Yoga for Older Adults

According to the National Institute on Aging (www.nia.nih.gov), "'Too old' and 'too frail' are not, in and of themselves, reasons to prohibit physical activity. In fact, there aren't very many health reasons to keep older adults from becoming more active." Rather, many chronic conditions are actually a result of not exercising. As a form of exercise, Yoga has many benefits that are specific to seniors. Improved balance and flexibility reduce the risk for (and fear of) injury and increase mobility. Yoga also improves circulation and your ability to sleep, and adding even light weights to the postures increases bone density and lowers the risk of fracture. Plus, group practice promotes social interaction and sense of connectedness.

Seniors interested in Yoga should first check with their physicians. After you get the green light, seek out a class that focuses on your age group both for the social benefits and to be guided by a teacher who is knowledgeable about adapting postures to your needs and abilities. Head to Chapter 2 for more on picking a teacher and a class. Be sure to mention any physical conditions or concerns (such as high blood pressure, hip replacement, osteoporosis, and so on) and verify whether your prospective teacher can modify the routines to ensure your safety. In a group setting, a skilled teacher offers a range of options so that each student can practice at a level appropriate for his or her abilities and limitations.

How old is too old for Yoga?

Shelly Kinney, a Las Vegas-based Yoga therapist, recounts her experience with Ms. L, a 96-year-old student who was glued to her walker. After several months of Yoga practice, Ms. L was able to enter and leave the class without it. How did this happen? She executed warrior and side angle postures from a chair, adding light weights over time, and worked with balance postures with a ballet bar on one side, a chair at the other, and Shelley there for support. Slowly but surely, Ms. L built up strength, flexibility, and confidence. She's proof that you're never too old to take up Yoga and enjoy its benefits.

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