As we get older, we get wiser – that’s for sure. But we also face plenty of different challenges when it comes to our health. It’s no longer easy to shed off pounds, we are at higher risk of contracting diseases, and more aches and pains start surfacing.
Exercise paired with a healthy diet is commonly said to be the best way to maintain a healthy weight, prevent injury and diseases, and keep your body in overall tiptop shape. But trying to find a physical activity that is both effective and safe also gets harder the older we get.
That’s where yoga comes in.
In recent years, there has been an explosion of research looking into the various health benefits of yoga. There are tons of claims that yoga can improve both physical and psychological health, especially in people who are over the age of 50. Is there any truth behind this? Is yoga actually good for elderly people?
Today, we’ll find out – follow along as we explore all the benefits and best practices when it comes to yoga for the elderly!
Can Seniors Practice Yoga?
Yoga can be as vigorous as any other cardiovascular exercise. Or, it can be as gentle and easy as meditation—it all depends on the type of yoga that you do. Yoga can be broken down into so many different variations. As such, you will surely find a yoga class that fits your particular goals and health levels.
So yes, seniors can practice yoga. You just have to choose the right type of yoga for your particular physical activity level. If you aren’t sure which type of yoga to try, we include a list of options we recommend for seniors at the end of this article. Keep reading!
What Are The Benefits Of Yoga For Seniors?
The best thing about yoga is that no matter what type you choose, there is a wide array of health benefits to gain from it. This is why it’s regarded as one of the most versatile types of exercise out there. Here are some of the specific health benefits you can expect when you start practicing yoga, backed up by studies.
Many yoga poses focus on strengthening your core muscles, which is incredibly helpful in improving your overall balance and stability. By improving your balance, you can significantly reduce your risk of falling. Falls are a common concern for older adults. In fact, elderly falls have led to over 32,000 fatalities a year 1.
If you’re having trouble doing tasks around the house due to a lack of flexibility and reduced mobility, yoga may help you. Take one study from 2011 conducted on a group of elderly women. The findings showed that regular practice of yoga helped improve their flexibility and range of motion. This also helped them complete daily tasks they used to have trouble doing 2.
Reduce Joint Pain
Joint stress and bone pain are some of the most common health problems you face when you reach a certain age. It’s also one of the main reasons why it’s difficult to exercise when you get older. Most exercises are too hard on the joints. But not all!
Doing gentle yoga allows you to stay physically active without putting pressure on your joints. And although yoga can’t reverse any joint or bone diseases, it can help to reduce the painful symptoms of different bone diseases such as osteoporosis 3.
Older adults can find it harder to control their breathing. And, they even tend to lose their breath much faster than before.
A majority of yoga classes incorporate deep breathing exercises into their sessions. There is reason to believe this can help to improve older adults’ breathing. It increases lung capacity and overall pulmonary and respiratory health.
This was proven in one study from 2014 conducted on a group of elderly women who went through a 12-week yoga program. The study shows that after the program, the women’s respiratory function was significantly improved 4.
Reduces Blood Pressure
Hypertension or high blood pressure is another common health issue that comes with age. Medication is often the immediate solution to reduce blood pressure, but medication can only do so much. You need to make lifestyle changes as well if you want to avoid turning your hypertension into some other cardiovascular or kidney problem.
A proper diet combined with regular exercise such as yoga can help reduce your blood pressure levels. A study conducted in 2014 showed that elderly males with grade-I hypertension who went through a three-month yoga program had significantly reduced their oxidative stress which is the main cause of hypertension 5.
Reduced Stress & Anxiety
Aside from physical benefits, yoga has plenty of mental health benefits as well. When doing any physical activity, your body releases a hormone called endorphins. These naturally make you feel better. But one major reason why yoga, in particular, is so great at reducing stress and anxiety is because of how it teaches us to control our breathing.
Yoga teaches us to breathe deeply and more effectively. It teaches us to use breathing as a tool for relaxing the body and to help us be in control of ourselves. Breathing is usually something that we do involuntarily, so we don’t really pay much mind to how we breathe. But learning how to control our breathing especially in stressful situations can help us control our emotions.
There was even a study conducted on the role of deep breathing on stress. Results showed that practicing deep breathing can help in reducing stress and improving mood 6.
Mindfulness is being actively conscious of our present thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and environment. It is said to help improve our overall quality of life by helping us improve our body responsiveness and awareness, which in turn help us be more in control of our emotions and reduce our self-criticism.
You can practice mindfulness in several different ways, such as through meditation, but yoga is also one of the more popular ways to increase mindfulness. The link between yoga and mindfulness has also been said to help us improve body image satisfaction and overall well-being 7.
How Do You Prepare For Yoga Classes?
Have the various health benefits of yoga convinced you to try out a yoga class? Before you start your yoga journey, you need to prepare yourself. Here’s what you need to do before you practice yoga:
Consult Your Doctor
As with any physical activity, you first need to consult your doctor and get your physical condition evaluated. Yoga may be more gentle than other forms of exercise, but there are still certain poses that you might want to avoid if you have medical issues. Your doctor will be able to tell you which type of yoga positions to avoid, how often you should be practicing, and may even give recommendations on which yoga classes are best for you.
Get The Gear
If you’re going to practice yoga, you need to be prepared with the right gear. You’ll need comfortable, stretchy clothing, such as leggings and a fitted top, to avoid any wardrobe mishaps while you’re practicing. Footwear isn’t required since you will be practicing barefoot. But if you’re worried about slipping, you can prepare a yoga towel or buy non-slip socks.
