Improved balance. Better posture. Reduced high blood pressure. Increased bone density. Lower stress levels.
You may be surprised to learn that all these are benefits of yoga for seniors. The low-impact exercise emphasizes breathing and calm, while offering a way for older adults to engage in a regular exercise routine.
If you’re worried about whether you can twist your body into those pretzel poses you’ve seen the 20-somethings do on TV, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to adapt yoga poses to suit a wide range of abilities.
Yoga doesn’t require any specific equipment beyond a mat to prevent slipping, so once you’re comfortable with the poses, you can easily make it part of an exercise routine that keeps you active at home. Or, if you prefer, many senior living communities offer yoga for seniors, so you can join others in your wellness journey.
Just remember that it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor before adding any new physical activity, so you can be assured of your safety as you begin reaping the physical and mental health benefits of yoga for seniors.
Like your muscles, bone grows stronger when it’s put to the test. Many yoga poses involve putting weight on certain areas of the body, which ultimately can strengthen bones that naturally lose density as you age. At the same time, yoga builds muscle strength, which improves your mobility and balance, indirectly protecting your bones from the potential breaks that come with falls. A yogi (yoga instructor) who understands how to adapt yoga for seniors can help you avoid poses that may involve too much bending or twisting for your delicate spine.
Building muscle takes work, but the gentle fluid movement of yoga is one form of exercise that won’t necessarily feel like you’re over-exerting yourself. A great deal of your movement originates with your core, and yoga is an excellent way to strengthen your core muscles – the muscles in your abdomen and back that connect to your spine and help stabilize your hips, neck and everything in between. The extra muscle tone you’ll gain plays an important role in your balance and posture, while executing the poses puts that balance to the test and increases your confidence in your body’s stability.
Range of Movement
If you find it more difficult to bend or reach as you age, you’re not alone. Unless you’re actively stretching and using your muscles, your flexibility will diminish over time. Fortunately, a benefit of yoga for seniors is the opportunity to expand your range of motion. Flexibility is something you can rebuild with a little patience and time. When you practice regularly, yoga can help work and stretch muscles, and give you back some of the movement that has diminished over time.
Heart disease is a serious health concern, and exercise is an important way to reduce your risk of a heart-related health event, like a heart attack or stroke. The focus on regular breathing and meditation helps regulate your heart rate and control your nervous system, which can in turn reduce high blood pressure. Another benefit of yoga for seniors is the way the added movement, even if it’s just gentle yoga practice, engages your cardiovascular system and promotes circulation.
When many people think of yoga, the physical aspects are what come to mind. While movement is an important aspect of the practice, yoga and meditation also go hand in hand. As you move through the poses, a yogi will continually remind you to focus on breathing exercises and be mindful of your mental state, paying close attention to your body and how you’re feeling.
This heightened awareness – along with traditional relaxation exercises at the end of a yoga session and the natural feel-good endorphins the body releases during exercise – all help reduce anxiety, stress and depression, among other mental health benefits of yoga for seniors.
The lower stress levels and breathing techniques associated with yoga can help with pain management by decreasing inflammation and gently working stiff joints.
The brain is another muscle that requires exercise to stay sharp as years advance. The mental focus that yoga requires, including creating harmony between your movement and breathing, stimulates cognitive function by simultaneously engaging the left and right side of the brain.
Successful aging and wellness go hand in hand at Querencia, where you can find everything from organized yoga classes to lectures that satisfy your desire for intellectual growth. Learn more about how this community empowers seniors to make wellness a priority by completing the form below.