You don’t have to be 20 years old with rock-solid abs and an arsenal of brand-name leggings to get started with yoga. Yoga is an exercise open to all ages, including the young and the young at heart. Even if you or your senior loved one has mobility issues, yoga is easily accessible, and it can help circumvent many of the effects of age. Getting started isn’t difficult, especially when you consider the benefits of yoga for your physical, emotional, and social well-being
The American Osteopathic Association explains that yoga builds strength in both the mind and body. Many doctors advocate yoga for seniors to improve energy and respiration and promote protection against injuries. Yoga is also known to improve flexibility and increase muscle strength. All of these aspects of physical well-being are important; since the body is intricately connected, issues in any one area can set off a domino effect.
When your emotions are unstable, they can trigger even more problems with your physical health. Doing yoga and other indoor exercises — such as watching YouTube fitness videos or even playing fitness-based games on the Nintendo Wii — can stave off depression.
Many of the world’s most trusted hospitals, including the Mayo Clinic, suggest that yoga can be used to reduce stress. By properly aligning the mind and body, you are physically and emotionally prepared to handle everything that comes at you, such as the rising cost of healthcare and grief — both of which are issues all too common among seniors. Even more importantly, yoga can give you the tools you need to remain positive.
Depression is not just a mental health issue, however, as it is well accepted that people who are depressed don’t engage in self-care and may experience more dental health issues. Stress can lead to tension in the face and neck, causing jaw pain and stiffness. Poor oral hygiene combined with stress and depression can even put you at risk of gum disease and tooth decay.
To be at our best physically and emotionally, we must also prioritize socialization. Spending time with our peers provides a mental boost and can prevent loneliness while giving us an outlet to air our grievances and get advice from people we love and trust.
Yoga may also be used as a vehicle for socialization. If you have Medicare, specifically a supplemental Medicare Advantage plan, you may be entitled to free gym memberships where you can find a senior-friendly yoga class. Silver Sneakers can help you find a center near you.
Getting started with yoga can be as simple as watching a video online. However, you’ll still need to understand a few basic concepts that go along with the activity. First is alignment. Beginners, and especially seniors who may suffer from muscle tension and joint pain, should know how to keep their body aligned — knees in line with the toes, weight on the heels, etc. You’ll also need some basic equipment, including stretchy body-hugging clothing, blocks and straps, and a blanket or yoga mat.
Melissa Eisler of the Chopra Center notes that many beginner yoga poses are ideal for seniors. You can also modify any pose to meet your mobility levels, and you may even be able to utilize a chair or bench to keep you off the ground if you have trouble getting up and down.
All forms of physical activity, including yoga, can help keep your mind and body strong and healthy. Plus, joining a fitness class is an excellent way to socialize with your peers to keep your mental health on track, too. Talk to your doctor if you’d like to try yoga, and follow up regularly to track your progress.
Harry Cline is the