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yoga-for-older-people

Historically, yoga has been deeply rooted in Eastern philosophy and spiritualism.

In the West, however, it is generally regarded as a physical exercise rather than a religious experience.

Whilst there are meditative and spiritual aspects, yoga is accessible to anyone and everyone regardless of their beliefs or values.

For countless people, yoga is a low-impact activity that strengthens the core, targets core muscle groups in the body, encourages postural alignment, provides stress relief and reduces tension.

It is perfect for challenging and toning your body in a dynamic and relaxing way, and its versatility and functionality means that it can be used to achieve a variety of health, wellness and fitness goals.

More and more older people are bringing yoga into their daily routines, and it is definitely worth considering for the countless physical and psychological benefits it offers.

In this guide, we will be answering any of the questions that you may have about beginning yoga, so that you can start this exciting journey with assurance and confidence. 

What Is Yoga?

‘Yoga’ refers to a series of physical, psychological and spiritual practices and disciplines that originated in Ancient India. Traditionally, it endeavours to cultivate a sense of tranquillity and peace by inducing stillness of the mind, distancing the practitioner from pain and suffering, as well as harmonising the mind and the body. There are a vast range of approaches to yoga when it comes to their traditions, practices and purpose, and traditional and modern interpretations of yoga are practised throughout the world. 

In the purest sense of the word, yoga intends to release the practitioner from worldly attachments so that they may attain a higher level of consciousness. These days, however, most people in the West are introduced to yoga as a physical fitness, stress relief and relaxation technique that is focused on postures and breathing.

Types of Yoga

Considering that yoga has been practised for thousands of years, it has an expansive and complicated heritage that has been influenced by countless traditions, philosophies and ways of life. This means that there are many different types of yoga, each of them with subtle variations when it comes to their techniques, positions and intended effects. 

With so much choice out there, you could always explore the different types of yoga so that you can discover which one fulfils your expectations. On the other hand, you could always refer to the following list on the types of yoga that are particularly beneficial for older people. If you are undecided, this is an amazing starting point:

Hatha

This isn’t a yoga practice in the strictest sense, and it is instead a more generic term that encompasses any type of yoga that concentrates primarily on postures. Usually, hatha yoga is composed of a series of slow-paced and gradual standing and sitting postures. Moreover, the focus is on stretching and breathing rather than raising your heart rate or doing anything strenuous. It is for this reason that it is regarded as the ideal type of yoga for beginners.

Restorative

As implied by the name, restorative yoga is a more meditative approach to yoga that prioritises releasing tension, reducing stress and achieving emotional balance. Equipment and props support the weight of the body, and poses are held for several minutes at a time. It is perfect for older people who want to improve their physical fitness whilst also facilitating a feeling of contentment and peace.

Vinyasa

This refers to a branch of yoga that involves coordinating your breathing with continuous and flowing movements. The pacing may vary, but vinyasa usually consists of a series of fluid and quick movements that follow one another in rapid succession. With this type of yoga, perfecting the transitions between the postures is as important as perfecting the postures themselves. Whilst it is relatively physically vigorous, many people quite enjoy it because they say it is comparable to dancing.

Ashtanga

This is probably one of the more physically challenging types of yoga, but it is still a worthwhile option for older adults who have always enjoyed fitness or are looking to expand their capabilities. Ashtanga is made up of a sequence of poses that are performed in the same way every time. It is a somewhat intense activity that is intended to increase your heart rate, so it may not be the first choice for beginners. 

Another Option – Chair Yoga

Of course, not everyone may be comfortable with or accustomed to the movements and positions that are required during traditional yoga. Initially, constantly changing between lying down, kneeling, sitting, bending and standing poses may be too much physical exertion, especially if it’s something that you’re not used to. 

It is for this reason that chair yoga is a brilliant option for older people, or for anyone with mobility challenges, problems with their balance or any muscular or joint pain. During chair yoga, many of the postures that can be found in traditional yoga are modified so that they can be performed from a chair, and with just as many physical and psychological benefits.

The Benefits of Yoga

Compared to other forms of exercise, Yoga is focused on the mind as much as it is on the body. Stretching poses are combined with breathing practices, and these are intended to produce a deep sense of relaxation alongside a myriad of physical and psychological benefits. For older people, specifically, yoga is a brilliant alternative to more intensive exercises such as running or weightlifting. 

It is a wonderful way to enhance your strength, flexibility and balance, without causing the exhaustion, muscular tension or joint stress that is usually associated with the aforementioned exercises. Here are just some of the benefits that can be derived from practising yoga as an older adult:

Yoga vs Pilates 

There are several similarities between Pilates and yoga. For instance, they are low-impact exercises, they don’t really require any equipment, and they focus on physical posture and breathing techniques. 

However, there are some critical differences as well. Yoga has a more meditative approach, and the emphasis is on enhancing your strength, coordination and balance. Pilates, on the other hand, is a structured workout that consists of a series of exercises that are meant to engage core muscle groups. Moreover, Pilates is focused more on achieving peak fitness, whilst yoga prioritises a mindful approach that encourages emotional and mental relaxation alongside physical goals.

The Basics

Can I Start Yoga At Any Age?

It is common for people to question whether they can begin yoga as an older person, and the answer to this is a resounding yes. 

Is Yoga More Beneficial For Men or Women?

Yoga is invaluable for men as well as women, regardless of their age, and the various techniques and positions aren’t specific to one gender. 

Are There Any Precautions?

Although yoga is incredibly effective, it is still a low-impact form of physical activity that is extremely accessible. Still, there are some precautions that you should keep in mind. Certain movements and positions are not advised for people with particular medical conditions, especially if they are an older adult. This is why it is always recommended that you seek advice from your doctor before you begin even the simplest yoga routines. 

Will I Need Any Equipment?

Compared to other forms of exercise, yoga doesn’t require expensive or bulky equipment. First and foremost, you should have clothing that is comfortable and stretchy. Fitted clothes are preferable, because you will be bending and stretching in various positions and loose clothes may get in the way. Leggings, jogging trousers, shorts, t-shirts and tank tops are all excellent choices. Generally, special footwear isn’t required as yoga is performed barefoot, although you can wear non-slip socks or trainers if you would prefer. Of course, you will need a yoga mat as well.

How Many Sessions Do I Need?

Whether you are attending yoga classes, working with a professional instructor, or following tutorials at home, it is essential that you understand your limits and what your body can handle. Initially, once a week may be more than enough. With time, you can gradually ease yourself into consistent practice, and consider three or perhaps even five yoga sessions a week if you want. The focus should be on incorporating yoga into your lifestyle, and choosing whatever works for you.

An Introduction To Yoga Positions

Even the ‘simplest’ yoga position can be deceptively challenging. There are so many things to keep in mind, whether it is the breathing technique you use, how you shift your centre of gravity, transitioning from one position to another or maintaining the perfect posture. It is recommended that you learn from a professional instructor so that they can ensure that you have proper form, or at least carefully follow tutorials that can be found online. 

More than anything, it is essential that you listen to your body, and ensure that you don’t cause yourself exertion or pain. These are some examples of yoga positions for beginners, so that you can begin researching them or ask your instructor about them:

Summary

Yoga is a popular form of exercise that can be beneficial for both the mind and body, helping to improve flexibility and muscle strength, as well as promoting relaxation and stress relief.

It is also said to boost energy levels and concentration, and may even help to lower blood pressure.

With so many potential benefits, it is no wonder that the practice has become so popular in recent years.

So whether you are looking to get fit or simply want to relax and de-stress, yoga could be the perfect activity for you.