I was introduced to the benefits of yoga for older people when I was still very young. At 23 I was “adopted” by an older woman as her granddaughter, and I became a companion of sorts for her. She became my friend. She introduced me to the idea of yoga for seniors and as the weeks passed I began to see exactly why she wanted to take the class.
Elderly people, whether 50 or 80, tend to get stiff, especially if they don’t participate in any type of regular exercise. It could be due to illness, injury, or just plain bad habits. But the problem is that once you become stiff and unable to move, it’s very, very hard to recover from that.
Yoga to the rescue. Here are a few very specific health benefits to yoga that might appeal to you, especially if you’re not as young as you used to be, or you’re the “granddaughter” of someone who isn’t as young as they used to be. It’s always fun to have a companion to go to classes with.
1. No Strain. No Pain. This is a very different concept from the “no pain, no gain” attitude found in just about every fitness center I’ve ever entered. With yoga, you gently move your body into poses that give you the benefit of becoming more flexible, more supple without straining or causing pain that could lock you up for weeks at a time. In order to age in a healthy manner, exercise is mandatory. Exercise cuts the risk of chronic disease almost by half. This makes yoga an excellent low-impact option that makes it easily available to seniors. It’s not all-out running, or even heavy weight lifting. In yoga, you use your own body as your equipment.
2. Increasing suppleness and flexibility. Yoga can gently stretch muscles that haven’t been used in a long time. There are so many patients who have endured an injury and never completely recovered. My own mother broke her arm just below the shoulder socket. It took her nearly three months to recover from the break. She has almost never recovered her entire ability to lift her arm over her head. Yoga’s gentle influence on muscles, tendons, and ligaments changes this. Limited range of motion makes older people more prone to falling. Helping to improve both suppleness and flexibility improves their balance as well.
3. Bye-bye Osteoporosis. Yoga is an excellent exercise in terms of promoting good bone health. It is not only safe for those who suffer from osteoporosis, but it can actually slow down even reverse bone density loss. Weight bearing exercise is considered to be the best exercise for osteoporosis patients. Using the very weight of our own bodies is an excellent start. That is why heavy women do better in terms of osteoporosis because they carry their weight, which strengthens their bones. Yoga used our body weight in certain poses, all of which are open to modification as needed. This type of weight-bearing exercise is exactly what the doctor ordered.
In addition to these three benefits, regular yoga practice keeps the mental fog at bay. People over 50 who regularly practice yoga report a better overall feeling of satisfaction with life, lowered stress levels, and more energy and vitality than before. Those reasons alone should be enough for you to seek out a yoga practice designed for ages 50 and over.