias and prejudice against those who are older. Your life is never over because of your age, despite what younger generations and the media have to say. Yoga is progressive. Small victories on the exercise mat flips a switch in the mind, changing how a person views his or her limitations. By gradually achieving postures they never dreamed possible, most students experience the desire to explore more borders in their lives—old goals are suddenly back on the table, things that truly matter are more clear, and self-love starts to heal. Yoga teaches that you are not your limits, age included.
© 2018 Jana Louise Smit