You might think of yoga as that thing that your daughter does to relax. But research has shown that there are some significant health benefits for seniors to practicing yoga. So, here are ideas for practicing yoga and how seniors benefit from it.
What is yoga for seniors?
Yoga is a gentle form of exercise that originated in Northern India. It can be dynamic, static, or gentle like hatha yoga, which is particularly suitable for seniors. By definition, a senior is a person over the age of 50. Appearing at the beginning of the 90s, the term “senior” is common to avoid using words like “an elderly person” or “old person”, which can be hurtful or stigmatizing.
The different types of Yoga for seniors
Yoga for seniors is based on a sequence of positions that are maintained for several minutes and whose complexity increases gradually, supported by breathing at a controlled rhythm. There are different types of yoga that can meet the needs of seniors, including:
Nidra: the yoga of sleep
Yoga Nidra is a wonderful practice for seniors, especially for those who suffer from insomnia. It is practiced when lying down. The teacher guides his students through different meditation techniques: concentration on each part of the body, visualization of soothing scenes, repetition of mantras… The goal is to stay in the present moment, in full consciousness – as in a state of semi-awakening – to promote concentration. Seniors leave the session lighter and happier!
Sivananda: the yoga of the 5 principles
Appearing in the early 60s, this type of yoga is ideal for seniors looking for traditional yoga practice, with a spiritual dimension. Sivananda Yoga is based on 5 essential principles that aim to improve the physical and emotional state of the senior: adapted postures, correct breathing, deep relaxation, vegetarian diet, positive thinking, and meditation.
The sessions are composed of a fixed sequence of breathing exercises and postures, accompanied by periods of structured relaxation between the postures. Off the mat, Sivananda yoga encourages vegetarianism and a positive way of thinking on a daily basis. It is therefore particularly suitable for seniors who already have a first experience of yoga and wish to deepen their practice!
Originating from the United States, this type of yoga consists of a series of Hatha Yoga postures adapted to the chair while including the other key elements of yoga: awareness of the breath and relaxation of the mind.
Convinced that laughter is essential for maintaining good health, Dr. Kataria, a doctor from Mumbai, India, created the first laughter yoga club in 1995! Initially, only a handful of members participated in its sessions, but this revolutionary concept quickly spread across borders. Today, there are thousands of clubs around the world!
This type of yoga is based on a scientific fact: the brain does not differentiate between simulated laughter and natural laughter. Thus, we can force ourselves to laugh and obtain the same physiological and psychological benefits as laughing spontaneously!
Benefits of yoga for seniors
Yoga, which allows you to work the body and the mind, has many benefits:
- Improves balance: Yoga postures and movements alleviate certain chronic pain (back pain, pain caused by osteoporosis, and other medical conditions). Yoga practitioners have greater muscle and joint flexibility, and a strengthened skeleton because they are used to exercising regularly;
- Reduces high blood pressure: Breathing and meditation slow down blood circulation and heart rate, during and after physical exertion. This promotes the return of serenity and reduces stress which increases blood pressure.
- Helps cancer patients: Some studies suggest that yoga helps relieve ailments such as fatigue pain and pain which are common side effects of radiotherapy.
- Bring focus to the present moment. Breathing helps you calm down and better manage your anxiety. Breathing and meditation have a positive effect on the body and mind: exercise produces feel-good hormones and endorphins.
- Meditation is also beneficial to concentration and cognitive faculties. A person with dementia can practice yoga with a companion who encourages them to imitate their movements;
- Fights loneliness: Practiced in a group, yoga promotes regular meetings with other people, and social interactions and fights loneliness.
Good luck as you get started!
Before you start practicing yoga, be sure to speak with your doctor, especially if you are inactive or suffer from chronic conditions. People with glaucoma or spinal disc problems should especially be careful when practicing yoga, for example, you can avoid postures such as torsions and inversions. Having said that, yoga can be beneficial for everyone! So, choose what meets your needs and get started. Good luck!