Ageing can be a complicated journey. The idea of “getting old” has gotten a negative connotation to it, probably because it involves the talks of physical and mental health deterioration. It’s no surprise that we often encourage our elderly loved ones to exercise. Being physically active helps seniors deal with the complications brought about by old age.
However, we must also remember that not all types of exercise are fit for older adults. Their body isn’t as strong as people younger than them. Engaging in strenuous activities might only worsen their physique instead of doing the opposite. Fortunately, yoga exists!
Yoga is a type of workout known to be very versatile and inclusive. It can be done by people of all ages. It has so many facets to it that target the different areas of our physical and mental health. Yoga practice can significantly improve our overall well-being. So if you’re looking for physical activity or exercise that’d be perfect for your elderly loved ones, yoga would be a great choice.
In this article, we’ll be discussing everything about yoga for seniors.
Why is it important for seniors to practice yoga?
How exercises can improve their quality of life
First things first—not all seniors are capable of being physically active. Some of them might have developed conditions that render them immobile or prohibit them from moving around too much. Let’s keep in mind that maintaining an active physical lifestyle is meant for seniors who are still strong enough to do so.
Older adults are more prone to physical pain, discomfort, diseases, and not to mention mental illnesses. We just naturally get weaker and frailer as time goes by. However, it’s not all bad. Aging should not be thought of negatively all the time. There are still lots of ways for seniors to enjoy their golden years and being able to feel young at heart is one of them. There’s no going around the negative impacts of aging, but it is possible to deal with them in better ways.
If an elderly cannot avoid the obstacles coming his or her way, they can at least prepare for it.
Exercises will effectively improve the quality of life. Practicing yoga will not only strengthen their physique but will also improve their mind and spirit. Yoga was made to help us live better lives by keeping us healthy. So if you want your elderly loved one to live a genuinely happy life, encourage them to prioritize their health and wellness.
What are the benefits of yoga for seniors?
Yoga practice provides so many benefits for older adults. It’s a peaceful, gentler type of exercise where seniors can extend their range of motion by engaging in stretches and poses that are also meant to cultivate their mind and spirit. Yoga is known for being a meditative exercise because it does wonders for both the internal and external aspects of a person. This is exactly what seniors need to face the challenges of their journey.
Here are some of the notable benefits of yoga for seniors:
In every yoga routine, we make use of our bones, joints, and muscles. The yoga poses tend to stretch out certain parts of our body which helps increase our flexibility. Also, doing breathing techniques while holding each posture will help loosen and relax the connective tissues in the body. Older adults have more trouble in extending their limbs or moving their backs or necks due to tightened muscles. Practicing yoga regularly will certainly resolve these problems for them.
Strengthens the bones
As we age, our bones tend to become brittle. This causes some pain and discomfort especially when we’re walking or moving around in any way. This is why osteoporosis and arthritis are very common among seniors. Engaging in a yoga routine will help strengthen the bones in the body. In fact, some studies have shown yoga plays a vital role in improving bone density among postmenopausal women.
Develops breathing abilities
Yoga is known mainly for two things: stretching and breathing. Breathing exercises help execute the poses better and make you feel calm and connected to your inner energy. This also helps strengthen the lung capacity and overall pulmonary health of a person. Seniors tend to have a weaker respiratory system so doing yoga will help change that.
Improves balance and coordination
Seniors are a fall risk. They are more prone to losing their balance due to poor muscle and body coordination. Yoga practice will be a great way to improve those factors. They can learn to develop better balance and coordination since they have mastered the skill of focus, concentration, and full-body mindfulness.
Reduces stress and anxiety
Older adults are more easily agitated compared to younger people. They have shorter tempers which, in turn, makes them stress-prone. Stress is not a good friend to have in your life. It can cause other complications that affect your mind, body and even relationships with other people. It might also lead to anxiety or other forms of disorders. Yoga will help us to focus on the present and be one with peace through steady breathing and meditation.
Improves quality of sleep
Insomnia is no stranger to seniors. Sleep disturbances are common problems among people as they age. This is not good for it affects their health and activities for the following day. This is why a study was conducted (published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine) involving adults over the age of 60 who were insomniacs. The group joined yoga classes twice a week and after 3 months, their quality of sleep had significantly improved.
What yoga classes are for seniors?
As previously indicated, yoga is such a versatile exercise program. It has a lot of styles and types, depending on what your body needs. In this case, we’ve laid out a list including every yoga class that older adults can participate in.
