3 July 2013
Yoga for the Elderly – Four Great Reasons to give it a go
Yoga and the elderly don’t seem to go together on first glance. Older people tend to be less flexible and have weaker muscles, not exactly ideal for knotting your legs up while standing on your head. Although it’s true that the more advanced elements of yoga are very demanding on the body, particularly the joints, connective tissues and musculature, many aspects of yoga can be beneficial for the elderly.
If you’re not convinced that working up to a full lotus position could work wonders for your health and wellbeing, here are a few reasons why yoga can be the best form of exercise for the elderly.
- Improved Balance. Because yoga often focusses on holding static positions and controlled movements between positions it’s great for improving your balance. You’ll find that the muscles in your core, which are vital for maintaining stability in the trunk, get a good workout without being overloaded. This will help reduce your chances of having a fall as your body will be used to controlling its own weight under momentum.
- Reduced Joint Pain. Lack of mobility in the joints, as well as pain, is a part of the ageing process. Even people in middle age feel less flexible than they did in their 20s and 30s. It just happens. However with regular stretching and exercises you can fight against this. Yoga stretches and manipulates the joints but in a careful manner, which improves blood flow to the surrounding muscles and connective tissues. Elderly people with joint pain, particularly in the hips and shoulders, have reported great improvements after undertaking regular yoga practice. Healthier joints means that day to day activities are no longer a chore, which will help increase overall physical activity.
- Improved Sleep. Ask any older person and they’ll tell you that getting a decent night’s sleep is a distant memory for them. Old people tend to get less hours of sleep, often waking early or several times in the night for various reasons. One of the main benefits of yoga is its focus on relaxation. Often people will fall asleep at the end of a yoga session in the middle of the gym! A large percentage of people report that regular yoga sessions improve their sleep, which in turn gives them more energy throughout the day.
- Healthy Body, Healthy Mind. Yoga is all about the interconnectedness of the body and the mind, and how each feeds into the other. Its practices of integrating body and mind into one whole means that the physical health benefits have a knock-on effect on the mind. People who practise yoga find that feelings of anxiety and stress are greatly reduced, and as depression and anxiety are high in the elderly it means yoga can be the perfect antidote.
Yoga is becoming more popular than ever with older people, and because so many of its poses and moves can be easily adapted it is suitable for almost any age and physical ability. There are a number of courses available in most towns and cities at gyms and community centres and with so many health benefits it’s easy to see why this ancient form of meditation and exercise is so popular with the elderly.