Yoga is an excellent way for seniors to boost their health and quality of life. Find out the benefits and follow these tips to try downward dog — whether you’re 60 or 90.
By Kerrie Trahan
Photos courtesy Yoganic Flow
Senior yoga is a restorative yoga class designed especially for people over 60 to keep their minds and bodies strong.
Decline in memory, balance and energy can all come with aging. To aid seniors in countering these challenges, yoga classes can teach seniors to bend, breathe and relax with pranayama (deep breathing exercises) and asanas (yoga postures). A class can provide seniors with a low-impact cardiovascular workout without putting too much strain on the heart or joints.
It’s important for older adults to stay active and incorporate strength training classes like yoga. The weight bearing postures, like side planks as practiced in yoga, build strength while reducing seniors’ risk of osteoporosis and of falling.
Some benefits for seniors include:
- Improve balance and stability
- Improve flexibility and joint health
- Improve lung capacity and respiration
- Increases muscle tone and bone density
- Regular practice can reduce high blood pressure
Attending senior yoga is not only a good way for seniors to manage some health conditions but also to cultivate accountability partners and even friendships. Senior yoga classes are a great place for seniors to meet like-minded neighbors. Classes can support seniors in managing the emotional and physical aspects of retirement. This senior social opportunity seems to motivate our senior students to come to class and actively pursue their wellness.
Tips for Seniors Who Want to Try Yoga:
1. No flexibility, no problem! You don’t have to be flexible to practice yoga. With regular practice, students tend to become more flexible over time. The more that tight muscles get stretched, the looser and more flexible they can become.
2. Use props. Yoga props like blankets, bolsters, yoga blocks and yoga straps are a great way to support your knees and any other tight and/or tender areas in the body. Yoga teachers will show you how to use them.
3. Breathe! Yoga is a breathing exercise. Keep in mind the poses are secondary to the breath work. Work to follow the inflow and outflow of your breath to strengthen the muscles in your mind. This improves student’s ability to focus, thus strengthening the mind.
4. Just what the doctor ordered, or not? For many conditions impacting seniors, like arthritis, yoga can be a great supplemental treatment! And though research confirms the health benefits of yoga, your doctor may not advise it. If you have glaucoma, spinal disc problems or other chronic conditions, consult your physician before beginning yoga.
5. Take it easy. If you have physical limitations and/or have recently lived a sedentary lifestyle, you can still practice yoga. Listen to your breath while practicing. If your breathing becomes short or fast, take a break in a restorative position and work to deepen and slow your breathing. Taking rest is encouraged in yoga; the goal is to balance your breathing in order to balance your mind and body. If you feel any pain or strain, find your breath in a comfortable seated position and relax.
Where to Find a Senior Yoga Class?
Yoganic Flow is a socially-minded yoga organization based in Detroit that has senior yoga classes, offering seniors the opportunity to practice yoga at their own pace with alignment-based instruction and modifications. The affordable classes are mostly funded by fundraisers, like Hip Hop Yoga Detroit. The next one will be held 7-8:30 p.m. April 5 at Spread Art Contemporary Art Gallery in Detroit. Tickets are available on eventbrite.
Kerrie Trahan is an experienced and registered yoga instructor who has trained domestically and internationally in Colombia and India. Since becoming certified in 2012, Kerrie has led community yoga classes throughout Detroit in partnership with the Detroit Parks and Recreation Department and for several local nonprofits such as the People for Palmer Park and Greening of Detroit. Kerrie is committed to making the healing practice of yoga accessible to all Detroiters, including kids and seniors.