Buddhism and Hinduism define Yoga as a “spiritual discipline,” but for today’s senior citizens, it means much more. When the topic of Yoga for seniors popped up, I instantly thought of my best friend’s grandmother, well into her seventies, who has been happily practicing this ancient technique for many decades.
I have known this woman literally my entire life and always found her to be pleasant, positive and always appears to be very tone and trim. Just for giggles, I called her up, telling her that I would be writing about Yoga for the elderly and asked her opinion on what she found the most enjoyable about those sessions.
“I find them to be very peaceful, soothing and relaxing,” she replied, “They make me feel more in tune with my inner spirits.” She went on to credit the practice of Yoga for keeping her positive, slim, trim and mentally alert. I would agree, because for someone her age (it’s not polite to give the exact age of a lady), she is in really great shape physically and sharp as a tack mentally.
If there is someone you care about who is advancing in age, and let’s face it, none of us are getting any younger, here are some other benefits to practicing Yoga, especially for seniors:
Modern Principles for Ancient Techniques
Although Yoga dates back over 5,000 years, more modern teachers of this ancient practice encompass more than spiritual discipline in the overall concept of Yoga. Swami Vishnudevananda, a world renowned master and co-founder of Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres, condensed the five principles of Yoga teachings into the essence of overall spiritual growth, physical and mental strength as follows:
1. Proper Exercise
2. Proper Breathing
3. Proper Relaxation
4. Proper Diet
5. Positive Thinking and Meditation
Following all these principles faithfully will improve the health and welfare for people of all ages, but can be especially beneficial for those with aging minds and bodies. Encompassing all of these aspects will have obvious rewards, both physically and mentally.
Someone who is likely out of shape, over the age of fifty, sixty, seventy or even more, isn’t going to run down to the local Yoga class and sign up for a 90-minute workout with a bunch of twenty-somethings. Yoga instructor and Managing Editor for YogaUOnline, Eva Norlyk Smith, recently told The Huffington Post, “People can either find an individual teacher to work with when they first start out, or find a studio that works with beginner classes, and see if they tailor to people over fifty.”
More Benefits and Less Risk
Smith also points out that, “Yoga helps people integrate an exercise program into their routine without some of the downfalls that you can easily come across in different training systems,” says Norlyk. “Yoga does offer strength training because you use the weight of your own body in many of the postures. But unlike regular strength training, because you’re not adding any weight, you’re less likely to get injured.”
Better Bone Health
Many people over the age of fifty begin to lose bone density and may suffer from osteoporosis and Yoga can help. The gentle twisting, flexing and stretching in various Yoga positions can actually aid in the reduction of bone loss. Huffington Post learned from Dr. Loren Fishman, Director of Manhattan Physical Medicine, practicing Yoga not only increases flexibility, it can also help to add bone density, yes, added bone mass.
In a study of adults with an average age of sixty-eight, they performed a bone mineral density (DEXA) scan and then enrolled half of those in Yoga classes. They waited two years and performed another scan on both sets of people. Those who did not participate in Yoga lost some bone, while those who practiced Yoga regularly actually gained bone mass. That in itself is worth some serious thought when it comes to considering taking up this practice.
In closing, if seniors can practice Yoga two or three times a week or even a few minutes every day, it can help slow down the aging process, increase mental and emotional clarity. The more one practices the better, but even ten minutes a day can be rewarding and show some results.
Updated: February 18, 2015