Of course, you will also need a yoga mat. Make sure to do research on the types of yoga mats available. To make things easier for you, we’ve already written a complete guide on the things to consider when choosing a yoga mat. We also have a blog post all about the differences between a cork and a rubber yoga mat, which may further assist you in choosing a mat for your practice.
Yoga props such as yoga blocks, belts, straps, and so on can also aid you in your yoga practice. Yoga blocks, in particular, can be really helpful when you’re trying out new poses. They can help build your flexibility, ease you into a pose, and act as extra support and stability.
Find A Yoga Class
If you can’t find a yoga studio, there are plenty of gyms, community centers, recreational centers, and health clubs that offer yoga classes. If you’re lucky you might even stumble upon free yoga classes. But you have to make sure that you find one with an instructor that understands the different challenges that older adults face.
One of the best places to search for a yoga class is on the Yoga Class Near You website. All you have to do is enter your location and specify that you’re looking for senior yoga classes. If you have certain medical issues, you should bring this up with your potential instructors. Ask them if they’ve experienced teaching someone with certain medical issues that are similar to yours. This way, you know if they’re truly the best instructor for you.
The Best Type of Yoga For Seniors
Yoga comes in all forms and levels of difficulty. If you aren’t sure which type of yoga would be best suited for you, we’ve listed down all the yoga practices we recommend for seniors. Remember, when choosing a yoga practice, you need to consider your physical fitness level. We’ve included the description for each type of yoga and the difficulty you can expect from each.
Hatha yoga isn’t actually any specific type of yoga. It’s an umbrella term used for all types of yoga that focuses on physical postures. But if ever you encounter a yoga class that is advertised as Hatha, you can expect a very slow-paced series of simple sitting and standing poses—no complex leg-behind-your-head poses here. When it comes to Hatha, it really isn’t about getting your heart rate up. Instead, it focuses on stretching and deep breathing, which makes it the perfect type of yoga for beginners.
Iyengar yoga is known for its focus on detail, precision, and timing. Proper form and alignment are a must in Iyengar yoga. That is why practitioners are encouraged to make use of props such as bolsters, straps, incline boards, and yoga blocks to help achieve the proper alignment. The use of props is not only great for getting the correct form, but it can also assist practitioners who have low mobility or chronic conditions, such as arthritis.
Yin yoga is a very gentle yoga that focuses on holding poses for a long time. It’s a great yoga practice for those who experience a lot of muscle stiffness because yin really helps to stretch out your deep connective tissues. You will surely enhance your flexibility if you regularly practice yin.
Restorative yoga is a more meditative type of yoga. Similar to yin, poses are held for a long time, but you aren’t actively stretching as you are in yin. Instead, you are releasing tension passively. You can also use props in restorative yoga to make the poses even easier. It’s a great type of yoga if you want to relax. People even tend to fall asleep during restorative yoga classes.
Vinyasa yoga refers to any yoga style that involves syncing the breath to a series of continuous movements or “flow”. Pacing can vary per instructor, but routines tend to be fluid and quick. You are constantly transitioning from one posture to another—kind of like dancing. Vinyasa isn’t always advised for beginners because they tend to be more on the more dynamic side. But if you are reasonably fit, you will enjoy it.
Similar to vinyasa, ashtanga yoga also focuses on a “flow”, but ashtanga already has a set of predetermined poses that are done the same every session. In most ashtanga classes, the instructor sets the pace for the entire flow, which can be very fast-paced and physically challenging. But once you’ve memorized the flow yourself, you can attend Mysore Ashtanga classes where students can do the flow at their own pace still with an instructor present to assist you with certain poses.
Asthanga is one of the more intense forms of yoga and can really boost your heart rate. It isn’t generally beginner-friendly but it is one of the best yoga practices if you’re looking to lose weight.
Bikram yoga or hot yoga is where you do yoga in a room that is heated up to 100-degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare to bring lots of towels and a water bottle because you are definitely going to be sweating buckets in a hot yoga class. Hot yoga is great for strengthening muscles and flushing out the toxins in your body, but overheating is a risk. If you have low blood pressure, high blood pressure, or some other cardiovascular condition, it is highly unadvisable for you to do Bikram.
Beginner Yoga Poses For Older Adults
Need a better idea of what to expect from yoga? Here are some of the beginner yoga poses that you’ll often encounter in yoga classes. These poses in particular can be very beneficial for the elderly.
- Mountain Pose
- Tree Pose
- Downward Facing Dog
- Warrior 1
- Cobbler’s Pose
- Child’s Pose
- Corpse Pose
Get All Your Yoga Essentials From Pureful Yoga
It’s never too late to start exercising again. To prepare for your yoga journey you need to make sure that you’ve got all the gear you need. Luckily, Pureful Yoga has the best yoga essentials on the market!
For high-quality and durable yoga essentials, look no further than Pureful Yoga. We have organic yoga mats, alignment yoga mats, organic yoga blocks, and cork yoga mat bags. And they’re all made from natural cork, sustainably sourced from the bark of a cork oak tree.
Cork is 100% recyclable and biodegradable and is one of the most eco-friendly materials in the world. But aside from being eco-friendly, it also has amazing anti-slip properties that are a very important quality when it comes to yoga mats.
A slippery yoga mat can be very unsafe for older adults as this increases their risk of falls. The anti-slip properties of our cork mats will prevent you from slipping and falling during your yoga practice. This is why our cork yoga mats are ideal, especially for seniors. Not to mention, cork also has anti-microbial properties, meaning it kills bacteria, microbes, and fungi all by itself.