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If I asked you to try yoga, would you consider it? Perhaps you’ve seen images of yoga on television or in magazines that cause you to shake your head, believing it’s not for you. Let me bring to light some yoga practices that can be both doable and beneficial for aging adults. Yoga has many forms and skill levels, and it can be modified to fit individual needs. Some practices can even be done in the comfort of your own home.
Yoga can lead to a healthier mind and body. In daily life, we encounter distractions from our surroundings. Our own thoughts, emotions and worries can also cause stress and unrest. Studies have shown that aging adults are at greater risk for mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and suicide. Regular yoga can increase self-awareness and help to calm anxiety while releasing mood boosting endorphins. When looking for classes to attend, choose options that are tailored to beginners or specifically for seniors. Words like “gentle” or “restorative” often refer to a slower paced practice. Pick classes that focus on intentionality and breathing rather than intensity and speed. YouTube may also be a great resource for finding at-home yoga routines. Local gyms, your physical therapist, medical provider, etc can all help you select practices that are safe for your body.
If you choose to practice yoga, forget about how you look or how quickly you are progressing. Yoga is about self-awareness and self-reflection. Start at whatever level of strength and agility you currently have. Modified poses may be necessary. Mountain pose is a base for many standing poses. Stand up tall, feet hip-width apart, and arms at your sides. Take deep, slow breaths, focusing on lengthening your spine and maintaining firm balance. If you struggle with balance, practice sitting up tall and breathing. Chair yoga, where poses are practiced seated, is a great option if you struggle with balance and/or loss of strength. Move to standing with one hand holding a wall for stability if or when you become able to do so. Michele often suggests just the arm stretching motion of the sun salutation for her clients. For stability, practice at the kitchen sink and skip the downward stretch portion. Simply reach your arms above your head as you stand tall and breathe deeply. Regular yoga practice can help restore strength and balance. Over time, it may also increase flexibility and range of motion. With each practice pay attention to the sensations in your body. If you feel pain, lessen your stretch. If you feel like you are losing your balance, move closer to a wall or rail to steady yourself until you are strong enough to stand alone. Learn to recognize your body’s strengths and weaknesses.
Beyond flexibility and balance, the practice of movement and breathing improves circulation throughout the body and the brain. This is important for heart function, brain health and mental clarity, healthier lungs, skin, internal organs, and much more. It also boosts metabolism and strengthens muscles. A benefit to improving balance is that falls are less of a risk, and if you do have a fall or injury, strong muscles heal faster than unused muscles. Find a practice that you enjoy and then stick with it, a little at a time. Not all forms of exercise are everyone’s proverbial “cup of tea” but the more things we try, the better chance we have a finding a practice that we do enjoy, and that works well with our current lifestyle. We at Be Active Be Well are here to encourage you that every little bit of effort counts toward a healthier future. Gentle practice, over time, will produce positive results.
DISCLAIMER: This article contains information that is intended to help the readers be better informed regarding exercise and health care. It is presented as general advice on health care. Always consult your doctor for your individual needs. Before beginning any new exercise program it is recommended that you seek medical advice from your personal physician. This article is not intended to be a substitute for the medical advice of a licensed physician. The reader should consult with their doctor in any matters relating to his/her health.