Hatha is the umbrella term used for many yoga practices. It’s considered to be a “gentle yoga” that involves the execution of yoga poses in a rather slow transition. The sequence is slower compared to others because the main goal here is to really put effort into each posture. This is a good type of yoga that is best for seniors, especially for beginners. It won’t get your heart racing too much and it mostly asks you to do sitting or standing poses.
Iyengar puts emphasis on proper form and alignment. It’s a great yoga class for seniors who are struggling with arthritis or other chronic illnesses. Here, you can use yoga props such as pillows, bolsters, blocks, straps, and others, to support you in executing proper alignment in the poses.
Another “gentle yoga”, restorative was created to help people release tension from the body passively. This is without stretching. Poses are held for a much longer time, even up to 10 minutes before you move on to the next one. Just like Iyengar, the use of props is also crucial here for support. If seniors are for relaxation and contentment, this class is a good choice.
Vinyasa will really get your body moving, just like dancing. It’s a continuous set of movements done at a bit faster pace. These are done along with proper breathing techniques. The pacing of this yoga routine may vary but it is usually quick and very fluid. This is a yoga class suitable for seniors who are more physically fit.
If you want to experience yoga in its “hot version”, Bikram is the way to go. Here, you will be doing the yoga routine involving 26 different postures in a room that’s heated up to more than a hundred degrees. It will definitely get you sweating like crazy and the warm temperature is supposed to help you stretch your body better. However, this isn’t an ideal yoga sequence for seniors who have high blood pressure, low blood pressure, or any sort of heart ailment.
Yin is also a gentle yoga that is slow-paced and lets students hold each pose for a long time. Unlike restorative yoga, however, yin is not about just relaxing but instead focuses on stretching the deep connective tissues in the body. This is great yoga for seniors who really want to improve flexibility and relieve stiffness.
If you want a more physically challenging class, ashtanga would be a good place to start. This is a fast-paced exercise that involves a set of yoga poses that are performed the exact same way every time. It’s quite intense and more aerobic compared to other yoga classes. It’s an ideal routine for weight loss but not really recommended for beginners or seniors with a weaker physique.
Also labeled as the “yoga of awareness”, this class really inhibits the spiritual essence of yoga. This is a great yoga practice for seniors who are interested in both the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga. It’s a giant mix of physical postures, breathing exercises, chanting, and meditation.
What are the basic poses for beginners?
Here are the following poses seniors can practice in their yoga routine
There are lots of basic yoga poses a beginner student can start with. However, remember that not all basic poses are easy to do. They are still meant to challenge our minds and physique. That’s why it’s important to prepare so you will know what to expect.
To ensure a safer and smoother flow, you can ask for help from a yoga instructor. They can guide you through it better.
Here are poses you can do while standing on a yoga mat:
This is considered the most basic pose. It’s meant to help you improve your posture and balance.
This is great for building lower body strength and improving your balance.
This engages the hips and hamstrings and it also helps strengthen the core. Among its benefits are improving digestion and relieving lower back pain.
Standing Spinal Twist Pose
Doing this gives a nice stretch to the waist and develops its flexibility.
Sitting poses and Chair Yoga
This is the kind of yoga for seniors who are experiencing immobility or difficulty standing. They can still exercise even while sitting down. Some of this are done on a yoga mat or a chair.
This encompasses the whole hip area and opens the back, inner thighs, and hip flexors.
This is a gentle stretch for the hips, back, thighs, and ankles. It’s good for relieving back pain.
This mainly stretches the back and improves the flexibility of the spine.
Bird Dog Pose
This is a great way to stretch the hamstrings, calves, as well as strengthening the arms, legs, and back. This can also help with lower back pain.
Seated Forward Fold Pose
This is good for stretching the hamstrings and your back.
Seated Twist Pose
This is a pose under restorative yoga that encourages spinal mobility and promotes good digestion.
Yoga for seniors: Age your way to wellness!
Older adults may sometimes feel bad about being at the stage of their life. But take this as an opportunity to grow and improve more than ever! Just because your knee’s a little bit jelly or your hair is turning white or there are a few wrinkles here and there doesn’t mean life is done. There are still a lot of things to look forward to.
By engaging in an exercise program, you have more chances of feeling young at heart and achieving a life of health and wellness.
Sweatbox Yoga is one of the best yoga studios in Singapore. They have various exercise programs and yoga classes tailored to the elderly community in partnership with Red Crowns Senior Living Home, a trusted senior care home in Singapore.